Modeling a custom electric guitar


3D Model of a custom electric guitar
3D Model of a custom electric guitar

I have been building electric guitars for a bit more that a year. For my first build, I chose some trusted designs to learn the building process and refine my woodworking skills. But my goal is not to mimic an instrument that has already being made but to learn new skills in design and fabrication. I am looking to use my creativity to build something that is functional and, as much as possible, aesthetically pleasing. So, after building a couple of guitars, I felt the need to come up with my own design. To gauge if my ideas made sense and to help build the instrument after, I used 3D modeling to make a virtual copy of my design.

One advantage of using a virtual model before diving into the fabrication is that it allows you to refine the design. Once you have cut a piece of wood too short, it is very hard to reverse the cut without affecting the design or the mechanical or functional integrity of the final product. With CAD design, I can experiment with various body shapes, refine the curvature until it looks the way I imagined it to be. I can also anticipate construction problems and refine the neck pocket design to maximize strength without affecting design.

I used Fusion 360 software to create the design of a model that I have already built as a starting point. This way I know what my goal is and what the final result should look like. I can focus on the modeling part without being distracted by the design of the instrument.

The guitar is a solid body electric guitar with a scale length of 635 mm (25″). It has two p90 pickups, a wraparound bridge and 3×3 Schaller tulip tuners. I choose a simple 1-volume 1-tone setup for the electronics and a 3-way toggle to choose between the pickups.  The body is made of African mahogany (Sapele) which can be quite dense so I decided to add some weight relief cavities. The neck is a one piece European Maple and the fretboard is made with Indian rosewood.

I have recreated all the elements of the guitar that are directly visible and participate in the aesthetic of the instrument. The next two videos give a sneak peek at my modeling process by showing the history of model creation. The first one is a front view where the majority of the modeling can be seen.

 

The second video shows a bit more clearly the construction of the neck which was the trickiest part to create. Indeed, the shape of the neck is more organic. In guitar building, the luthier’s touch is important to reach the perfect size and shape of a neck that will allow for the best playability. It is a lot of back and forth to get to the final shape. Getting the same results with virtual geometric constraints is a bit harder. For this model, I am starting from a  geometry that I already physically built. I know from experience that the shape of the neck is suitable for good playing. So I tried to recreate this geometry in the model to serve as basis for my future designs.

 

The complete model is made of 101 components. In the next video you can see how all the parts are assembled together.

 

And finally, here is a side by side comparison of the virtual model and the real guitar post construction. Except for the texture of the body top, which I believe is much nicer in real life, the virtual model is quite faithful to reality.

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