Interview, Luthier Focus

Interview with Saku Vuori of Vuorensaku Guitars

Finland's youngest Master Luthier Saku Vuori builds some of the most striking and inspired electric guitars we've had the chance to have in our shop!

The elements that go into his electrics are a distinct and uncommon blend of the American classics and rock music with Finnish craft tradition and architectural inspiration. Saku also makes his own pickups, so no two guitars will ever be completely the same. He recently told us all about his education, influences, and how he's branching out to build all kinds of imaginative, one-of-a-kind electric instruments.

"By the influence of Mosrite, Fender and other offset models, I created the T.Family, my own shape and a playground for all kinds of combinations and visions to fulfill the customers' dreams. And my own, too!"

Q: It all starts with music. What were your main influences musically, and how did those lead you into guitar-making?

A: Back in the late 90s when I was a kid there was a male nurse at the kindergarten. He had long hair, earrings, and he used to play guitar before nap time - he was my first guitar hero! As a teenager I got my first guitar - Yamaha F-310 - and took all the music and band courses I could. Sometimes I also played drums and bass. I also loved crafts, and during secondary school I also joined the civic college of crafts. In 9th grade I built my first guitar. It was a bolt-neck, flattop Les Paul. My teacher couldn't help me at all but I was so passionate that I just tried to complete it by myself. I still have it!

So, music and crafts have always been hand-in-hand in my life. During the time I have had all kinds of band projects, from gospel to surf rock and outlaw country. Bass has become my main instrument - I love to carry the song and rhythm at the same time. Here's a link to my surf band's video, called The Øffsets:

Q: Have you known you wanted to go into guitar-making since you were very young, or did you evolve toward that choice during your time at the School of Arts & Crafts?

A: Since I got into the School of Arts & Crafts of IKATA - the only place you can study guitar making in Finland - I knew this is what I want to do. I also realized entrepreneurship is the only way you can employ yourself in this profession. After Landola there hasn't been guitar factories in Finland - never will be. To me this works well. I'm kind of an artist, business man, designer, worker and C.O - all at the same time.

Q: You’re the youngest Master Luthier in Finland! What is involved in achieving this title?

A: The Master Luthier title is firmly new here in Finland even though that's a common tradition from centuries ago around Europe. After 10 years of working in guitar making I finally got a chance to make my own Master exam in 2019. And it happened to be so that I became the youngest Master Luthier in Finland at the age of 35. It's not an easy one. You must show your professional skills, quality and knowledge to first of all - to make and repair guitars - but also develop something new and run the business.

Q: That sounds incredibly comprehensive. Plus, you also make your own pickups. Please tell us more about that!

A: Already at the luthier school I got interested in pickups. To me it's like cooking or the chemistry of magic broths. Everybody can search and find the ingredients and recipes but still the result is different. I have a database of all my pickups but even I can't promise to make two similar pickups in row. There's the magic. I also think that pickups are the first thing after a player's fingers that creates the sound. And as a custom luthier I want to offer customized sound from the first possible step I can.

The making of pickups is also a great balance to woodworking and other things around the guitar. Sometimes it's just so relaxing to sit down and wire some pickups and listen to your favorite music.

Q: Who are your influences in guitar making, especially those that may not be as obvious?

A: Before I even got into guitar-making I was fascinated by the work of Carl Thompson, the guy who builds those amazing basses for guys like Les Calypool. Those were so different from other instruments that I saw. But after I started my own career I made it clear that I didn't want to follow or copy Thompson's work. I wanted to find my own shape and style.

Then it happened. By the influence of Mosrite, Fender and other offset models, I created the T.Family, my own shape and a playground for all kinds of combinations and visions to fulfill the customers' dreams. And my own, too!

Q: Do you have influences outside of music and woodworking that you draw on in your guitars?

Must admit that things like old cars, furniture and architecture have been a big influencer to me, especially in relic styles, colors and materials. I love everything with rough and worn out surfaces and rust. One big name for me is also Paul Bigsby. I think he is the real inventor of electric guitar and I really want to share his attitude: "I can build anything!"

Q: What do players gain from working with you directly to design a guitar?

A: I enjoy working with customers. It's very personal in both ways. As a custom luthier I need to know the customer: what kinds of things he needs and likes, how does he play, etc. That's the key to the whole custom instrument. In a way the customer service can be almost a half of the project but it's totally worth it. And I believe that is something that people are willing to invest in and totally something else you get compared to just buying a guitar from a store or online.

Q: What does it mean to you to work with a shop like ours?

A: In the past few years I have been working with some dealer shops, too. I have noticed that it is the way I can really build an international business. I need the cooperation and the helping hands who have showrooms and professional platforms for selling. With premier level guitars, it's so important for some customers to get a chance to try out and feel the instrument before they can make the purchase or custom order. That's why I need the right dealers who can support me and believe in my work.

Q: What guitar have you (or would you) build for yourself?

A: Every now and then, just to realize and implement myself, I build instruments from my own head. It's kind of a method to motivate myself and also develop new instruments that no one has dared to order yet. For example, a 4-string tenor guitar, lapsteel and 5-string bass which I built lately have been such kind of "bench builds" to me. Just to fulfill my own ideas and show what I can do and how many different ways the T.Family can go.

Q: Lastly – What’s next for you? Are you going to any festivals or showcases?

A: In the future I just try to keep up the good phase. I have orders in for the next year at least so I totally know what I'm gonna do next Monday morning. I also hope to get a chance to participate in some guitar expos shows in the future, but no one knows how the global situation develops from here. I also hope to continue the work with TNAG in future - maybe expand the collection to some new directions like basses, tenors or lapsteels.

Thank you, Saku, for sharing your thoughts and story with us!

Browse below to see the Vuorensaku guitars we have available now.

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