Fenech Guitars: focus on native timbers + player experience

Fenech Guitars, Gold Coast luthier

Fenech Guitars hasn’t been established on the Gold Coast all that long, but they’ve already made a name for themselves as distinguished guitar makers with people raving about their beautiful instruments.

Helmed by luthier Aaron Fenech and with headquarters at The Avalon Miami, their boutique approach allows them the flexibility to source and utilise the very best tone woods from across Australia and internationally.

And one thing is clear. Fenech guitars is allllll about the player experience.

“Every guitar within the Fenech Guitars Range features unique body shapes, aesthetics and appointments such as rosettes and inlays,” Aaron said. “It is these features coupled with our modern voicing techniques that allows us to cater for different tonal options, playing styles and that true one of a kind feel that only a master-built guitar provides.”

It’s obvious Aaron knows his stuff when it comes to guitars and to native timbers, but it took him a while to find his true calling, having completed automotive refinishing and carpentry apprenticeships before completing a science degree and working as a public servant.

“I wouldn’t be the guitar maker I am today without all the skills I have acquired along the way,” he said.

“I was working for the State Government, quickly making my way up into more demanding managerial roles with a lot of pressure and long hours. I used my passion for making guitars as a way to switch off from work, I would literally get home from work and go straight to my shed. It was my happy place for sure.”

Making the leap from comfortable public servant life to creative entrepreneurship isn’t for the fainthearted. Aaron said he made the decision to take that step when his hobby began taking over his life.

“I had started teaching people how to build guitars in my spare time, at night and on the weekend, alongside working full time in my regular job. My long service leave was coming up and although I had always dreamed of having a long holiday, I just couldn’t let the opportunity of guitar making full time slip away!”

That was three years ago and while Aaron often wonders why he chose such a hard path in terms of income generation, the fact that he can’t wait to get to the workshop every day makes him think he made the right choice.

Aaron’s sting as a public servant saw him working on native forestry projects so it’s no accident his work focusses heavily on Australian tone woods. He explained the significance of using these timbers.

“Since the birth of the modern steel string instrument in America, guitars for the most part have been made with timbers that were endemic to America and North America such as spruce and mahogany,” he said. “These timbers make great guitars, but they don’t grow here in Australia. I wanted to explore using our native timbers with similar or identical material properties to make great guitars.”

“The Australian hard woods we use for some of our guitars can be incredibly figured and tonally unique,” Aaron said.

“Take Australian blackwood for instance. It grows right up the east coast of Australia but due to the varying climate, difference in growth rates it changes in colour and tonal features.”

“Each of the trees we carefully select from our timber wholesalers have been sustainably harvested and each carry their own story of where they matured.”

Aaron focuses on sourcing timbers from just a small number of timber wholesalers who sustainably harvest trees. Species include the Bunya pine, gidgee, mulga, blackheart sassafras, tiger myrtle, blackwood, mountain ash, camphor laurel, wandoo and quandong

“Most of these trees either come from plantation stock or from trees fallen naturally during storm events,” he explained.

While Aaron has serious celebrity clientele (he’s made guitars for Kate Blanchett and Amy Shark, to name but two), he’s most proud of a guitar he was commissioned to make to commemorate a 30th wedding anniversary.

“I had a university professor from Western Australia who had completed a PHD on the wandoo woodlands in W.A. During that process he met his wife and he specifically wanted to commemorate their anniversary some 30yrs after with a guitar made from Australian wandoo. I was thrilled to be chosen to make such a beautiful instrument for such an occasion,” he said.

Aaron’s never shied away from hard work, so the long hours associated with running a fledgling creative business haven’t surprised him, but learning to live with lean finances and running pretty close to “total bankruptcy” is something he’s had to come to terms with.

“Probably the biggest surprise has been how much I have enjoyed the perpetual crawl towards achieving goals. I’ve personally never enjoyed struggling so much and feel blessed every day I open my doors that I’m living a life where I get to be creative and do something meaningful,” Aaron said.

“No seriously I mean things get pretty tight so you have to learn to be creative about how to earn some extra money until things get back on track…..however probably the biggest surprise is meeting folks within the local community that go out of their way to show generosity, support and mentorship.”

“When I was considering making guitars a full-time business, I was told by a mutual friend about the Avalon space at Miami. I turned up at their door step one day and introduced myself, told them about my business and asked if they had any space available. After a few weeks of discussions, I was fortunate enough to be granted the opportunity to renovate a small space within the property to start my business.”

“Every step of the way the owners of the Avalon have been extremely supportive of my business allowing us to grow and expand. They are very much a part of our story; our growth and we can’t thank them enough really for all that they have done! They are like family to us.”

Aaron also raves about the tight-knit creative community on the Gold Coast.

“It’s pretty darn special,” he said.

“The Gold Coast is home to some extremely talented people right across the arts and creative community. Even though I am somewhat of a recluse hardly leaving the saw dust within my workshop to socialise, when I do stick my head up I am always amazed at how many amazing people doing amazing and meaningful things there are located on the Gold Coast.”

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Fenech Guitars is located at The Avalon, Miami, 7 Avalon Parade, right next door to Miami Marketta. To find out more, visit fenechguitars.com.au

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