- September 26th, 2010
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Seppo Valjakka of Frankinstein Guitar Works (CA) is one of the most versatile luthiers we’ve come across. With a career as a luthier Hot Rodding and doing his own custom guitar builds spanning 40 years, there is nothing Seppo can’t build.
From your traditional Les paul, Strat, tele, explorer or Jazz Archtop type guitars. To complex wood carved, box or tin one off guitars, to out of this world paint jobs. Seppo sets himself a part as a master of all.
Fact: There is nothing he can’t build!
Seppo has been at it Full time since 2001 operating under the name Frankinstein Guitar works. A name that accurately represents his work. Seppo does not limit himself to custom builds. He will hot rod/mod, refinish or repair your current guitar.
He also has one of the biggest inventories of old parts that are not manufactured anymore, so as stated earlier. There is nothing he can’t build.
Seppo put his tools down to answer our blog questions and shed some light on guitar building, influences and how he became a master of all.
Custom Guitar Boutique: Let’s start from the beginning how did you generate interest in the guitar?
Seppo Valjakka: Wanted to be a rock star/chick magnet as did/do millions of teenage males.
CGB: What inspired you to become a luthier?
Seppo Valjakka: Natural curiosity and lack of money. As a youth, I couldn’t afford the guitars I wanted, so I started hot rodding cheaper models like teles. As years went by, I found the models I originally wanted didn’t fit my needs, so I started building in the features I craved.
CGB: When did you finally realize you could earn a living building guitars?
Seppo Valjakka: As soon as others players started to pay me for my work….. may never get rich, but it’s way better than working for someone else (I’ve never met a wealthy luthier).
CGB: Since day one of becoming a luthier, after all the experience through the years what is the fundamental thing you still do today that you did in the beginning?
Seppo Valjakka: Strive to create the perfect instrument (even though I appreciate this is an impossible task) and
constantly learn to improve my craft and skill set.
CGB: What is your luthier or guitar building horror story?
Seppo Valjakka: Messed up a beautiful piece of wood while trying some new method or tool.
CGB: How different are things today as far as luthery and the industry goes from when you first started building, any significant changes?
Seppo Valjakka: When I started there were no aftermarket parts, period. Hence the hot rodding aspect; stealing parts from other instruments to improve yours. Now with kit instruments, building is easier; parts abound as do ghost builders eager to provide pieces that one cannot create.
CGB: Have you ever had to deal with a customer who knew for sure they wanted a guitar from you, and then when you asked them what they were looking for, had the slightest clue about why they wanted one of your guitars?
Seppo Valjakka: Most clients feel they have a working knowledge of their instruments when in most cases they only know what the factory spin doctors have told them. Given that the factories are interested in only one thing – the bottom line, important subjects are distorted and misrepresented. As a builder, I offer information and alternatives to the “same old, same old”. The creative minds in the factory settings are all gone; accountants run the show. Only the small builders explore concepts to improve the products.
CGB: Do you have any favorite woods as far as sound and ease of use? For example I know cocobolo is very dense and can be a challenge to carve by hand.
Seppo Valjakka: With the internet, the world is a luthier’s oyster; woods from all over the globe are available and having a “favourite” is too restrictive. I love so many types of woods that I cannot simply pick one – ease of use doesn’t enter into the equation.
CGB: What would you say to up and coming builders who are just starting out?
Seppo Valjakka: Have at it, you’re the future; otherwise we’re doomed to re-hashing the “historic classics” forever. Don’t be afraid to mess up; not every idea will be a winner, but if you don’t try, how will you know?
CGB: In your opinion who is the most influential Luthier?
Seppo Valjakka: Easy question, Tony Zemaitis. I try and model my ethics and practices after his; one of the world’s greatest luthiers, albeit one of the least recognized 9 save for his clients).