Journey Of Surprises
Sometimes the task of making a custom guitar turns out to be a surprising journey on more levels than neither the maker nor the client would ever expect. This one – a guitar named by the client “Heart Of The Forest”, is one of those rare instruments.
Man Of Mysteries
When Finn Windsval of Elding contacted me, I didn’t first quite know what to think. A man of mysteries, I thought. Not the easiest character to get to know to.
What I learned later down the road – my understanding slowly deepening, bit by bit, like putting together a challenging puzzle – was that I’m in fact dealing with an extraordinary human being, who might not be quite aware of just how extraordinary he is.
This special gift – Finn’s magic – is what drives Elding as well. It is rare to see such unflinching dedication to every single aspect of one’s art. And I don’t mean just the Elding music, but every facet of it you can imagine – from visual design to composition, from concept to macro detail – or from finding the right people to forging the right tools for the task.
Finn’s input to having this guitar made was immeasurable. While he fully respected my knowledge and experience regarding the materials and constructional principles, it was Finn’s razor sharp vision, of how this guitar should be, that lit the way throughout the process – even if he didn’t perhaps fully realize it in every turn at the time of the making.
I Can Only Make This Worse!
A great example is the raven inlays on the fretboard. Finn asked for my input. “Could you please make me drafts”, he asked me. And while saying so, he attached his own draft – just a sketch for the sake of brainstorming, he said – which I looked at, thinking: “Man, I can only make this worse. It is ready!”
The guitar specifications
Finn’s custom guitar is based on our Aeon Deluxe model with a few special twists. The materials are what you’d expect from us – a lightweight spanish cedar body with an arctic birch top (handpicked by Finn) and thermally aged rock maple neck with a dark indian rosewood fretboard.
The Headstock Origins
The headstock of the guitar – this is a shape that never became one of our standard designs with a designated guitar model. Instead, it has become commonly known as “Kupiainen-style”, even though the origins of the design reach further back in history than our cooperation with Matias from Stratovarius. The first guitars featuring this 3+3 headstock were made for the three guitarists – Pirkka Ohlis, Matti Pasanen and Henri Arola – of the band Dyecrest. My signature on the headstock, featured without our logo, is in fact a first of its kind – also a specific wish from Finn.
I cut the ravens – of which Finn will tell you more about in the next chapters – out of birch by hand (as I do all of our inlays), following Finn’s original design as accurately as I could.
Hardware And Pickups
The guitar features locking 510-series tuners by Gotoh, Schaller Hannes bridge, stainless steel jumbo frets and moose bone nut. The pickups are by Bare Knuckle – the Holy Diver at bridge and VHII at neck position. The sound of the guitar? Have a listen here.
In the next chapters, a few words by Finn Windsval himself. Enjoy!
A letter from Finn Windsval:
Initiating this project with Juha Ruokangas and bonding as friends during its process turned out to be an enlightening experience to me in many regards. From the time of our first encounter, I sensed that I was beyond impressed by the integrity, mastery, passion and philosophy of the people who have established this enterprise. It feels as if the high vibrations of aligned genius reverberating within the walls of their workshop have stirred my soul in the fondest of manners.
While being invited to immerse myself within their history and various input of artistry, I felt an ethereal sensation unfurl before us already as Juha offered a whole-hearted introduction to each aspect of their craft. You see, when Juha talks about their instruments as being communication tools for our souls – I believe that there’s yet another dimension to that statement which might not come across as obvious at first. I will share my perspective on the matter.
It has been said before that instruments come with songs embedded within them. A dear friend of ours, seasoned concept artist Damjan Gjorgievski, also phrased it eloquently during one of our discussions: He believes that the energy which he puts into his art will keep on resonating across time and spark inspiration throughout the ages – as I dare claim is evident when admiring the timeless beauty of architecture, music, paintings and more. I definitely perceive that there is something honourable to that idea, which I think that Ruokangas Guitars is a noble example of as well. Nowadays, I believe that I can envision that this leads even further into something possibly transcendental when it arises from selfless motivations.
When Juha and I were inspecting the materials in detail at the very beginning of our partnership, I felt something astonishing which I hadn’t perceive before (to my memory) – a sensation that would be amplified into a burst of inspiration as intense as a jolt of electricity in due time. Not only was I awestruck by the beauty of the components which were ultimately used for our firstborn guitar, but also as if by an otherworldly sensation which assured me that these gifts of nature were somehow charged – hinting at that there was something sentient to them at this stage already.
I have no doubt about it: Juha and his team have harnessed some primordial essence from the trees and introduced us to an instrument which encapsulates something sacrosanct from the wilderness. I perceive it as if the guitar challenges and at the same time supports me in channeling and transforming insights into stories, which I hope can inspire others in the most constructive of ways. It has contributed to changing my perception of the world altogether by guiding me into an elevated state of mind. For example: Whenever I feel alone while devoting myself to work, it reminds me of that this is an invitation into solitude – that the orchestrator of the universe wants it to be just the three of us in that moment.
I feel truly blessed having lived to experience this state of consciousness – even more so with this precious masterpiece of an instrument in hand. Essentially, practicing guitar has become something like meditation to me.
The ample guidance, philosophical exchanges as well as unity which we’ve been welcomed into by the amazing people at Ruokangas Guitars are all invaluable to me.
During the time of the guitar’s assembly, we did experience more than one hardship on the way. However, I see it now: The highest deity guided me to grow into someone who’d be ready to work on aligning with and fathoming the profoundness of the instrument and more; which I express in all modesty, I assure you.
It has taught me that life truly happens for us – that we should have faith in what the universe has in store for us, no matter whether we can comprehend it at first or not; as long as we act in alignment with our higher purpose, without letting our ego get the best of us.
Once upon a sapling
Concerning the design of the guitar itself, I’ll offer a brief introduction to its genesis:
It is named Heart Of The Forest, as it was inspired by numerous breathtaking glades which displayed their robes turning from late summer into early autumn – hence I chose the green and yellow burst finish with golden highlights of the hardware to signify this transformation of its majestic beauty.
As for the inlays, I drew the asymmetric murder of ravens aiming for an artistic (but still down-to-earth) portrayal rather than considering their functionality. I’m personally fascinated with wildlife, yet I wanted for it to have a slightly “ominous”, enigmatic undertow reminiscent to that of various myths surrounding ravens across different cultures; Crebain From Dunland, Hugin and Munin as well as Nattramn (for the darkest of our compositions) came to mind – I’m involved in a metal band which draws inspiration from works of fantasy, after all. How come that there is five of them, specifically? You see – it hints at something portrayed by the narrative our music. Maybe someone will touch upon the hidden meaning of it as we progress with our upcoming releases.
As a subtle nod to some of my favourite guitarists, who also feature in Ruokangas’ artist roster – I also think of it as a blend of inspiration from the guitar models of Matias Kupiainen and Mika Tyyskä; who have helped us out a great lot in various endeavours in the past too. While I’m at it, I’d also like to honour our friendship with Mitja Harvilahti from Moonsorrow; his practical help and moral support has been and remains priceless to us. An additional fact: Moonsorrow is one of the bands who sparked my passion for this kind of music to begin with. Cheers gentlemen!
With all of this said: My deepest gratitude to Ruokangas Guitars for inviting us into the sanctuary you’ve created, sharing your knowledge, the laughter and delicious coffee! We honour your legacy and will do what we can to pass the treasures of it on by the best of our abilities. Wherever we go from here, we’re delighted to share this life experience with you.