19. Smell

Thoughts on removable sound holes and smelling guitars

Carolan Guitar

The more observant among you will have a question.

How do we access inside of our guitar? What if we need to change its battery, maintain its pickup, or just smell it?  After all, surely we all grab a quiet moment from time to time to sniff the insides of our guitars, savouring their familiar, woody and homely smell. Don’t we?

Nick has provided an elegant and innovative solution in the design for the sound hole on the topside. Not only does this help you hear the instrument’s voice, but it can also be removed so that you can get your hands (or nose) right inside.

Soundhole In Situ Soundhole In Situ

It’s a cute design. A small groove let’s you insert a fingernail and gently lift the panel away from the instrument, while a series of four small magnets underneath hold it in place when fixed. The result looks and feels lovely. The panel is easy to remove and replace but also stays in place…

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16. Config

It’s not all about wood! We’ve also been prototyping the Carolan guitar app. Learn how to configure Aestheticodes.

Carolan Guitar

Let’s leave Nick to get on with building our guitar and turn back to the software side of the project for a moment.

We urgently to build an app to go with the Carolan guitar so that people can interact with it. To be honest, although we came up with an initial mapping between different parts of the guitar and different interactions a while ago (as discussed way back in Post 9), we’re still not sure precisely what this app should do. You might think that we’d have figured this out before we started, but making an interactive guitar like Carolan is a new idea and our research project is all about exploring new possibilities.

Fortunately there is a solution at hand the form of ‘iterative prototyping’. One of the great things about software is that – perhaps unlike wood? – it is extremely malleable. We can begin shaping it, but then continually change and adapt its shape as we go. Even…

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15. Secrets

I’m leaking secrets …

Carolan Guitar

Would you like to know a secret? OK, but you must promise not to tell anyone!

Our guitar has a secret spot; a hidden nook at the cutaway underneath the neck. And we’ve put a code there. It was quite a tricky job as, unlike the back that we showed you before, this is just a small area so that the knotwork and finishing must be precise. This code is not meant for public display, but instead can only be scanned by someone who is intimate with the instrument, who is holding it and knows it well (unless they have read this post that is).

We etch Liz’s delicate knotwork into a small piece of flamed maple. Nick then carefully finishes it with Rosewood inlay…

heel close 2.. then attaches it in place …

heel 1

… so that we have the frame of the guitar in place and ready for the back to be attached.

sides and neck 3

Now we just need to decide what kind…

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14. Back

Etching and inlaying the back of the Carolan guitar

Carolan Guitar

We’re back from our break and back to the back. It’s time to begin serious work on the rear of our guitar.

If you remember our previous posting, this is going to be a expanse of flamed maple, decorated with an aestheticode pattern that is large enough to be scannable from some distance away, perhaps through a shop window or even by an audience at a venue.

Nick begins by cutting the maple into two sections that can then be ‘bookmatched’, a luthier’s term for carefully matching them up to give a pleasingly symmetrical pattern of grain.

Bookmatching two pieces of flamed maple for the back

He marks out the shape of the guitar on these pieces before cutting them out and gluing them together to form a single back piece.

markedupmaple Marking out the shape of the guitar

Then it’s off to our friends at Nottinghack once again to make use of the laser cutter. The etch of our pattern…

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13. Berlin

Thoughts on the aesthetics and fashion of acoustic guitars …

Carolan Guitar

Time for  break. A change from the norm. A trip to Berlin and a visit to the Staatliches Institut für Musikforschung – that’s the Berlin Musical Instrument Museum to the likes of us – and what a wonderful experience. A striking and wonderfully lit building populated with all manner of historical instruments, including a collection of early guitars.

berlin museum insideWhat is eye-catching about some of these early guitars is how richly and beautifully decorated they are, covered in intricate carvings, inlay and sometimes flowing patterns*.

Such designs offer a striking contrast to today’s more minimalist aesthetic where acoustic guitars tend to follow classic and simple lines. Indeed, it sometimes almost seems that the more expensive the guitar, the more minimal its decoration.

This observation is reflected in recent feedback from luthiers and retailers about our project to the effect that the high-end or professional sectors of the market are unlikely to be interested in heavily decorated guitars. There…

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