In a small room with a large right-angled wooden desk coupled with two chairs and two lamps tools are neatly hanging on the wall. Here Jan Dietl created a perfect one-man workshop where he customizes electric guitars; and most importantly, he is his own boss.
The Moravian town of Hranice, located in Eastern Czech Republic, is the home of a young musician and entrepreneur who has managed to combine his passion for music and handiwork into a small, but slowly growing, private business of lute-making – the craft of constructing wooden, stringed instruments.
“I usually start working in the workshop around 10 a.m. and finish around 6 p.m.,” Dietl says. “There are days when I don’t touch a guitar at all and just plan behind the computer, and days when I build all day and then do planning and computer work into the night.”
Dietl’s interest in handiwork started at a young age under the influence of his father, who taught him the basics of hand craft.
“My father used to build RC airplanes, so I was always around that sort of things. I played around with the planes too but it never stuck with me for too long,” he recalls.
His favorite alternative rock bands sparked his love for the instrument at an early age. “But as soon as I started playing the guitar, I knew I wanted to build one for myself one day.”
Occasionally drawing guitar designs as a pastime, the 24-year-old AAU Business and Administration graduate took his hobby to another level by learning 3D modeling and creating guitar designs in CAD (Computer Aided Design) software. He spent a whole summer perfecting his skills in using the software and working on various guitar models. “I spent from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. just drawing and drawing,” he says.
But the sleepless nights paid off: In Jan. 2015 he finally established his own brand Aviator Guitars. “The impulse that really pushed me to it was when my mom told me she was really tired of her job,” he says. It made him question what he really wanted to do in life.
The garage at his family home has also become a part of the workshop. Additionally he set up a small shop that sells guitar accessories like strings and picks.
Dietl’s family supports the business venture not only financially, they often help him out in the workshop. Being able to work from home, his mother also tends the shop. “I wouldn’t be able to do it without them. Not many parents that I know would put so much money into something not guaranteed to succeed,” says Dietl with gratitude.
Dietl gets his customers mainly from Facebook and Instagram but the brand also has an official website. It is a visually stimulating, clean-cut and customer friendly webpage where people order their guitars and discuss the design with the master in details. Dietl tries to involve customers in the process – for him it is a collaboration.
Once on the website, customers fill out a very detailed order form in which they can choose their desired specifications and get the price. “After the form is submitted, I create a Photoshop image of the build in question and then discuss the specifications and visual qualities with the customer,” Dietl says.
The guitar-making process begins with a 2D sketch followed by creating a 3D design which a computerized machine uses for carving out the wooden outline and body of the instrument. The painting, sanding, lacquering, and adding of all the technical parts Jan does himself. It takes three to four months to complete one guitar. However, it is also possible to finish in two weeks if all materials needed are ready.
The first custom guitar order of Aviator Guitars was from a Copenhagen-based producer and bass player Chris Kreutzfeld, whom Jan helps record a new album in summer. “He needed a custom guitar for his new band Cabal where he is the main songwriter. And his feedback has been amazing,” recalls Dietl. He is currently building a second guitar for the Danish musician and a few for his new band.
“All of the guitars that I’ve made I really like. I wouldn’t be ashamed to take them on stage myself. I think that’s really important,” he says humbly.
Until now he has built 13 guitars. Six of which were completed only over Jan. and Feb. 2016. He is currently working on 15 new pieces with more pending orders.
All of the guitars that I’ve made I really like. I wouldn’t be ashamed to take them on stage myself. I think that’s really important. Jan Dietl
Dietl is planning to expand his business, but not for the cost of quantity over quality. “I want to make more, but improve the quality,” he says. “I want people to be happy with what I make.” He believes in creating guitars of value and excellence.
Once firmly established, he wants to hire someone to deal with lacquering and for the simple handwork which, he says, is extremely time-consuming.
Dietl encourages young entrepreneurs and musicians venturing out into the market to be brave, to have faith in what they do, and to be prepared for anything. “Just do it. There’s not a reason not to. If you have something that is interesting others will believe in it too. If you believe that what you do has a purpose, it will have purpose for others too.”