• Can you introduce yourself and explain how Hufschmid Guitars came about?
My name is Patrick Hufschmid. I am a craftsman-luthier and the only artisanal plectrum maker in Switzerland. I live in the beautiful French speaking region of the country in a historic town called Aigle close to Montreux. I’ve enjoyed a very strong passion for the guitar since my adolescence. I began playing at the age of 11. I came across an old classical guitar hanging out of a trash bin and took it home. We tried to repair it and make it playable. I soon started taking electric guitar lessons and a few years later, I found myself repairing and customizing friends guitars. I am passionately curious by nature. I like to learn something new every day and I experiment a lot. Hufschmid Guitars has existed since 1996. After completing my apprenticeship as a chef in Montreux I went to the United States to study lutherie in Minnesota at the renowned 'Red WingTechnical College’. I took a very comprehensive training course in both the repair and building of acoustic and electric guitars.
Here are pictures of my very first guitars (1996), an acoustic and an electric. Help! Ha ha…
• What is your professional / technical background and what brought you to this field of activity?
I have a lot of strings to my bow, really. As well as being a qualified chef, I have a passion for luxury wristwatches, which opened doors for me in the field of watches with complications. For several years I was employed as a specialist sales consultant by a large group of watch manufacturers. I followed their intense training courses on luxury goods and branding, which has born a direct, lasting influence on my work today. I have a great love of and appreciation for history. I like to add some touches of the past to my work. Little details such as adding a beautiful wax seal to all the packages I ship to customers around the world brings me a lot of satisfaction.
Back in 2007 I decided to dedicate myself to my guitar business and become 100% independent.That isn’t easy in Switzerland, because of the very high cost of living. Thanks to my presence on social media I have been able to solicit the interest of a fairly large community that follows me on a daily basis. I would just like to say thank you here to everyone who does!
• What are your musical influences?
I'm part of the generation of Metallica's first albums, the Metal music of the 80s – 90s we listened to everywhere on the famous Walkman devices. It really made me burn to discover the electric guitar. As far as my musical taste is concerned, it’s very eclectic. I listen to everything from the moment it pleases me. It may surprise you, but I am also completely addicted to baroque and classical music, just as I am to history, in fact.
• What was the first guitar you owned?
The famous classical guitar I found in the trash! My first electric guitar was a Fender Strat copy by a generic brand 'Elwis’. My first real quality electric guitar was a Lag. Still hard to do better at 16 than wear a Cannibal Corpse t-shirt and hold a LAG V! Ha ha!
• And the first one you made?
That was the acoustic guitar I had to build for my final exam in 1996, which is in the picture with my first electric model. I had already started experimenting, building a double X brace. Twenty two years later it still belongs to a well known Swiss entertainer, who is famous for singing and entertaining children in concerts and on TV. The last I heard, he is still using it regularly!
• What do you bring to the market with your specialist touches and creations ?
As far as lutherie is concerned, I take pride building my guitars all by hand using small power tools. I use no CNC, no laser cutting or other mechanised methods of mass production. I have innovated a great deal in my designs. In particular I offer humbuckers for which I designed the external appearance. These are custom made by hand for me since 1998 by Kent Armstrong himself. That’s 20 years already! I even designed the world's first photo-luminescent humbuckers which I named ‘Glowbuckers®'. Working with engineering materials, has given me many creative ideas. I use them to make nuts, for example, which have become a visual signature on my instruments. Here is an example of my original 'RED HUFTRON' and 'Techtron® HPV' nut. I also use this very high performance material to make some of my plectrum models.
Wiring is an area in which I take particular care, adding a personal touch with my '3D Kevlar or blue carbon finish' throughout the cavity.
As far as building is concerned, I focus on my favourite variety of wood – ‘Sapele' mahogany. I always choose pieces that have been perfectly quatersawn and which are FSC certified. The visual aspect, a certain aesthetic line that is my own, as well as natural finishes have developed into my trademark style. I can’t stand Bling! My personal style of building is based entirely on simplicity and sobriety - a sort of philosophy of life, if you will.
• Who are your guitars for - amateurs, or professionals?
Above all, everything's about meeting and making a guitar for an enthusiast. As long as he is passionate and appreciates the work of a craftsman, for me that really is all that matters. At the end of the day you know that your work is appreciated by someone who values it, be he professional or not and that is all that matters.
