Holy Grail Show Feature - Millimetric Instruments
I think I can quite comfortably say, that the Holy Grail Guitar Show is the one true home to the boutique guitar world. Every one of the 130+ luthiers exhibiting over the course of the two sunny Spring days in Berlin were providing a masterclass in quality craftsmanship and innovative design. To me, one of those luthiers helping provide a fresh take on guitar design and building techniques, was Florian Schneider of Millimetric Instruments.
Back in March I interviewed Florian for my 'Meet the Maker' series and it only further deepened my intrigue into his work. To many, the guitars look like the hybrid of simplistic Scandinavian furniture, Travis Bean guitars and to some I've heard say, Danelectro too. But the natural instinct to 'pigeon hole' the aesthetic style of these instruments is almost overshadowed by Florian's incredibly well thought out design and attention to detail in every aspect of the build. We talked about his techniques and influences in the interview back in March, so perhaps now it's time to look more specifically at the instruments themselves, and after quite some time adoring these guitars online, it was finally my chance to hold one in my hands. What did I think? Well, let's get to the details and find out.
The MGS3 (Baritone)
The shape that I first laid eyes upon when introduced to Florian's instruments, was the MGS3. A single cutaway, offset design, which to a Jazzmaster fan like myself, had me hooked from the get go. Florian had made a beautiful baritone version for the HGGS finished in a captivating metallic copper colour, which in the bright, sun drenched exhibition hall at the Estrel, Berlin, really stood out from the crowd. Along with his, I suppose you could now say, signature anodised black pickguard which I might add is the only place you'll find his minimalistic logo placed, and on this build, a stunning oxidised walnut neck, gave this instrument some real presence among an already vibrant collection of boutique guitars from worldwide luthiers.
This was an incredible recipe of specifications to behold, and set-up with big strings and tuned to C, created a rather inspiring play which was evident even standing back and watching others play it for the first time (like our pal Tom Sands is doing in the photo above). This guitar had Florian's MM90 pickups, which paired with the Baritone scale and big strings had a empowering, gritty tone and suited the character of the instrument well. Even only through an iPad iRig, shown some serious personality from an aesthetically clean and simple design. A wolf in sheep's clothing might undermine what is truly going on here, so let's say there's more than meets the eye with this guitar. I returned a few times during the course of the weekend to pick it up, it possessed an almost addictive sound and feel. The final finishing is quite honestly, impeccable. Free of imperfections, the incredibly clean luthier work on show on Florian's instruments is both a testament to his abilities, and also dedication to his designs. To which some may be surprised to hear Florian isn't an ex-luthier school pupil, but rather he studied furniture design and cabinet making which perhaps leads to his more unique take on guitar making. The oxidised walnut (which was achieved by sanding to an very very flat and smooth finish then working a vinegar and steel wool mix in to give the walnut a dark, rich colour, but still feel like silk in your palm) neck was a joy, in my quite large hands (I'm 6'5" tall, so that might put hand size in perspective for you), the profile Florian had shaped felt a comfortable, yet full 'C'. But for me, it was the fretting which was the Piste De Resistance. Made from stainless steel, with beautifully shaped and rounded fret ends which we're finished just mere mm from the fretboard edge which whilst playing meant you quite honestly couldn't feel a fret end on your fingers. I'm hooked already.
I must admit, that on the run up to the show, this was the build I was most excited to see for myself as it featured a couple of Florian's new ideas brought to life, the open grain finish and his take on the classic lipstick style pickup. I wasn't disappointed. The pickups have a striking look, with an aesthetic not dissimilar to a weathered brass guitar slide perhaps, but the sound was crystal clear with chimey trebles which was an enjoyable play. The open grain finish had a wonderful feel in your hands, the texture of the walnut provided another depth of character to the instrument, and compliments the large, dark black pickguard and hardware very well indeed.
One of the things I've often wondered when admiring Millimetric Guitars online, was how their seemingly very slim body design would sit whilst playing. I was looking forward to getting them in my hands to see how it would translate, and the truth is I don't think it entered my mind once I was actually in the moment. The beauty of Florian's work is that you get a real sense of 'everything for a reason'. Each detail, measurement etc, feels right for the instrument, across each model. He's a man who has designed this guitar to be this way from the pencil to paper stage, right up to attaching the final items of hardware on a completed build. This isn't a case of buying hardware it, basing the body shapes on familiar classics. The pickups are made specifically for him to his requirements, he's designed the bridge, even the control knobs. This is a man bringing an idea to life through lots of refinement, and it very much shows what you are graced with one in your hands. They just simply feel 'right'.
