New Frontiers in Guitar
Most of the ideas expressed on the other
of this site (and most others beyond it) tend to think in terms of only
the most conventional materials, things that you would get from a
parts supplier. If you happen to be the artistic type, take a
around your local hardware store and I'm sure you'll see some
instruments waiting to be built.
Over the years I have jotted down some
of the ideas I've had for such projects, although the electronic
have consumed most of my time (never mind the fact that I have limited
in the other areas). Below are a few of them.
Acrylic. Make the body
an acrylic block (a la the famous Dan Armstrong model or the latest
Rich creations), then cut (rout) groves in the surface and fill them
wire (or bits of clothes hangers), possibly of different gauges to
A different "heavy metal" guitar:
obvious reasons, bicycle frames are incredibly strong, able to
string tension. In spite of this, you can (read: I have) cut
them with a Dremel and/or a hacksaw (and a lot of determination).
use curved, semi-parallel bars of
or use bicycle steering column for
to this you can attach a
neck and electronics to create something like the Birdfish
Holey guitar body, Batman.
holes into the body (and/or headstock). Turn it into Swiss
Or you can cut away chunks. Of course, be careful that it's
Sheet metal. It's an easy
to obtain and to work with (well, relatively speaking). Cut an
for the surface of the guitar and/or the headstock. You now have
a surface that is highly amenable to engraving (get out your Dremel!)
something more brutal like rusting, gouging, or blasting. Be sure
to get your tetanus shots before you go on tour.
Screw your guitar! You
adhere sheet metal to the wood with either screws or copious amounts of
glue (depending on the aesthetic you're going for), but screws are
in and of themselves as they can be arranged in artistic patters (think
symbols, logos, initials, etc.).
Something heavier. A
on the above would be to use diamond plate metal as a pickguard.
This is the stuff typically found on trucks as well as on James
signature model ESP Explorer (guitar, not truck).
Greased lightning. Check
auto parts stores for additional materials, but especially look in the
auto detailing aisle for decals (yay! flames!), chrome strips, colored
Lite Brite. Add colored
and/or LEDs to the guitar. These could be installed in the face
the body or, alternatively, may be placed in hollowed out sections
like the resonating chambers of some guitars) and covered over with
plastic (picture the material from milk bottles or plastic
Lights can be made to flash by having them triggered by monitoring the
guitar's output. There is a one-of-a-kind Rickenbaker with many
these attributes currently on display at the Smithsonian's "Art of the
Guitar" exhibit (I have seen the same instrument featured in several
on the subject of guitar design as well).
El-wire! A very effective
on the above. To learn more (and to check out a great supplier),
click here. Note: one
hurdle you'll have to overcome here is getting the pickups and other
shielded from the whine of the inverter that powers the el-circuit.
New frontiers in paint.
craft stores carry specialty paints you wouldn't ever find at your
hardware store. Some examples:
Glass paint - Designed to
or colored glass. It's transparent, so you might consider using a
single color of this paint on top of either white or silver
Or you might try interesting blends of color. For example, if you
painted three overlapping transparent stripes of green, blue, and red,
you could also have purple and aqua or turquoise as well.
Crackle paint - This gives an
appearance to, say, pottery, but it could be applied to dramatic effect
on something like a "themed guitar. For example, maybe you want
gothic or Egyptian and want to emulate the appearance of papyrus then
hieroglyphic symbols on top of that. Hey, don't laugh. It's
just an idea for you to go trick or treating with.
Acrylic rod transected.
creates approximately the dimensions of a guitar neck (admittedly, it
probably a little closer to a baseball bat).
Inlay. In conjunction
above, it would be especially attractive to add inlays made from dark
or, alternatively, LEDs inside the neck. Also, consider
inlay patterns. Some of my favorites have been a series of
symbols based on unconventional themes such as Egyptian hieroglyphics
simple fractal designs that have shown up in crop circles.
Making a switch. Rather
going with a traditional Strat 5-way switch or Gibson 3-way toggle,
the variety of interesting hardware at, for example, Radio
Shack (links to search), including lighted switches, rockers,
Hardware stores. Things
light switches and wall plates from hardware stores offer interesting
kitschy ways of adding functionality to your instrument. The knob
from a dimmer switch can be adapted to your volume/tone pots to add to
Odd meters. Other
things like volt meters or triggered LEDs (e.g., an "output meter"
can really dress up a guitar or even put it totally over the top.
Simple "kits" for amateurs can be found on many electronics sites that
create coordinated patterns or level meters from LEDs.
My friend Grak is a drummer, but plays
a little guitar as well. Here are a couple of projects he told me
about that fall somewhere between "found art" and old-fashioned
Bridge over troubled guitars.
now I'm working on a guitar that uses Jesus Christ on the cross
as a bridge. I cut grooves into the cross to help the strings sit
right and control some outrageous intonation."
Drumster. "I recently
drum kit out of a fouton frame I found in a dumpster. It took a
while, a couple beers and powertools, but we eventually got it done."
So just where do you get an acrylic rod
or block of plastic or a piece of machined metal? A number of
suppliers have a presence on the web including the following:
Feel free to email me.