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Interview: Mark Hilditch, Hilditch Handmade Guitars. Making Dreams a Reality!



Can you share a bit about your background and how you developed your passion

for crafting these instruments?


I started playing when I was 10 and in my early

teens I developed dreams of becoming a rock star, as we all do. This mindset

combined with a lifelong passion for creating things, from Lego, empty washing up

liquid bottles and egg cartons, to basic wood work inspired by hours spent with my

grandad watching him create bird tables and benches for the whole family. This

culminated in my first, all be it poor, effort at making a guitar for my GCSE D&T

project (for which I scored almost full marks on the practical side) – a crude teenage

mash up of a strat (I had my broken one to hand) and a Warlock (my then dream

guitar). After starting a family at a fairly early age, I re discovered my love for guitars

around 2015 when I started doing small repairs for friends and had another, more

successful, go at making a guitar. I managed to land a job in a local furniture

workshop and that’s when I decided to have another go at guitars, combining my

knowledge of the instrument and the skills I learnt from experienced joiners to

create striking instruments and play around with some techniques I’d never seen

employed on guitar construction before. Basically having some fun.


In the competitive world of custom guitar making, how do you ensure the quality

and consistency of your products?


By doing everything myself really. Good lighting and taking time to look over the guitar after each step helps. And keeping mental notes of the key areas for attention, such as neck feel and fret smoothness. My main aim is to make the most comfortable and easy playing

guitar I can. Starting with neck joint ergonomics, especially on bolt on joints,

where I have created my own interlocking joint that makes it feel like a set neck.

I’ve focussed a lot on finishing as well. I do all my own spraying and getting to

grips has really allowed me to offer a huge range of finish options with the

convenience of doing it in house to make the process smoother.


How has technology influenced your guitar-making process? 


Aside from routers

and a bandsaw I’m very much a hand tool worker so technology doesn’t play a

huge role. I like it this way as you get that sort of perfect imperfection that shows

you it’s hand made. No CNCs here


Do you specialize in particular types of guitars, such as 6-string, 7-string guitars,

or bass guitars? How do you approach the customization process for each type?


I seem to be heading more towards the metal market with my current customs –

thin necks, full fret access, locking trems, high output pickups, sustainers, pointy

shapes and wild paint jobs. But I love these customers as I get to have fun and

experiment with crazy elements.


Do you collaborate with artists or musicians during the design and development

phase, and how does this collaborative process contribute to the uniqueness of

Hilditch Guitars? Can you share some stories about notable artists who play

Hilditch Guitars?


I’m fortunate enough to have developed a large pool of

musicians I call friends, which I can pull various ideas from in creating the ultimate

playing instrument for many genres (although I seem to be heading more towards

metal for customs due to fast necks and striking shapes/finishes). The biggest

name currently playing one of my guitars is the lead guitarist from UK thrash band

Onslaught, Wayne. He’s an absolute shredder so it was good to get his input on

making a fast playing neck, contours and fret access.


Can you highlight some unique design elements or features in Hilditch Guitars

that set them apart from other custom builders in the industry? 


My main USP, if you will, is that I can and will make anything the customer wants. I have my stock shapes of course, and I tend to use these to experiment with ideas, but when it

comes to customs I offer a full design service including custom shapes.


In the process of crafting guitars at Hilditch, are there any proprietary techniques

or methods you use that contribute to the distinct sound and playability of your

instruments? 


It depends what inspiration strikes and what guitar I’m building.

Many times I can create a guitar in my head based off one element, for eg a

bridge or pickup set, and then I’ll decide what sort of feel/look/genre that guitar

will be aimed at and that will influence neck thickness, contours, frets etc. I also

prefer to use multi laminate necks as having multiple pieces of wood that want to

move in different ways really adds some rigidity and helps stop unwanted

movement. And a 2 way truss rod so you can dial in the perfect neck relief.


How do you approach the customization process to ensure that each guitar

reflects the individual preferences and style of the customer, and what role does

this personalization play in making Hilditch Guitars stand out?


 This is the key part! As I said, I will make anything a customer wants and they get as much of a design role as they want. Some come with a simple idea and ask me to embellish, and

some come with full detailed drawings including colours and annotations. But

without the customer's input it isn’t truly custom is it?


Are there any specific types of wood, materials, or finishes that you prefer to use

in your guitars, and how do these choices contribute to the unique tonal

characteristics and aesthetics of Hilditch instruments? 


I really like Ash for bodies.


It gives a nice solid base for the guitar, and if you get a nice grain pattern you can

have some fun with colours and finish. But I’ll use almost any wood if it’s pretty,

for a clear finish, and solid and stable for painted finish. I only use oil on the necks

as I prefer the natural feel of the wood, and it’s reassuring just how many people

agree with this. And my go to lacquer is polyurethane for it’s extra durability

compared to nitro.


Can you share insights into the level of attention to detail and craftsmanship that

goes into each Hilditch Guitar?


High levels! Haha. I can spend hours making sure

all sanding marks are removed if it’s to have a clear finish. Checking any

dinks/chips/holes are taken care of in the best way. Prep, prep, more prep, for

spraying. Constant checking by feeling, of curves, contours, neck, joints etc. I can

spend a lot of time on making sure neck joints line up to give an even string

spread on the body over the pickups. And fretwork is possibly the most important.

Being thorough on fretboard prep helps minimise fret levelling afterwards so you

can a nice low action if needed. And I spend a bit of time on smoothing the ends

to make it comfortable moving up and down the neck.


Can you walk us through the ordering process for a custom guitar at Hilditch

Guitars? What options do customers have in terms of specifications and finishes?


I have created a drop down box form on my website that customers can use to

highlight their preferences, with space to add details if there’s anything specific

that isn’t on the list. I’m also open to email and whatsapp messages if they have

something already planned that they just want to send over to me to go through. I

also have a simple spec form I can send out to be filled in. Once specs and price

are confirmed, I send out a final confirmation form which includes all specs for

review and info on deposit payment.


For someone considering a Hilditch Guitar, what would you say is the most

compelling reason to choose one of your instruments over those of other custom

builders? 


What makes the Hilditch experience exceptional for musicians and

collectors alike? As already mentioned, I can make anything they want and I

involve them in the whole journey as much as possible. Including regular picture

updates and small details that might seem trivial but are important – contours,

neck shape, control layout, strap button placement. I want the customer to be

involved as much as I am. It’s their guitar at the end of the day


For someone interested in exploring more about Hilditch Guitars, where can they

find information about your current inventory, past projects, and the various

customization options available? 


facebook/instagram/youtube all @hilditchguitar


Finally, for those looking to purchase a Hilditch Guitar, where can they place

orders, and what kind of support or guidance do you offer to customers throughout

the ordering and delivery process? 



Custom Guitars Built in the UK (hilditchguitars.com) I’m always at the end of the phone

for them to ask any questions, and I update regularly as things progress.



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