Each of the guitars on display featured the same bridge design, again something of Florian's own design which has clean looking Allen key screw heads locking the sliding intonation adjusters into position, with the strings passing over individually adjusted brass saddles. This bridge was specifically designed for these guitars, and it's executed very well and features a great deal of adjustment.
Below is a photograph that shows two of Millimetric's interesting features, the neck/body join, along with the clear control cavity cover showing the inner workings providing a brilliantly industrial/functional feel to the guitar's design. The neck join though is something I've been particularly fond of and was keen to see it up close. Reminiscent of Travis Bean's aluminum neck guitars, the neck goes right down to the string ferrules for the bridge meaning the two string anchor points are attached via same piece of wood. Not a bad thing at all, and certainly provides the best possible chance of great resonance and sustain. But in terms of play-ability, it provides a feeling similar to a set neck instrument, from what is essentially a bolt on design. Incredibly ergonomic and comfortable and this translated across the normal scale lengths as well as the Baritone on display.
It seems odd to say this about a collection of very unique instruments, but to me the most striking of Florian's designs is the MG6. It was his first design, and doesn't hold back. It's super deep cutaways allow access to the upper frets with absolute ease and pleasing to the eye control position/layout. This is a design that can't be ignored. The MG6 that had been built for the show featured a striking 'Dijonaise' yellow colour along with a beautiful cherry wood neck/fretboard and another fresh pickup set designed intended to be an accurate reproduction of the iconic Teisco Gold Foil.
These pickups sounded incredible. I'm fairly used to what to expect from a quality gold foil style pickup, and these delivered that and more in my opinion. Wonderfully chimey, with clear and dynamic trebles, and super rich and HUGE sounded basses which suits my ear well. I'd love to hear them through a good clean valve amp, lending themselves well to chord and lead work. The styling is great too with a hint of their gold foil influence sitting behind the radiator style black covers which I thought in particularly complimented the bridge design well too. Wiring wise, what you see here is a single volume pot, which is in fact a push/pull providing a normal operation when down, and pulled up a darker tone not dissimilar to the 'rhythm' circuit on a Jazzmaster or Jaguar for example.
The same headstock design adorns all of Florian's models, inspired by Travis Bean, it features a 3 a-side tuner set-up, with great access to the truss rod adjustment nut nestled behind a brass nut. It's clean, and looks 'right' against the rest of the guitar's shape. Certainly no concern from me as to it's strength, due to florian's design, heel and quality workmanship.
I have been a fan of Florian's work for a long time now, all thanks to my friend Gavin for introducing me to them on Instagram. Since then I've consistently admired from afar, becoming increasingly obsessed with his designs & approach with these striking instruments wondering what they might feel like to play. My interview back in March continued this intrigue, and now having finally had my chance to see, and play, them in person I can quite honestly say it was worth the wait. I've never quite seen, or played anything like a Millimetric.
If you've been following my pages over the past few months, you might have seen that I've been overhauling my personal electric guitar rig, from amp, to pedals and of course to guitar. In an effort to concentrate on being creative again, making music and importantly, enjoy playing electric guitar. Something on a personal level I have sadly neglected over the past 3 or so years. Well, my journey searching for the guitar ended at the Holt Grail Guitar Show, as I have placed my own order for a Millimetric Instruments, MGS3. I found all of the instruments to be wonderfully inspiring and each possessed their own merits and character, but the offset shape of the MGS3 couldn't pass me by that easily, and that was my final choice. Once the build begins, I will be sharing each of the build updates from Montreal, here on the blog so if you fancy seeing the stages of how Florian makes his instruments then be sure to keep up to date here on the blog!
As exciting as that is for me, well, it is to be equally as exciting for the Home of Tone. After some great conversation, and mutual outlook for how a boutique guitar brand should be presented, myself and Florian have decided to team up and later this year James' Home of Tone will be the UK representative to Millimetric Instruments!
I'm so very honored that Florian considered my humble store to represent his work, and I will be very proud to present his instruments in my shop as well as up and down the country at various guitar shows as time goes on. If you're reading this having wanted to get your hands on a Millimetric to see what they feel like for yourself, well, this will be the only place to do so in the UK! So keep your eyes open for updates on our plans and how we will be presenting these guitars here, I for one am incredibly excited about this and can't begin to describe how proud I am to be the one to do it.
In the mean time, if you wish to find out more about Millimetric Instruments, be sure to check out Florian's website http://www.millimetric.ca