Introduction: Winged Guitar Stand

About: I'm a professor of physics and astronomy at Northwestern University. I do a lot of hobbies, including amateur astronomy, woodworking, and Lego modeling among many others.

My daughter has recently discovered a love and talent for music. She's been delving into singing, songwriting, and guitar. She likes acoustic driven country and folk music, and is slowly discovering her own voice. Since she's a teenager, she's also discovering her own personal style, and music is a big part of that. In particular, she loves the "unseen wing" motif as it agrees well with her empathy and strong sense of social justice in the world. We are forever stopping and taking pictures of her against wings that have been painted in street art displays for exactly this purpose.

She has had a regular folding metal guitar stand for some time, but for Christmas this year I decided to make her a personal guitar stand that was not like anyone else's, and featured the wing motif she likes.

Step 1: Materials

This entire project was built out of pine. I used:

  • 2 Glued Pine Project Panels, 24" x 48" each (for the wings and shelf)
  • 2 1x6 pine boards (for the feet)
  • 4 1-inch L brackets
  • 2 1-1/2 inch L brackets
  • Adhesive furniture grip foam
  • Wood screws
  • Spray urethane finish

This is a woodworking project, and there is nothing complicated in this design that couldn't be cut with jigsaw or scrollsaw, and a router. However for this project I used a 1000mm x 1000mm xCarve to do the cutting of the main pieces (to practice with my xCarve). If you don't have an xCarve, don't worry! Get out that jigsaw -- it will take a bit longer, but it will work just fine.

Step 2: Pattern Preparation

When I build things like this, people always ask me "how did you think of that?" and "how did you figure out how to do it?" Inspiration is a funny thing, so I like to include that as part of my instructables when I can. In this case, I don't remember the thought process that led to the design, but I know when it happened! You can see the initial sketch I made in my pocket notebook (the one I carry around for grocery lists and things). You can see the essential design elements are there at the start -- two unfolded wings, joined at an angle, with a guitar cradle and the bottom. It's not exactly what emerged, but it was enough to get me going down the path. I think this is the most important thing to keep in mind: when you have a great idea, write SOMETHING down somewhere so you don't forget about it!

The heart of the project are the wings that form the sides of the guitar stand. For these, I looked around for pictures of wings that I thought were good guides. Most of the ones you can find are semi-realistic, with all the details and structure of the feathers, but I was primarily interested in just the outline. Once I found one I liked, I freehanded the outline of a similar wing shape in Adobe Illustrator. I used the pen tool and made an editable bezier curve. My initial goal was to just get the basic outline down, then I edited and fiddled with it until I had made a shape I liked.

You can find all kinds of images of wings that swoop very high, some that go up and the sweep down. I wanted one that was roughly flat across the top, with the lower descending edge of the wing to show the scalloped shape of the feathers. In the end, the wing I ended up with wasn't much like any of the ones I had seen, but it looked recognizably like a wing!

Once I had a shape I liked, I had two requirements:

  1. It had to have a flat lower edge that rested on the floor for stability
  2. I wanted the wing to be visible even with a guitar on it, but not be so huge it dominated the room. It also couldn't be so small that it would not reasonably provide support for the guitar.

As I was working I kept silhouettes of guitar bodies in the document as well, to insure the scale of the wings was a good size in relation to the guitars.

Step 3: Carving the Wings

One of the things I like about the xCarve is that it makes it easy to cut out complex shapes (like the scalloped edge of the wings). It cuts with mulitple router passes which makes a very clean edge compared to a saw, so the sanding and cleanup before finishing is much less tedious.

Overall, the wings have a dimension of 23 in wide x 28.7 in tall, so it required almost the full range of motion along the rail direction of a 1000mm xCarve (total workspace accessible to the router is about 75cm x 75cm [29.5 in x 29.5 in]).

