Littleflower Guitarworks specializes in the repair of fretted string instruments, the restoration of antique collectibles, and the conservation of museum acquisitions.
My name is Bill Fiorella. As a luthier, I’ve had the great privilege of repairing and restoring some unique and valuable instruments – from the historic guitars of the Albert and Rose Augustine Estate to the prize possessions of incredible musicians such as the late great Johnny Cash and Lefty Frizzell, to the Harp Guitars of the Miner Museum collection.
My inspiration for becoming a luthier and learning the craft of fretted instrument repair was my love for the guitar. As a jazz guitarist working regularly in New York City, I soon discovered that just playing was not enough- I wanted to know how it all came to be and what kept it together. So in the mid- 1990’s, I suddenly found myself knee-deep in old junk guitars, kindly discarded by my musician friends.
I spent the next few years in a constant state of deconstruction and resemblance, and before I knew it those very same musician friends were asking me to fix their instruments.
Making the shift from “practice” to “business” made me realize that in order to bring my skills to a higher level I would need to learn the secrets of a master luthier. So, I set off in search of an apprenticeship.
I began calling and knocking on the doors of well known and highly respected repairmen in New York. All refused to speak with this young new comer- except two: Woody Phifer and Bob Jones.
Woody opened up his shop and heart to me and over the next several years taught me many of the skills that would become my foundation. His technique of fret dressing and re-fretting is second to none, and when it comes to finish work, he is a master.
With Bob, it took a bit more finessing. I knocked on his door on several occasions, only to be turned away. One day I showed up with a 1960 epiphone repair in my hand (no case, of course!). He sighed, and with a look of regret, finally let me in. I explained that I was in over my head with a refret, binding issues, a split bridge plate, top crack…and the kicker was- the guitar was a family heirloom. He said, “ Well.. I’m not gonna tell you what to do.. but I’ll tell you what I would do.” And he did.
Three months later I returned with the same guitar and two cups of tea in hand. He took me in, inspected my work, and told me that he couldn’t have done it better himself. That was the day I knew I had arrived as a repairman.
In 2001, I traveled to Saskatchewan, Canada to attend a 2 month training course on guitar construction with David Freeman of Timeless Instruments, and remained afterwards to help him build mandolins. David is one of the coolest guys I have ever met, and his course in guitar making provided me with a solid education in materials, design, and construction.
Working my way back into the States, my path crossed with Dan Roberts, of Daniel Roberts Stringworks, who at the time was the shop foreman for Santa Cruz Guitars. Dan brought me into his shop to work in Montana where we handled all kinds of warranty repairs: fret jobs, neck re-sets, cracks, re-finishing.. One of his fortes is a flawless technique in neck re-sets, which I now hold as my standard.
Upon returning to Brooklyn, New York, I officially created and opened Littleflower Guitarworks, taking in repairs and orders for custom-built guitars.
In 2006, I teamed up with Steve Uhrik and the crew at New York String Service/Retrofret and played a key role in the repair and restoration department. It was at this time that I was schooled in the history of American guitars and proper conservation and restoration techniques, for which I am forever grateful.
Last, but certainly not least, I was a student of world-renowned instrument maker Ben Hume from 1998 to 2006. It was with Ben that I was initiated into the world of simple hand tools and old world instrument making techniques, which to this day forms the basis of my art.