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Meet Patrick Hufschmid, guitar and plectrum builder
MEET THE MAKERS | 12.11.2020
At Dickies we recognise the art of work, so we created our Meet The Makers series to give an insight into the individuals who’s spirit of creativity takes the common idea of work to explore the passion and drive behind it.
For our latest featured Independent Makers film we visited Patrick Hufschmid the creator behind Hufschmid guitars based in Aigle, Switzerland. We caught up with him and he took us on a tour round his workshop and talked us through the materials he uses, his process and showed us what it takes to build a guitar.
Hi Patrick, thank you for spending the day with us in the space you work in. Let’s go back to the beginning, can you give us a bit of background information on yourself and where this all started for you?
My name is Patrick Hufschmid. I am a guitar builder and plectrum builder from Aigle, Switzerland. I’ve been building guitars since 1996 and plectrums since 2009. I started messing around with guitars at a very early age. I discovered my first guitar in a trash can. I took it out and tried to repair it, to make it playable and from then I just had a love affair with guitars ever since. I was about 11 years old when my mother was kind enough to get me my first electric guitar which was a cheap rip-off of a big brand but it was good to start off. I started to play, and at one point I started to try and modify what was on the existing guitar to try and improve it, and that's where everything got started.
Music seems to be a big part of your life, that’s for sure. The Guitars you build are something quite special could you tell us a bit about how this all came about?
My mother is an international oboe player. She's been in the music industry for 50 years and she knew somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody else who was at this famous place in Minnesota called the Redwing Technical College where you can go and study guitar building. I was very lucky to be able to go there. When I was 20 years old, I went abroad and studied guitar building in Redwing. That was 24 years ago. When I came back, I didn't immediately start building guitars. I worked in the luxury industry for wristwatches, which is another one of my big passions in life.
Your designs are very unique are there any special techniques or materials you use that you could tell us about?
I like to think that people like authenticity and the small artisan, and this is what I'm all about. Since I started to seriously go and study guitar building in 1996 my work has been based on using traditional shapes. You won’t see super weird shapes on my guitars. I keep them traditional, but I try and innovate. New materials for the nuts and my own custom pickups which is something really unique. I put a lot of attention to detail in my wiring work. I also have my own material, which I call a HufGlow, which glows in the dark. It’s actually a security material, which I am the only builder to use, it's super reactive. I was able to buy a little stock but when it’s gone, there won't be any more.
The names of all your guitars and plectrums have a real story to tell, their names in particular are very original could you tell us a bit about how and why you name them?
My model ‘Tantalum’ is based on my favourite element, Tantalum. I used to also sell wristwatches with Tantalum bezels. I just love the colour of it and I liked the Greek mythology behind it, it all goes together. Then there's also arts and painting, like the ‘Dunkel’ model, which is a technique in painting dark light, which basically just describes the tonal possibilities of this guitar - You know, you can make extremely bright or dark sounds. I try and put a name on things which are different. I don't want to call a metal guitar ‘The Aggressor’, I think that's a bit, you know, childish. So I’ll come up with a name that's researched a bit to try and do something original.
We have noticed that every piece you make is bespoke and no two are the same, do you ever make pieces that are similar?
The difference between me and the custom shops is that the custom shops will build whatever you want. This is not my approach. I like to believe that I came up with the final result. After all my 24 years building guitars I'm using special materials because I like the result. It's these materials combined which creates a Hufschmid guitar. I do offer some different options, like scale, length, pickups and stuff like that. But it's basically kept around my style.
What makes your guitars stand out is the attention to detail, the innovation and the materials you are using. Could you tell us a bit more about this?
I use perfectly quarter sawn timbers, one piece, for the body and neck, which is rare. It's a resource that is not easy to find. I always use wood that is FSC certified and therefore eco-friendly. I only stick to stuff which is one hundred percent ethical. I don’t use any animal-based products for my guitars at the exception of Galalith, an early 1960s bioplastic, which is milk based. I always use the tracing of the left hand or the right hand of my customer, because I actually shape the neck according to the tracing of your hand. When you look at pictures, you just realise that the standard necks everybody plays are not the best solution and you can shape the neck to fit the morphology of the hand of your customer. It's something a bit different.
We have loved hearing about the making process and all the materials and design you use. What we really want to know is now what your favourite part of the process is?
My favourite part of the job is actually to be contacted by somebody who has a passion and who knows my craft who contact me because he has been following me for many years and he would like a piece of my art. I don't want to be too pretentious by saying that, but I think that the best reward an artisan gets is when somebody appreciates his work. Every single day, when I receive plectrum orders for example, I'm blown away that I'm making a pick for someone on the other side of the World, it's incredible. That's really the best part of everything.