Hufschmid Guitars is based in Aigle, a small town in the French speaking part of Switzerland. It is run by luthier-artisan Patrick Hufschmid, and no one else.
There are few reviews, if any, that capture the level of detail, and attention he puts into his instruments. Since the details make the design, I will try and talk about every little thing to give you an idea of how much effort Patrick puts into perfecting his instruments.
The best way to describe the concept behind Hufschmid guitars is probably with Albert Einstein's famous quote saying you should make everything as simple as possible but not simpler. In guitar terms this means you get a solid, barebones piece of kit without any gimmicky bells and whistles. The less fiddly things, the less there is that can go wrong and cause you grief.
The result may be no-nonsense, but it definitely is far away from no-thrills.
Overall specs and features
- Sapelli Mahogany body
- Salvaged Flame Maple top
- Adjusted to player’s hand
- Bolt-on construction
- Indian Rosewood fretboard
- 25.5” scale-length
- 12” fingerboard radius
- Straight pull headstock design
- Jumbo pyramidal frets
- Aqua Blue Luminlay side dots
- Hipshot bridge and locking tuners
- Hufschmid 'TECHTRON HPV®' nut
- Dunlop Straplocks
- Ebony control knobs
- HH pickup configuration
- Hufschmid pickups made-to-measure by Kent Armstrong
- Three-way switch
- Copper shielding
The body and neck for all Hufschmid guitars are made from 100% FSC certified African Sapelli mahogany. This means that the timbers come from environmentally responsible forest management and that none of it comes from illegal logging, a much overlooked issue in the guitar industry. The maple top is salvaged and stained with Patrick's "ghost finish".
The body is a single cut type. It is quite a bit thinner than what one might be used to which makes it very comfortable and eliminates the need for a belly-carve (something I don’t like anyway).
The armrest bevel may look a bit angular but makes a surprising difference and is really comfortable. No need to mention that the whole body is flawlessly carved. In my opinion the design is a perfect compromise between classic and modern, the result being refined, timeless and elegant.
The input jack is located underneath the strap button, reducing the amount of strain on the lead when you hook it over the strap.
Patrick required me to send him a picture of my hand so he could shape the accordingly. I can’t really go into the exact dimensions since they will be different for each player but let me tell you that Patrick really knows what’s good for you. It changes shape (not radius) along its length making chording, chugging and shredding all equally easy.
The neck is made from one piece of 'perfect quartersawn' mahogany. This means the grain runs perpendicular to the fretboard at a perfect 90° angle. This is the most solid and stable construction-method you can get and the reason why other companies don’t use it is that perfect pieces of wood like these are impossible to come by in large numbers.
The headstock volute gives the fingers (the thumb in particular) a wider range of motion, making fingering some chords more relaxed. High fret access is comfortable and effortless.
The truss-rod access is at the bottom of the neck, by the neck pickup, making adjustments less fiddly. The jumbo pyramidal frets – think of them as slightly more pointy – make bending and sliding just that much easier. The fret job is flawless.
Finish and hardware
The Hipshot bridge is really comfortable, having no sharp corners, and is fully adjustable. The saddle of the low e-string is slightly shorter than the others, giving you more room to correctly intonate the string for low drop-tunings.
The tuners are locking which makes changing strings a walk in the park. Needless to say that there is no slippage whatsoever and they turn nice and smoothly. The pegs are staggered and made especially for Patrick, this allows the strings to have a steeper angle off the nut than with traditional tuners, eliminating the need for string trees.
The Hufschmid 'TECHTRON HPV®' nut is self-lubricating, but, although I have not changed enough strings yet, it is supposed to be extremely wear-resistant; much more than any other self-lubricating equivalents on the market.
The Tru-Oil varnish gives a nice and natural hard finish, very similar to a thin lacquer. It is applied in many layers and is completely smooth. I have no doubts regarding its durability.
The ebony knobs and Dunlop strap locks are nice, high-quality touches.
The whole ordering process was as easy and intuitive as inviting a good friend over to dinner. Patrick always replies to all messages on the next working day and many of them on the same one, if sent early enough. This sometimes made quite a few back-and-forths possible in one day. He is also very patient and happy to explain his work, details of his designs and rid you of misconceptions plaguing the guitar world.
After getting some preliminary questions out of the way, many were still unanswered so we decided to give them a go over the phone.
A few emails later I had paid for the guitar (although he only requires a 70% deposit) and he started going at it. Patrick kept me updated about every step, in HD and colour. This had the effect of building my anticipation like nothing else and a little less than a month later I found myself on the train to Aigle (I live in Switzerland). I didn't sleep much that night, I can tell you!
Patrick was exceedingly hospitable, setting up the guitar for me, showing me around his (tiny) workshop, the town and castle.
The Hufschmid pickups are handmade by Kent Armstrong to my specifications. The bridge pickup is nice and twangy and perfect for aggressive rock and metal tones with the controls all the way up. Roll the tone knob down a notch and you get the more classic Les Paul kind of tones, minus the muddiness. The neck pickup is pure cream but with enough output to give you equally great drive/crunch tones. It even sounds really good with high gain, a feat I haven't really seen in other pickups yet.
The matching output (or more precisely the matching impedance) means that no pickup ‘overpowers’ the other in the middle position, giving a more Fendery kind of sound. No need to say that these pickups have no match in terms of clarity and dynamics. It’s like every string came out of a different speaker when you play a chord. They can go from smoky jazz to screaming rock and from smooth (or less smooth) blues to the chunkiest of metal with the flick of a switch.
These are literally the most versatile pickups I have ever played, they cannot only do everything, they can do everything better than many purpose-built pickups. They also handle down tuning as if they were made for it.
The wiring and copper shielding are clean and nothing short of flawless. The pickups are also very responsive to the control knobs, which is also helped by the high-quality electronics. I usually leave my controls at about eight und turn one or the other up as a boost and this works perfectly with these, there is no tone suck or other unpleasentries going on.
At this point, this review might seem a bit unbalanced. Is there anything I don’t like about my Hufschmid? The short and long answers are both no. Is this the perfect guitar? Yes and no,
for me it is without a doubt. It combines all of my favourite tones with all of the playability you would ever want.
It exceeded my expectations in every aspect and the funny thing is that it is actually still growing on me. Every time I play it I just love it more and more. Other people might have different tastes and preferences but it is needless to say that they will be met by Patrick no matter what they might be. And have I mentioned how stunning and unique it looks? Be sure that this is a guitar for life.