Hi and thanks for checking out my instructable! This instructable is twofold. I’d like to explain a design process from a styling point of view of making something real using a computer aided process as well as the actual build process. I chose to design a guitar as it is something I have been wanting to do for a long time. Keep in mind, the design process part of this instructable is relevant to anything that you might want to create.
Don’t care about the design phase and just want to make the guitar? Please skip the Design Process Phase 1-4 and go right to Make it Real! section. I have also created a time-lapse video that documents the project and the construction for a better visual on how I made the guitar.
For this instructable, I wanted to give you guys a choice of either making this by hand the old fashioned way if you don’t have access to CNC tools, or use my digital files and make them by milling them out using CNC machine. I chose to build this first one old school to prove out the process for the instructions. If you choose to build this and go the CNC route, you can skim ahead to Surfacing and Sanding of each step.
As for the guitar that I have designed, it has more modern, angular shapes and it also features removable “wings” in which you would be able to swap out with a different design or color to suit your mood. Feel free to use the wings I designed or design your own! I’ve provided some templates that you can use to sketch over to create your own custom look.
If anyone decides to make one of these guitars please post a link in the comments as I’d love to see what you guys come up with! Please don’t make this guitar with the intent to sell them or to use in a commercial setting without my permission.
Step 1: Design Process
Ok, so you’ve got an idea for something you’d like to create. In my case it was an electric guitar. I can “sort of” play guitar but I’ve never designed or built an electric guitar before.
First Step: Learn
Learn as much as you can about what ever it is you are going to design. Find as many reference materials as you can that will give you inspiration for creating your new object as well as any technical information you might need to learn to make the thing work. The internet is great for this first step. Download lots photos, or take images out of books and magazines of things that will inspire you to create an awesome design. They don’t have to be images of the exact same object you are creating either. You can get inspiration from just about anywhere. Architecture, animals, bugs, cars etc, etc. Field trips are great as well. Go out to the local store that sells similar things to what you’re designing and have a good look and feel of similar products. If you are going to make your object out of materials that require a choice such as types of wood, plastic, paint colors, fabric types and patterns etc, you can start collecting samples of those as well.
Second Step: Imageboard
Once you have a pile of images and materials that you like you can create an image board. Pick out the best ones that describe the look and feel you are after and stick them on a piece of poster or illustration board and hang it somewhere close to your work area. You can refer to it while you are creating and check that what you are designing fits in the realm of the photos and materials you selected. You don’t have to stay in this realm if inspiration takes you somewhere else but it’s a good starting point. You might even want to come up with 2 or more image boards to give your designs many different looks for you to choose from. For example, say you had an image board with a lot of cool architecture and minimalistic product designs and the other image board was based on plants and bugs. Depending on the images selected, I would imagine that you would come up with two totally different looking designs. One with hard edges and a clean look whereas the other would be soft and organic in nature. One might work better than the other but it’s alway good to try as many options as possible.
Third Step: Background Research
On the technical side, learn any new skills that you might need to know to create your object. In my case, I had to learn how a guitar was made so I read a book that I bought probably 10 years ago, which was very helpful. How to make an electric guitar by Melvyn Hiscock and also check out some sights on the internet on building guitars. The one that I found that was most helpful and fun to watch is Sully’s Guitar Garage on youtube. http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLA6D01D66C9D6B4B9&feature=plcp
Fourth Step: Off the shelf componentry
If your design uses “off the shelf” items, research those and choose what you want to use. I designed the guitar in the computer so I needed dimensions of all the parts that I chose. I needed to 3D model them and make sure that everything would fit. Again the internet is great for this. Many manufactures of parts provide detailed, dimensioned drawings that you can use and sometimes they even provide 3D models of their parts for you to use. In my case, EMG, and Schaller provide pdf files with drawings and dimensions for most of their parts. The PDF files can be loaded into 3D programs and you can build the parts from them, for sizing reference. McMaster.com is a great place to find 3D models of actual fasteners and other parts. I downloaded the 3D models of the nuts and bolts from them to see what fits best and ordered the actual parts from them so I knew they would fit as planned. Grabcad.com is another great site for free downloadable models that individuals have created of actual objects. For other parts such as the knobs etc, I bought the parts and dimensioned them by hand with a caliper and built 3D models of them.
Once you have a general look and feel of your design from your image board, finished all the technical research and have or found all the parts that you want to use, it’s time to go to the next phase of designing your object!