Brian's Guitar from Conception to Birth or How to Build a Guitar in 62 Easy Steps!
 
Appendix C - Design Diagrams
You simply canít go out, buy some wood, and start glueing it all together. You have to have a detailed plan. This includes accurate drawings of the front of the guitar as well as a section through the center of it. I enjoy doodling my ideas on scraps of paper as thoughts come to me. As I refine those ideas, Iíll input them into my AutoCAD program to work out the details and exact measurements. Itís a good exercise in using both halves of your brain; sketch and refine.

On the following pages are numerous design exercises which I went through on this build. Many times I went through many versions of a particular component only to come back to my first idea. Thatís ok; it just reaffirmed my initial choice and let me know that Iíve explored all of my options.

These diagrams have been reduced in size to fit in this book. Also, AutoCAD does not talk to my word processor very well. Thus, some diagrams will be a little difficult to read. This is mostly to show you that you need to do a lot of sketching and ciphering to get your design to work. Thereís a lot that goes on behind the scenes which no one will ever really see. All of your drawings should be done in minute detail and to full scale.
Even though we traced a Paul Reed Smith body, we still needed to plot out the points so it could be input into AutoCAD accurately (sketch 1 above). After connecting all the dots (sketch 2), I found that the pen I traced the guitar with probably wandered around a bit. I refined the layout by breaking down the design into itís individual arcs and lines (sketch 3). I then polished up the geometry, got the body perfectly symmetrical, and tweaked a few arcs (sketch 4). Ultimately, this led to the ultimate body shape which we could work with (sketch 5).

You need to have all of your hardware in hand before you can complete your design. Obviously, you want to make sure everything will fit. After receiving the hardware, I got out my calipers and transfered all of the dimensions into AutoCAD. With all of these individual parts in the computer, I began to arrange them on the guitar body I drew up previously. Preparation and accuracy are paramount when dealing with the fine level of detail involved in guitar building. Take your time and get it right the first time. Fixing a screw up later on down the line is at best difficult, and it can be impossible. These sketches depict both top and side views of many of the pieces of hardware.
You might think that the knobs and switches are trivial, that is until they wonít fit into your control cavity. This exercise informed me that the 3-way switch was too tall and would end up poking Brian in the pecker while he was playing. That may have lent some added inspiration to Brianís improvisations; however, it wouldnít have looked very good (neither his pecker nor the guitar). I also had a large battery compartment which needed to be accommodated within the body of the guitar. These diagrams helped layout the routing templates used to cut the cavity and wiring channels. Itís important to document and verify everything before you start cutting any wood.
The dimensions of the nut and bridge are required to properly layout the neck. They define the width at each end of the scale. The desired scale length defines the distance between the nut and the bridge. Combining all of this data will dictate the taper of the fretboard. Use a fret spacing chart (which can be found on the internet) to help layout your fret locations.

The headstock is the signature area on many guitars. You can tell whether a guitar is a Stratocaster or a Les Paul simply by looking at the headstock. It also lends a convenient spot to sign your own artistry via an inlay. We went through many different design schemes on the headstock and ended up with one of a very simple design.
Once you have all the bits a pieces documented and input into the computer, I started laying out everything on the guitar and putting the big picture together. A plan and section of the guitar was drawn accurately to scale. These drawings were printed out and directly used to make all of the templates. Wiring channels were laid out making sure they didnít interfere with the bridge mounting posts or dowel locations. Knobs and switches were located and the control cavity was designed to accommodate them while avoiding cutting into the neck pocket.

The height of the bridge will define the amount the neck will tilt back from the body of the guitar. This is evident in the section through the guitar. Make as many notes to yourself on these drawings as needed; these are your blueprints and patterns. This is the time you really get your guitar figured out in minute detail. Donít leave anything left to figure out later as by then it might be too late.
The single most important layout youíll need to devise is for the neck. If you get the neck wrong, it might render your new guitar useless. Since our neck was set into the body, we had a few more angles and cuts to make. The top sketch is a top view of the neck. The bottom two sketches are sections of the same neck, but showing how it could be cut from the block of wood in two different fashions. I chose to go with the bottommost layout since I could keep the fretboard surface (the most critical surface) untouched and dead flat. This layout is fully dimensioned since I would not be using a template to cut out the neck. I had to transfer all of the dimensions to the block of wood with a pencil, ruler, and square. This opens up an area for inaccuracies or transcribing errors, so double-check everything ... and then check it again.
 
AutoCAD Drawing File
You can download my AutoCAD drawing file which includes my designs, layouts, and templates HERE.  Read the warnings and use the file at your own risk.

 

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