This Helldunkel (which you can see on the pictures below) is my fifth collaboration with Patrick Hufschmid. Before this one, we have worked together on a seven string superstrat back in 2010, a six string mockingbird-inspired in 2011, another six string superstrat in 2012 and a second seven string superstrat in 2014.
This could have been enough, but as my playing evolved with time, I felt the need (or the lust) for a guitar with a sweeter, more vintage tone than my previous Hufschmid, which are authentic war machines, as I required back in those days. I was also interested in this particular model, which is presented as a « stripped down » version, but with the same quality and craftsmanship in mind. This lower price is allowed by buying the whole hardware (except the pickups) from a single supplier, and by reducing the options available.
Thus this guitar has those specs :
- 25.5" scale
- Sapelli body, one piece, quarter-sawn (available in LP or Tele shape as well)
- Sapelli neck, one piece, quarter-sawn, with a « straight-pull » head design
- West African ebony fingerboard, all woods are FSC-certified
- Delrin® nut, which is a very high quality thermoplastic
- Luminlay® side dots
- 12" radius
- Glowbuckers pickups, handmade by Kent Armstrong, I will discuss them below
- Hipshot bridge and locking tuners
- Matte finish for a natural look and feel
- Standard tuning E A D G B E with 10-52 strings
As any other Hufschmid, this particular one was handmade by Patrick himself, and the construction is once again exemplary, machine-like precise. With a 3kg (6.6 lbs) weight, I can keep it on my shoulder for quite a long time without getting any pain. It is also very well balanced, even considering its thin body, which is thiner than my other models featuring a top. This is particularly pleasant as you can better feel the instrument as a part of your own body. The neck is very stable as well, and very easy to play, without being too flat on the back, but rather with a very natural profile that prevents any cramp or tension in the left hand.
Important thing to notice : the nut is perfectly adjusted which, along with the head design and the locking tuners, leads to an outstanding tuning stability. True story : I played this guitar for a cover concert in a bar (about 3 hours of playing), and I tuned it before the first song… and the last five ones, and only the G string had slightly moved down…!
Having required high-output pickups for my previous Hufschmids (I mostly play metal), I asked lower-gain, mid-sounding pickups for this one, for a sweeter, but also rockier tone. Notice that every Hufschmid, Helldunkel included, is fitted with « made to measure » pickups that are handmade by Kent Armstrong, a leader in pickup building, especially known in the Jazz sphere. So don’t judge those guitars by their pointy and punchy look, they can truly be tweaked to play anything ! This Helldunkel was also the opportunity for me to ask Patrick’s latest innovation : the Glowbuckers pickups. They are embedded into white epoxy, which contains a luminescent pigment on the top (visible part of the pickup). This gives the pickup a unique look, with a blue glowing in the dark, identical to the Luminlay dots. The visual effect is incredible, this is something you won’t see everyday, and people always ask me about this guitar and those pickups.
Interesting and useful detail : on a dark stage the pickups « backlight » the strings, so you won’t miss one again !
The tone is everything I was looking for : versatility and quality. I can virtually play anything from a warm and defined clean tone, to a precise and fat crunch, to a massive yet full of clarity overdriven sound, with every note sounding equally clear. The volume and tone knobs are also very efficient, and all those things combined with the excellent craftsmanship of the guitar make it very constant and defined.
Considering my needs, I plug it into a Fender Deluxe Tweed, a Hughes & Kettned Tubemeister or a Line6 HELIX (direct into PA). It is truly a kind of musical chameleon, and so easy to play that it quickly became my main guitar for everyday (I teach guitar, and play in several bands as well, covering many different esthetics, I keep the other Hufschmids for my progressive metal band). I use it along with a Vigier, which cost me almost the same price, without being as good, by far.
As you may already understood, I am beyond happy with this instrument. Its simple, yet refined look charmed me, just as all the little innovations Patrick is always looking for to make his guitars better and better after 20 years of research and experiments. As always, the human experience was perfect as well, with a lot of communication about the building process, and a lot of update pictures (some of them are featured below).
I sold a few guitars without any regret to afford this one. The price may seem quite high but it is more than ever justified regarding the quality of the instrument, and especially considering some companies offering more than average instruments for the same price… I made my choice, and I will again for sure !
I have owned this guitar for about 3 months now. The builder Patrick Hufschmid is nothing short of a perfectionist when it comes to build quality and the final details that make a guitar a cut above the rest.
Starting with the shape, Hufschmid has a unique take on the modern super Strat style, with beautiful bevels and sharp edges that give it a sleek look. It also makes it incredibly comfortable either standing or sitting. The neck shape is a full feeling "C" shape that is super fast and comfortable all the way up. As you'd expect, the fret work is absolutely perfect as well, with no sharp edges or high spots, coupled with a pretty flat radius that makes the guitar almost effortless to play.
The body and neck are made from Sapele Mahogany, which is supremely resonant. You can feel that the guitar is alive and responsive when you play it. My guitar also has a maple fretboard, which gives an even more unique look compared to his usual dark fretboard choices. A straight string pull design headstock with locking hipshot tuners gives unparalleled tuning stability, even with heavy bending of the strings, and temperature changes.