For those who have never seen an xCarve, or are thinking about purchasing one, I'll outline the xCarve process in detail for the rest of this step to give you a sense of how it goes. If you don't want to read all of this and go onto the next step, all you need to know is "I cut the wings out of the pine panels using a router. The wings are mirror images of each other, so for the right wing I simply flipped the pattern for the left wing." :-)

The xCarve process goes something like this:

[1] To place the workpiece, especially large ones, you need to know what the boundaries of the xCarve workspace are and make sure everywhere you need to cut lies inside it. For easier reference, I've marked my wasteboard with the limits the router can reach.

[2] First you have to secure the material to your workspace. The xCarve has an array of tapped holes with threaded inserts so you can place clamps around the edges of a workpiece that screw down into the tapped holes. You can order a set of nice plastic clamps of various sizes from Inventables, but you can also make your own out of wood blocks and use 5-mm socket cap screws to secure them to your xCarve workspace. For the wings, they were cut out of panels that spanned the table, with the ends falling well outside the xCarve cutting space, so I secured the panel with bar clamps directly to the table frame.

[3] Once your piece is secure, double check where the clamps are and where the router is going to run. There are two things to watch for -- first that the cut line does not run under any clamp you've placed, and second that the router doesn't run over a clamp when it is moving itself from one position to another. I've certainly failed in this last case -- routers cut through plastic camps great! :-)

[4] To use an xCarve you must provide a pattern for it to cut. This is done through a web-browser with a computer that is connected to your xCarve with a USB cable. The interface is called "EASEL" and looks kind of like a computer drawing program inside a web-browser interface. For every line in a drawing, EASEL allows you to specify a cut depth, and whether to cut on your line, inside your line, or outside your line. For closed figures, you can tell it to completely remove material inside the figure to any depth. The interface allows you to specify the material, and has recommended cut settings for the router. I've shown a screen capture of the EASEL interface in the 4th image above. If you don't want to draw directly in EASEL, you can import SVG graphics; this is what I prefer to do, preparing my figures in Adobe Illustrator, exporting to SVG, then importing the SVG into EASEL. I've included my Illustrator and SVG files for the wings at the end of this step.

[5] In the last image above, you can see how EASEL has its coordinates laid out with respect to the piece you are carving. The first step in carving is to tell the xCarve where the corner of the EASEL space is. To do this you manually jog the router over to where you want the cutting process to regard as the lower left corner of its workspace. I usually make this correspond to an actual corner of my material so what is physically laid out on my table looks like what is laid out on EASEL. Next you jog the router down to tell the xCarve where the top of the work surface is; it uses this reference to make all the cuts the correct depth. This part can be done manually by simply lowering the router until it touches the surface, but they also have an automated add-on called a "Z-probe" that you can use (this is what I do).

[6] Carve! Based on the cuts it has to make the xCarve figures out the most efficient cut plan, and gets to work, making multiple shallow passes until it has cut out the piece to your specifications. Each of the wings took about an hour to cut out.

Step 4: Carving the Feet

The feet are a reasonably simple shape and could have been cut with a jig saw. However, in this instance I also used the xCarve to cut them out of 1x6 pine boards. There are two different pairs of feet -- a pair of "short" feet near the apex of the stand, where the wings come together, and a "long" pair of feet that are joined behind the wings and provide overall stability to the stand.

For the shape of the feet, I designed two separate cuts, a deeper one nested inside a shallower one. This allows the stand to hold both thin-body electric guitars, or wider body acoustic guitars. The base of the guitar sits in the cut-out of the foot, and the rear side of the cut is angled to help the guitar lean back against the wings for support. The ends of the long feet were beveled with my table saw so they come together on the backside of the stand in a smooth joint, like the corner of a picture frame.

Step 5: Assembly Overview

As you will see in the final photos, the stand is larger than an ordinary folding guitar stand. It's meant to be used in a room and not carried around the world for gigs. However I figured it would be useful it it could be taken apart and collapsed into flat sheets (e.g. so it could easily be flattened and packed for a move). Because of this I opted to have the entire thing screwed together without gluing it.

