Here is a project that I started (but have yet to finish) which involves making a guitar with a CNC machine. After making some practice guitar bodies, I decided that there was just too much effort involved. Even if I did manage to finish the guitar, I very seriously doubt that it would have turned out anywhere near as nice as the one I already have. Also, it takes more money to build a guitar from scratch than it does to just go out and buy one. For the moment, I’ve given up on it, but I’ll still go ahead and show what I have so far.
Building a guitar is, of course, a learning experience, and I know that I picked up a few tricks even with the small amount of work I put into it. Also, having a guitar that you’ve built yourself will earn you some serious rep points. It is one thing to just buy a drool worthy guitar, but to actually make one yourself will put you at the top of the scoreboard.
The Guitar Body in CamBam Plus
This practice attempt at making a guitar body with a CNC was done using CamBam Plus. You can see the screenshot of the front of the guitar in the picture below.
What’s neat about this is that the drawing of the guitar is in 2D. The plus version of CamBam has some interesting features that allow you add 3D aspects to a simple 2D image, so I was able to add an armrest without using a 3D guitar model.
I was able to do something similar to the backside too. Even though this is a complex curve instead of just a straight line like the armrest, CamBam Plus was still able to do an awesome job.
Notice both how the backside of the guitar is turned upside down and also that the guitar’s front and back are lined up in the exactly the same place with respect to the origin. This was done so that I would be able to cut out the frontside of the guitar, flip it over to cut the backside, and have both sides match up exactly (In Theory at least).
The first time I tried this, I screwed it up some, but the second try turned out much better.
Here are the CamBam files if you want to take a look at them. CamBamGuitar.zip
I don’t recommend trying to make a guitar with them because the intonation on it will probably be screwed up. The reason why is because I adapted this body to a neck from a scrap guitar to get an idea of how the shape of the body felt when playing it. I ended up doing some funky things to the neck pocket to get the intonation right with that particular guitar neck. It was as cheap a spare guitar as you can imagine.
What you can do with these CamBam files though is see how I generated the toolpaths to get a 3D design from a 2D drawing.
Since my guitar design doesn’t work, you can try these here. http://www.guitarbuild.com/modules/mydownloads/index.php
I think that it would be possible to adapt the 3D technique to the dxf files at that site. I haven’t tried it myself, but I think that it could work.
By the way, if you actually do manage to make a guitar with a CNC, let me know so that I can live precariously through you.
Believe it or not, this guitar was actually designed in Sketchup. I now know that there are easier programs to do this in, but I guess it worked out well enough.
One thing that helped me a lot when making this drawing was the book “Make your own Electric Guitar & Bass.” The Amazon link is below is you want to check it out for yourself.
Also, this guitar drawing would have been impossible without the benzier curve plugin for Sketchup. Do a quick Google search to find it.
Here are the Sketchup files if you want to take a look. SketchupGuitarLayout.zip
Pictures of “Finished” Guitar Body
Here are some pictures of the guitar body after I cut it out with my CNC and sanded it down. I didn’t actually want to spend money on a guitar design that I may or may not like, so I ended up gluing a few scrap pieces of 2×6 together to make the practice bodies.
It doesn’t look very good compared to how it would be if it was cut out of a decent piece of wood. Also, a 2×6 isn’t quite thick enough for a guitar body, so it doesn’t give an exact representation of what the final version would feel like. It still provided some valuable insight though.
Here are two decent guitar bodies that I made. The body at the bottom just has one pickup pocket. It is the more recent version of the design which I made after I realized that I only had one spare pickup.
Here is the front side of the guitar with just one side cut out.
Here is the backside of the guitar. At this point, the CNC is finished cutting, and the only thing holding it in place is the tabs. The total time for cutting out both sides was around 2 hours with the CNC machine set at 120 IPM.
I’d say that pretty well covers it. One day, I still want to finish my CNC guitar project, but I have a list of exciting projects that’s long enough to keep me busy for the rest of my life. At this rate, the neck itself could take another 30 years before it’s finished.