Höfner Factory

The history of manufacturing Höfner guitars and basses dates back to 1887. The company was founded by Karl Höfner, an apprentice of violin maker Anton Schaller.

1. Höfner Schönbach Factory (1887-1945)

Before its association with Höfner, Schönbach (now Luby in the Czech Republic) was already renowned for its luthiers and stringed instrument manufacturers. The town’s rich history dates back centuries, with generations of craftsmen honing their skills in violin and other stringed instruments making.

In 1887, Karl Höfner started his workshop in Schönbach.

Karl Höfner’s dedication to craftsmanship soon garnered attention. From a modest workshop, the business grew, employing numerous local artisans and craftsmen.

Karl brought his two sons, Josef and Walter, into the business immediately after World War I, and they quickly began expanding the business into export markets. Thus, Höfner has gained not only a European but also a worldwide reputation for quality string instruments.

The factory produced violas, cellos and double basses. In the 1930s, the company began producing guitars. The first models had steel strings, arched tops and backs, and were known as “Schlaggitarren,” the forerunners of modern arched-back guitars.

By the mid-1930s, the factory employed approximately 300 outworkers and 30 employees.

The Second World War significantly limited Höfner’s ability to export instruments, and the company began producing wood products for the army.

2. Höfner Bubenreuth Factory (1945-1994)

The conclusion of World War II forced many German-speaking inhabitants of Schönbach, to seek new homes.

The Höfner family initially moved to a former work camp in Möhrendorf in 1948.

Conditions in Möhrendorf were difficult, but Karl Höfner nevertheless worked hard to begin production and soon had a steady flow of tools to supply to the market.

His sons, Josef and Walter, began to consider the possibility of building not only a new factory, but also an entire small town to house the workers and homeworkers from Schönbach. After much discussion with the authorities, they found the ideal location in Bubenreuth, a small village.

On October 20, 1949, the foundation stone of the estate was laid in Bubenreuth, which housed the craftsmen, and by Christmas 1950 the new Hofner factory was put into operation.

The new Höfner factory was expanded three times between 1953 and 1960.

In the 1950s, the company regained its reputation and began exporting products around the world again.

By the early 1960s, Hoefner began producing not only archtop guitars, but also semi-acoustic guitars, solid body guitars, and various bass guitars. Demand was so high that they had to find an alternative method of painting guitars because waiting for the paint to dry took too long.

It was in this new setting that the brand undertook a significant evolution, expanding its offerings and delving into the world of electric guitars and basses.

Bubenreuth witnessed the birth of some of Höfner’s most iconic designs, including the Violin Bass, which would gain worldwide acclaim, especially after being adopted by Paul McCartney of The Beatles.

Karl Hoefner died in 1955. His sons continued production.

The lifting of US import restrictions into the UK in 1961 meant that American guitar makers began to take the market away from Höfner. There was a steady decline in sales between 1965 and 1970.

Karl’s daughter, Gerhilde, together with her husband Christian Benker, took over the management of the business together throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s. This period became difficult for business as competition from Japan and then China increased.

On January 1, 1994, Höfner was sold to Boosey & Hawkes, a large British music company that already had several musical instrument companies in its portfolio. For the next nine years, Hoefner continued to produce instruments, but this was not the best period in the company’s history.

Soon the parent company began to rationalize its activities, and the main step was the closure of the Bubenreuth plant and the transfer of all production to the Hagenau plant.

3. Höfner Hagenau Factory (Since 1964)

In 1964, Höfner built the factory in Hagenau, approximately 5 km from Bubenreuth, to process wooden parts for assembly in Bubenreuth.

In the 1970s they expanded the Haguenau factory twice.

Following the purchase of Höfner by Boosey & Hawkes in 1994, production was moved entirely to the Hagenau plant, which was expanded and modernized in 1997.

At the end of 2004, Höfner was sold to Klaus Schöller and his wife Ulrike Schrimpff. Klaus was the former CEO of Höfner and Ulrike has been the CFO of Höfner since 1995.

In subsequent years, Höfner invested more in its overseas production facilities. But, the Hagenau plant still produces mid-priced and master-built instruments.

4. Höfner China Factory

Höfner has invested significantly in its Beijing manufacturing facility, which is wholly owned by the company and not a joint venture. This facility has obtained all necessary licenses from the Chinese authorities, including a grade A export license, which is quite rare for foreign-owned companies in China.

To achieve the high-quality standards Höfner is known for, they have invested in equipment and machinery, and there’s a continuous exchange of personnel between China and Germany.

The Beijing plant produces student-level instruments.

Today, Höfner is focusing on its Green Line, instruments that use natural woods and eco-friendly finishes. The company remains a family business with strong values ​​in customer, quality and employees.