Introduction: Carbon Fiber Acoustic Guitar

About: I'm a teacher first and a maker close second. I currently teach woodworking, CNC and laser cutting / engraving at several makerspaces in the San Francisco bay area. Humanmade, The Crucible, and Clayroom. In ad…
This is a custom built carbon fiber acoustic guitar, made as part of a special event at Techshop San Francisco. Originally billed as the "6 Day Guitar Challenge," with all the details I added, it ended up taking me closer to 6 weeks! But it was well worth the time.

I'm sure people will ask to hear it. Unfortunately I don't yet have any recording of it playing - it still has some fine tuning and detail work before it's fully playable, and I'm learning everything as I go along. I will update as soon as I'm able.

I started this project with no knowledge of how to build a guitar, no knowledge of how to lay carbon fiber, and ended up with a unique and playable guitar. This was a challenge that pushed me to learn a lot of new skills and try some experiments that I never would have attempted otherwise, and I'd like to share what I learned with anyone who's interested..

I've written some step by step instructables showing how I made the various components: (links coming soon)

Design inspiration

My guitar has a name - "WindSong" - and is made by the pretend brand "Orphalese". Part of the workshop was coming up with a personal "brand" for our guitars. I made my design based on my favorite poem - On Work by Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran - which is also the source of my username.

The poem talks about the importance of working hard and loving the work one does. The art on the soundboard is based on one line in particular:

"...But I say, not in sleep but in the overwakefulness of noontide,
That the wind speaks not more sweetly to the giant oaks than to the least of all the blades of grass;
And he alone is great who turns the voice of the wind into a song made sweeter by his own loving.

Work is love made visible."

I named it WindSong because I hope all the hard work and love I put into this will pay off by making nice music with it. The Orphalese brand name is also from the poem, or rather the book that it's found in.  Orphalese is the name of a fictional island where the poems in the whole book take place.

I imagined, if I made a series of guitars or instruments, I would name each of them after a different poem from the book - which covers many other life topics - "On Love", "On Death", "On Reason & Passion", and "On Freedom", among others

The components

The body
The body was modeled after a 1940 Gibson L-00, and was made with with carbon fiber, s-glass (sheet fiberglass) and Coremat foam. Marine grade epoxy was used to form the fabric, laid up by brush and by hand over a cardboard mold. When finished, it was wet sanded and polished by hand. This workshop was kept simple for beginners, so I did not use any complex techniques like vacuum bagging, just hand-forming the composites.

The soundboard / top
The top is western red cedar, etched with a laser cutter and dyed with an alcohol based aniline dye. It is finished with a water based "lacquer" - KTM-9, made by "Grafted Coatings".

The top was dyed, not painted or inlaid, which many people think when they see it. My goal was to keep the guitar fully playable, and the extra weight and binders in paint tend to hurt the sound of guitars.

The fretboard
The fretboard is massacre ebony, inlaid using two different methods. The maple inlay was cut with a CNC machine, and the lettering was cut with a laser cutter and filled with colored epoxy.

The bridge & headstock
The bridge and head-plate are both cocobolo wood. The bridge was cut using a CNC machine, and the headstock design and inlay were cut on a laser cutter and filled with colored epoxy.

All other hardware was bought from Luthiers Mercantile International, a general luthier (stringed instrument maker) supply house.

Music in the video

Creative Commons License "See You Later" & "Chords for David" by Pitx is licensed under a Attribution Noncommercial (3.0).

Here also is my first attempt at a 3D 'catch' model of my guitar. Click the 3D view button on the left to activate the viewer.