• You have been making headless guitars for a few years now and you've just launched a new model, the Atys. Why this choice and for which players in particular are you intending these models?
Headless models have always been around. I remember when I was a huge fan of the singer and genius Daniel Balavoine in he 80s. In the video clip of his track ‘Laziza’ you can see him playing a headless guitar. I have always been fascinated by these models and it came naturally to me to add them to my design portfolio. The difference with my guitars, is that I am not at all a fan of ergonomic or small and super compact instrument designs. My headless models have the dimensions, weight and shape of a standard instrument, so you do not feel you are holding a toy.
• You also make plectrums designed specifically to reduce the effort of playing. Can you tell us a little more about them?
It's a concept I meditated and thought about for years, in fact. One day, as I experimented with various ideas, it came to me as a matter of course. My plectrums are much thicker than the norm. The idea is to minimise movement and increase the guitarist’s hand strength. Less effort is required to play, which is a relief to the player. As a result, he will have less cramping and tenseness, which is very useful for guitarists suffering from osteoarthritis, tendinitis or other muscular problems. Naturally, this is also very interesting for the adventurous guitarist who has none of these problems, because this bio-mechanical phenomenon can help him obtain more precision, strength and speed too!
• What are the principal materials used for these plectrums? I believe you have done a lot of innovating in this field, haven’t you?
Indeed I have. I use high performance thermoplastics that are used in engineering. Every material has unique properties. These thermoplastic materials are really very costly. I also use a unique photo-luminescent material, which happens to be a certified security material. It glows very strongly in the dark and I called it 'HufGlow'. Well, yes, here's a little staging, it's not for real though! I don’t work in the dark and I do wear safety glasses!
My aim is to bring my concept of thick picks into being in several different forms and different materials in order to provide the guitarist with a choice. This way, he can experiment and find what is best suited to his individual needs. And as for my guitars, I make everything by hand without the help of CNC, or laser cutting. My designs are 100% handcrafted and characterised by the utmost attention to both detail and polishing. It takes around 40 minutes, minimum, to make a basic plectrum model and up to 2 hours for one made in high performance material. Obviously this comes at a price, but, as in all my work, my love for what I do and my passion for doing it well, is what I bring.
• The everyday guitarist is often held back by the price of products crafted individually by hand. What could you say to defend the cost of making your guitars and plectrums?
My prices are more than reasonable. Having said that, supporting an artisan is a wonderful thing. You uphold the craftsman’s vision into which he puts all his heart, knowledge, know-how and experience. He is realising an individual creation not a mass produced object without a soul. The years of work this entails can cause many personal hardships. Creative originality always does. You can buy cheap, mass-produced, machine-built items to save money, but think about it for a moment. The countries that export these, for the most part, do not treat their employees well or even necessarily support human rights!
• What is your news and what are your plans for the near future and further ahead…?
To stay the small artisan that I am. I like to believe there will always be an interest for individuality and people will be persuaded more and more by authenticity, high quality and the unique know-how that can never be part of faceless mass-production.The more craftsmen are supported, the more we can express ourselves, experiment and innovate in the field! Indeed, I would like to take advantage of this opportunity to thank everyone who does support us! Other news, is that my creations and accessories have recently become available directly in Japan, through Shimamura, the largest distributor in the country with over 160 stores and in China at Doll-Music.
• What are the major problems that you have encountered or are still encountering since launching your activity? What are the advantages and disadvantages of being in Switzerland?
The cost of living in this country is really extremely high. Both research and development are very expensive when you are a small craftsman working independently. This is inevitably reflected in the cost, so thank you for trying to understand a price before saying that an artisanal product is too expensive. There is always a specific reason behind the prices that a craftsman proposes. Only huge industrial production can order vast amounts of components and get discounts. The artisan doesn’t qualify as he deals in small quantities. The advantages? I live in the Chablais Vaudois, a region which is breathtakingly beautiful. Nature inspires me and it doesn’t get much more beautiful than this!
• Do you think that the press and public authorities (at local or European level) are sufficiently interested in craftsmanship?
I find it very regrettable that the newspapers do not have a daily article dedicated to the small craftsmen of the country in whichever his field of activity. Experience is a legacy, you have to keep it alive so as not to forget it and lose it.
• Finally, what is your message to the guitar community?
For me, there is no more beautiful instrument than the guitar and it is an honour to serve it with love and passion. I hope my enthusiasm will pique your interest in my work!