The exclusive Glowbuckers fitted to my guitar are unbelievable. They are a passive pickup with a fairly high output, but retain a beautiful warmth under clean tones and low gain. With a higher gain tone, the clarity they retain is amazing, with huge chords ringing out for ages. It would happily lend itself to almost any play style and genre.
Also, THEY GLOW. Couple that to the glow in the dark side inlays it gives you a very striking look under dark stage lighting and the whiteness of them in normal lighting also makes them stand out.
I absolutely love everything about this guitar, from the way it looks and feels all the way to the ethos of the builder. I couldn't be happier with mine and I would highly recommend to anyone looking for a beautiful handmade custom guitar to definitely check out Hufschmid. I can honestly find no faults with this guitar and it's become my guitar of choice over my other 2 customs and Parker Flys. Definitely gonna get myself a 7 string made by him in the near future as well.
Hufschmid introduces his guitar 'Helldunkel', "Since 1996, this unique instrument represents my design ideology distilled into its purest form. This 6 string 'set specs' guitar is handbuilt from premium timbers and the highest quality hardware, using my years of experience to craft an instrument of exquisite simplicity, comfort and ultimate guitar tone." Since I looked up his website, I had been hooked on this quotation for months. I could not resist having one.
30th of July 2016, I received a guitar, a Hufschmid 'Helldunkel' built by Patrick Hufschmid in Ailge, Switzerland.
Over all specification of my Helldunkel is;
-Body: One piece quartersawn premium sapele mahogany.
-Neck: One piece perfectly quartersawn sapele mahogany.
-Headstock: Hufschmid 3L/3R Straight-pull design.
-Nut: Exclusive Red HUFTRON.
-Finger board: Premium West African Ebony, 12-inch radius, 24 frets.
-Side dot: Hufschmid glow in the dark.
-Tuner: Hipshot open gear locking tuners.
-Bridge: Hipshot fixed bridge.
-Pickup: Hufschmid Humbuckers, made to measure Hufschmid passive humbuckers handmade in Vermont by Kent Armstrong himself.
-Finish: 15 coats of natural varnish, satin finish.
-Body thickness : 35 mm
-Weight: 3.6 kg
1) The '3L/3R straight-pull headstock' design combining with the Hipshot locking tuners and the Red HFUTRON nut offers superb tuning stability. The design excluding a string retainer is also a good point. Minimal components achieve maximal result, the 'beautility'.
2) My Helldunkel is a double cut away design. There is no big contour on the top but a beautiful chamfer for the right forearm to rest naturally. The chamfer on the back makes a very elegant and sexy back view. The neck joint offers great access to the last fret and the thin body makes itself a very well balanced instrument.
3) 15 coats of varnish sounded really thick to me at the first. This satin finish contributes to the 'natural wood' feel and look. While protecting the timber, it accentuates its beautiful figures. According to Hufschmid, finishing takes about half the time of building a whole instrument.
4) The playability is great. Hufschmid carved each neck for each individual customer. Unfortunately I live in the other side of the planet so that I could not pre-test the feel of the neck, however, he collected pictures of my left hand and used it as references to carve the neck. It works really great.
5) Hufschmid Humbuckers are only available when ordering guitars from Hufschmid. These humbuckers handmade by Kent Armstrong himself have Hufschmid Logo on their top. This means Hufschmid had to create original molds for these pickups. The look and sound integrity of these pickups are really high. The combination with the body and neck, the sustain is simply awesome on all the notes. Being built in a casting mold, pickups are epoxy-sealed witch comes really handy for a guy like me who sweat a lot.
6) Perfectly quartersawn premium sapele mahogany for body and neck is, I would guess, the 'Hufschmid Guitars' signature. I don't have a lot of interest and knowledge about 'tone wood' in general, till the day I received my Helldunkel. Take a good close look at the guitar to know how it was made, what was used to build and you will see and feel a futuristic look of the guitar. A luthier once said that using wrong material for the guitar, it will twist and even split up in time. But how can I take a close look if the guitars are heavily coated and colored under the tons of lacquer? Heavy finishes can look great but how can I can feel splendor of timbers? Other music instruments, such as the violin families are much easier to admire because you can really see the timbers. The finishes are thin and the protection will last for ages. We are not all luthiers or timber dealers, however we may take a close look at instruments and appreciate those gorgeous timbers. I am off course not a luthier, but I can feel this by taking a closer look at my Helldunkel. Wood grain, on the top, back and the edges, looks evenly distributed and parallel to the string line, the same for the neck. The coats of varnish really bring up the 'ribbon figure' of the sapele that looks like golden threads under the sunlight. Its color expression is infinite. This is a high quality guitar made of good timber selected and build by a good luthier.
7) Hufschmid sent and posted a lot of pictures of his guitar making process on email, Instagram and Facebook. I have seen my Helldunkel from the timber to its completion. This has been the unforgettable experience in my life.
1) I already want to have another one. Hufsdhmid Guitars always moves forwards and improves himself. Next guitar he will make might be the better one and the one after the next. That makes me a bit jealous.^^