Amfisound Guitars is run by two master luthiers in the outskirts of the northern Finnish city of Oulu.
Sampo Leppävuori (say ’SUM-poe’) and Tomi Korkalainen (’Tommy’) met while studying at the Ikaalinen College of Crafts and Design. They became friends and decided to set up shop together near Sampo’s hometown.
Amfisound is able to offer a very wide selection of different guitar and bass models, because the company combines both Sampo’s and Tomi’s strengths.
These instruments are far from being straight copies of vintage guitars, though, as all Amfisound models feature a long list of updates and improvements (mostly in the hardware, electronics and pickup departments), as well as special Amfisound-features, such as the company’s special, heel-less set-neck joint.
Tomi Korkalainen’s creative activities are mostly zoned in on the Metal and Hard Rock genres, where he strives to come up with the ultimate Metal-guitars in terms of playablity, tone and visual impact.
Kitarablogi: What’s the philosophy behind Amfisound Guitars?
Tomi: We wanted to set in motion a fresh and youthful custom guitar culture in Finland. Being based up here in the north strengthens our North-European image and appeal, which we try to underline further by making our guitars very visual. We came up with our Finnish model names around 2003/2004. The model names are quite easy to get to grips with even for foreigners, and it’s cool to hear them spoken in different accents at trade shows.
KB: Your visual approach sets you apart from many other makers.
Sampo: We had to come up ourselves with practically all of our special finishes, treatments and woodworking techniques. And you still keep on learning something new while working on new designs. When it comes to making guitars for the Hard ’n’ Heavy -crowd, there was basically no precedent over here in Finland. We simply had to dig in and come up with all the solutions by ourselves. All this hard graft has reaped rewards and Amfisound instruments are held in high regard at home as well as abroad. It is also great to be involved in the evolution of the art and culture of guitar-making in Finland. Since we started our company, people’s attitudes towards Finnish Metal guitars have changed dramatically for the better, which is a good indicator for the kind of mind-boggling progress guitar-making in this country has seen.
KB: How do you approach the building process?
Tomi: At the moment most of our instruments are ordered from abroad. Each order is treated individually, and each guitar is built by hand from start to finish. We don’t build in production runs, and we never use prefabricated bodies or necks, which is actually a great advantage for our customers. Our instruments are played by a lot of great artists from all sorts of different musical genres, in Finland and abroad. Our branding has taken a large leap in my opinion, when we introduced our current, round company logo. For us it means that we can make Amfisound Guitars a real Finnish guitar brand, instead of us being merely some small custom maker from northern Finland.
Amfisound Guitars’ range of models offers a very broad scope for customisation, because Sampo and Tomi want to make sure that each and every customer gets exactly the guitar or bass he or she wants.
Amfisound’s unbelievable custom finishes are fast becoming the stuff of guitar legend. These guys are real wizards when it comes to using the spray gun and the airbrush! Regardless of whether you want an instrument that looks like and ancient piece of wood, complete with runic writings, or rather a real shocker in neon green with leopard spots, the dynamic duo of Amfisound will do it with style.
Besides making their own models Amfisound Guitars also take on repair and customising work.
Every Amfisound instrument once started out as a heap of wooden planks.
Amfisound very often use native Finnish wood species, like figured arctic birch and black alder, in their body designs, alongside more exotic timber, such as African mahogany (khaya ivorensis).
Here’s a close-up of a stack of ebony fingerboard blanks. Naturally, Amfisound has all the necessary paperwork to prove it comes from legal sources.
If you’d rather have something more exotic for your guitar’s body, there are such alternatives as korina, which is also known as (black) limba.
A lot of work has gone into Sampo’s and Tomi’s own routing templates, jigs and fixtures. Most of the building process at Amfisound Guitars is old-school instrument-making.
A semi-solid version of the Amfisound Halti is in the works. The routing template gives you a good view on all the cavities that will be covered by the carved top.
On through-neck designs the neck blank is glued together from three strips of maple.
Here we have some rosewood and ebony fingerboards with the fret slots already sawn.
For some more demanding operations a copy carver is used to ensure consistency.
In this picture a Halti-model receives its deep neck joint cutaway…
…while here the copy carver is used to rough out the dished shape of the top.
But often only handwork will do for an Amfisound guitar:
The outlines of an Atrain-guitar, as well as the positions of the bridge and the pickups, are drawn onto the wood with a pencil.
A wood rasp is a good tool to start shaping a smooth neck heel, if you know what you do.
A router table is used for a lot of things in guitar-building:
Here a pickup cavity is routed into a bass body…
…while this picture shows a neck slot being cut…
…and this picture shows a pickup cavity and the necessary recesses for a vibrato being routed out.
Tomi makes sure the outlines of this Railo-body are crisp and clean.
Many spots need hand-sanding, though.
After levelling a special file is used to put the rounded playing surface back into the frets.
Stunning visuals need a good amount of planning and a very steady hand.
When it comes to graphic finishes, at Amfisound only the sky’s the limit.
Sampo scrapes the fingerboard binding after the finish has dried.
Same procedure, different guitar.
The holes for the switches, pots and the hardware are drilled quite late in the process.
A Sustainer-equipped guitar in final assembly.
Amfisound offer their customers the option to order a Building Process -book along with their guitar or bass, detailing its genesis from raw wood into a fine instrument.
Amfisound’s Sampo Leppävuori and Tomi Korkalainen are both members of The Finnish Guild Of Luthiers.
Here are a few examples of finished instruments (photos: Amfisound).