Harrison Phipps founded Fretted Strings here in Davis, CA in 1988. Harrison has been a luthier for over 30 years, and he has apprenticed under and worked for master luthiers Arthur Overholtzer and Richmond Talbott.
Harrison has a wealth of knowledge in both instrument construction and fretted instrument repair. He has built classical, steel-string, and electric guitars, ukuleles, and basses. And while he specializes in guitar repair, Harrison has conducted repairs on countless types other instruments: mandolins, banjos, ukuleles, basses, violins, mandolas, lutes, harps, charangos, and others.
Harrison Phipps built his first guitar in 1978 while apprenticing with the renowned guitar builder Arthur Overholtzer in Chico, California. Mr. Overholtzer is famous not only for his guitars, but for his numerous guitar making tools. He built and sold electric heated side benders, router bases for binding and rosette slots, and fingerboard fret-cutting miter boxes.
Mr. Overholtzer authored the book “Classic Guitar Making” which was published in 1974. The 323 page book contains written descriptions and 302 figures of his tools and techniques for making a classic guitar. One of his Brazilian Rosewood classical guitars (#13) won “Grand Champion” at the 1969 Competition of the International Violin and Guitar Makers’ Association. Charlie Robinson, Chico’s preeminent jazz guitarist played “In the Garden”, “Rock of Ages”, and “Amazing Grace” on #13 at Art’s funeral in 1982.
In Mr. Overholtzer’s shop Harrison learned from a master guitar builder the skills necessary to select premium woods, make superior gluing surfaces, optimize tonal properties of guitar woods during preparation and assembly, proper sharpening techniques and use of hand tools and a reverence for life, wood, and guitar building.
Harrison found Richmond Talbott in the late 1970’s in a local Chico music store. Richmond was a master luthier who specialized in fretted instrument repair. Harrison learned a wealth of repair tools and techniques from Richmond there. While studying lutherie under Richmond, Harrison met Lynn Sparks, another local instrument builder with a strong passion for searching out and collecting instrument grade wood. Lynn and Harrison spent many days and weeks in the late 1970’s stockpiling spruce, mahogany, ebony and rosewood for later use.
In 1988, Harrison moved from Chico to Davis in order to start grad school. At the same time, he opened a small guitar shop called “Fretted Strings” out of garage, in order to continue the work he loved. Harrison did consultant work alongside his guitar repair business until 2005, when he decided to focus on lutherie full-time. Finally, in February of this year (2014), Fretted Strings moved to its new location in downtown Davis, and the Fretted Strings Lutherie School was also born. Harrison still builds, repairs, & restores fretted instruments, but now also offers classes & workshops to those interested in learning the art and craft of lutherie.