guitar design

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Despite the fact that my first was one (I was so young and naive....), I am not in favour of building what are essentially copies. Building your own guitar is not, despite what common sense may dictate, necessarily a cheap alternative to buying a 'brand name' guitar, so if you want a 'name' guitar, then buy one rather than recreating it. Remember that there is a lot of snobbery in the guitar world, especially where names on headstocks are concerned. Building and playing your own guitar makes a statement about you, just as hanging a 'name' guitar around your neck does.

I like attention to detail in a design, and I like all aesthetic details (the way that the separate parts look when put together) to relate to and interact with each other. Headstocks should look 'right' with the  body shape, and details such as scratchplates and control positioning are just as important as the overall body shape.

When designing a body shape remember that a guitar usually needs to:

    •    Be balanced when played standing up;

    •    Sit on the knee when played sitting down;

    •    Allow access to upper frets;

    •    Allow palm muting of strings;

    •    Allow hanging from a strap;

    •    Be tuned from a playing position;

    •    Have controls that do not interfere with playing.

What the shape actually looks like is secondary (witness Bo Diddley's square Gretsch, or 1980s bodiless Steinbergers) as long as it does most, if not all of the above.

Be prepared to experiment with ideas using sketches. If it helps, or if you are not confident with your skills, work over pictures of guitars so that you can modify designs to make them your own. Remember that very little in the world of guitar design is truly new.

After producing initial concept and development sketches, detailed full size drawings should be produced, and then photocopied full size for the manufacture of templates. These 'working" drawings are crucial to the success of a project as they allow you to think through and solve problems before they occur, as well as visualise the finished product. They should take into account the chosen nut width and string spacing at the bridge as these will determine the size of the fingerboard and neck.

Shown above are some of my development sketches for the sheoak guitar shown on the about me page. They show the concept sketches for the headstock, and the development of two potential design proposals for discussion with the “client” (in this case my brother-in-law).