Let’s boast about Finnish craftsmanship a bit. No Finn is a stranger to crafts, as the basics of skills such as sewing, sawing and whittling have been taught to children in schools from an early age for decades already. This has laid a proper and ample foundation for many Finns to become world-renowned artisans in their fields. Famous horologist Kari Voutilainen, alongside Lauri Rapala, the founder of the world’s largest fishing lure and tackle producer Rapala-Normark Group, is a fine example of such expertise.
Now, there is another Finnish artisan, luthier Saku Vuori, ready to get worldwide recognition for his guitars, which are already being used by ZZ Top icon Billy Gibbons, amongst others.
“Some time ago, I contacted ZZ Top’s guitar tech Elwood Francis,” Vuori says. “I explained what I am capable of doing and also asked for some instructions from him in order to try to build something that Gibbons would like.”
The guitar tech liked what he heard.
“Later, when ZZ Top was performing in Finland, I had a chance to meet the band and I delivered my prototype to Gibbons,” Vuori continues. “The next day Billy used that guitar on stage. That is the best compliment a luthier could ever receive about one’s work!”
Striking the right notes
Vuori started his own company, Vuorensaku Guitars, back in 2014, after helping other luthiers for some years. He opened his own workshop in the Finnish city of Jyväskylä to design and make his own guitar models and other products such as basses and custom pickups. Now not only are his order books full, but requests are coming in from all over the world.
“My customers are both professionals and hobby-players who want something special they can’t get from guitar stores,” Vuori explains. “For instance, models with built-in effects are something one cannot find from regular retailers. With custom instruments, I follow customers’ needs and visions and try to combine those with my own ideas. Sometimes I get inspired by some old guitars or iconic artists, sometimes by old cars, furniture, houses or just the Finnish nature. Sometimes I build instruments passing the order line just to express my own ideas.”
Vuorensaku’s new orders are mainly coming from Europe, but Vuori is searching for new dealers from the US, Russia and Asia to help to spread the word. Whilst Vuorensaku Guitars is Vuori’s one-man show, he has a friend helping him by handling most of the repairs and trims. His waiting time for every order is 10 to 12 months, and so he is able to make 15 to 20 instruments per year. He’s willing to keep it that way.
“I don’t want to expand the business so much that I couldn’t handle it anymore,” Vuori reasons. “But of course I want to build my brand – I hope that one day when someone plays Vuorensaku, everybody knows that he or she is playing a guitar. The meaning of growth is to me more about value and building the name than the amount of production.”
Bringing music to one’s ears
Regarding his T.Family custom guitars, Vuori does everything himself. It is a big part of the brand that every instrument bears only his imprint.
“Building a guitar is a diverse process, and I think that is why I like this craft so much,” Vuori says. “The design stage is already great fun. However, I enjoy cutting the blanks and making lots of noise and dust just as much. Eventually, it is always such a fulfilling moment when you get all the parts together for the first time, see the complete result and hear the first sounds coming out of an amplifier. I will never get tired of that.”
In a world loaded with good guitars and overloaded with bad ones, Vuorensaku has a lot to offer to customers with special needs for special instruments.
“It is my job to make their dreams come true,” Vuori announces. “While a guitar is to me a form of art, a tool, craftsmanship, an article of dress and of course a musical instrument, it is ultimately an object to express yourself. My way to go is to design and build them.”