Sometimes you meet a person who is perfectly suited to their job. Potrero Hill resident Geoff Luttrell, the owner of SF Guitarworks on Potrero Avenue, is one of those people. When it comes to repairing guitars, Geoff has the skill of a master craftsman and the passion to match. He and his team take pride in what they do and work very hard to make sure their customers are satisfied with the every repair done at the shop. I asked Geoff a few questions about SF Guitarworks.
GR: What made you decide to fix guitars for a living?
GL: I’ve always been in bands and I started working on my own instruments when I was in my teens. I’ve been a welder, auto mechanic, machinist, bicycle framebuilder, raft guide, and finally computer technician. After getting laid off from the computer job, I used my severance package to go to school with the intention of opening my own shop.
GR: You attended The Fretworks School of Luthiery in Calgary, Canada? What was that like?
GL: It was cold! Seriously, though, The Fretworks is an interesting place because it’s owned and operated by a very quirky guy (who also lives in the shop). But I learned a lot about guitar repair during my time there; in fact, I built most of the tools I use on a daily basis at The Fretworks.
GR: Ever come across a guitar that you couldn’t fix?
GL: We can fix anything at the shop, but I would say the guitar that I most wanted to fix, but didn’t get to, was a 1963 Gibson SG. The neck had been broken and was attached incorrectly with a large bolt. It would have required intense woodworking to fix the guitar, but the customer balked at the price. I was sad to see that guitar leave the shop.
GR: Are there any guitars out there that you have to get your hands on before going to the great guitar shop in the sky?
GL: It would be amazing to hold Billy Gibbons’ Les Paul, Pearly Gates. Any of Eddie Van Halen’s guitars would be epic too. That said, even working on a battered old Harmony is better than any other job I’ve had.
GR: Of all the guitars you’ve worked on, which job are you most proud of?
GL: I’ve worked on more than 6,000 guitars, but if I had to pick one I’d say it was a 60’s Martin that was owned by the father of one of my customers. It had been repaired poorly about 25 years ago and stored away after that. I removed all the bad repair work, installed a new bridgeplate, patched the top, reinstalled the bridge, and reset and refretted the neck. It was beautiful, and the father and son were very happy to have this beloved Martin back in action.
GR: What’s the best thing about owning your shop?
GL: There are so many things. It’s been great to build an environment where talented, creative people can do what they love as a profession. Another big thing is delivering the quality experience that people expect from our shop—our team at SF Guitarworks routinely goes the extra mile in so many ways that our customers never even see. When it comes down to it though, the best thing about owning the shop is the freedom that comes with being an entrepreneur.
To see more about Geoff Luttrell and SF Guitarworks: www.sfguitarworks.com. Photo courtesy of SF Guitarworks.
This interview was originally printed in the March 2010 edition of The Potrero View.