I had a competing desire that I didn't want to see any screw heads! So the stand is bound together using metal angle brackets in strategic, hidden places. The brackets tied the various pieces of the stand together, giving it rigidity.

I used 4 1-inch L-brackets to hold the shelf, and two 1-1/2 inch L-brackets to connect the long legs to the back of the wings. I used two additional 1-inch L-brackets in places that were not at right angles -- behind the apex of the wings, and where the long feet meet at the back of the stand. I had to bend both of these brackets out of their manufactured shape. For the apex bracket, I pinched the ends together with a pair of pliers, and for the foot bracket I turned it upside down on my bench anvil and pounded it wider with a hammer. The geometry of the wings and long feet is such that the two bent brackets fit together perfectly in their distorted shape, so I knew I had the angles correct.

Step 6: Attachments

The short feet are attached near the apex, where the front edge of the wings come together. On the backside of each wing, I drilled pilot holes and counter-sinking divots, then screwed through from the back of the wing into each foot with 2-inch drywall screws.

The long feet are 9-3/4 inches away from the short feet, and wrap around the wing with a slot I cut into their shape. They are fastened to the wing on the backside with L-brackets, and a drywall screw was inserted up through the bottom of the foot and into the wing.

The pinched L-bracket is connected on the backside of the apex, where the wings come together, and the spread L-bracket is connected on the backside of the joint where the long feet come together.

The shelf is secured to the wings from underneath using 4 L-brackets.

Step 7: Beveling Edges

All the of the pieces come off the xCarve with perfect 90-degree edges. I wanted it to look smoother, especially along the wings, so I took my hand router and ran around the outsides edges with a roundover bit.

Step 8: Shelf

To support the upper portion of the wings, I designed a shelf to go between them that holds them rigid at a constant angle. The shelf is hollowed out to make it a useful place to put picks, tuners, capos, and other odds and ends.

The shelf has a kind of "baseball field" shape to it, with angled sides and a curved back. I used the xCarve to cut it out of a scrap piece of my pine panels, and also to carve down about 3/8-inch for the hollowed out center. Hollowing vast areas out like I did on this piece takes a lot of time, as the router has to make many passes. It took more than an hour for this piece to carve.

Step 9: Finishing Steps

The stand was finished with several coats of polyurethane to protect it, then allowed to cure for several days. The final step was to put soft material down on the feet to protect the guitars from damage and to keep them from slipping and tipping off the stand. I used strips of self-adhesive foam furniture grip. The strips are soft and pliable, and guitars do not slip against it!

Step 10: Completed!

When I started I had imagined putting C-cups to hold the necks of the guitars near the top of the wings. We may still decide to do this, but in practice the furniture grip on the guitar bodies provides more than enough resistance to tipping; we can't even make a guitar fall over if we put it in the cradle crooked!

I had originally designed the shelf as a way to make the stand rigid, but in the end it ended up being one of the best additions to the design -- it successfully collects all the odds and ends that have previously lived in the guitar case, or on top of the amp, or under the previous guitar stand!

The overall appearance of the stand was exactly as I had imagined: you can see the profile of the wings behind the guitars -- the wings don't dominate, and neither do the guitars.

Step 11: Last Thoughts

The hardest part of the project was figuring out how to wrap it on Christmas! In the end we settled for shrouding it in festive table cloths and tree skirts. It was a huge, irregularly wrapped present -- she had no idea what it was, and was surprised when it emerged!

The stand has been integrated into her music space and is a much loved part of her guitar experience. It was a great build, and has been a lot of fun seeing how much she enjoys it. I hope these instructions are useful, and inspire you to build your own unique and awesome guitar stand that showcases your own style.

If you'd like to hear some of her music, you can follow her on instagram at @katelarsonmusic.

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