Thursday, April 27, 2017

Keith’s Guitar Wall Art

My interest in woodworking, guitar playing, and the desire to someday learn the skills of a luthier (guitar craftsman) were the catalysts that inspired me to build this wall art project. Playing the guitar and woodworking, for me, are very therapeutic, emotional, sometimes challenging, but ALWAYS relaxing past-times. The time I have spent working on this project has been a fun learning experience, and resulted in a lasting piece of visual art that will remind me of my love for music and many great memories of family and friends. To get the true feel of the finished product, see the brief video clip I created here.

I have to give credit to a few people who helped me with this project. My wife Lucy is one of my favorite creative people and she was encouraging and a great help in thinking through color designs for stains and paints used on the project. My good friend “Mike,” a master woodworker, who offered me advice and the use of some sophisticated equipment. And then there’s “Mark,” a very talented artist and luthier who performed the laser engraving of the songs on the front of the guitar.

Fifty of my favorite guitar songs that I have learned to play over the years are engraved on the face of this piece. The shape of the body mimics that of my newest guitar, a Cole Clark Angel 6-string, which I purchased in 2015. The grain of the cherry wood caught my eye when choosing wood for the guitar body and neck. I wanted to use some unconventional materials to make it “artsy,” including use of guitar pics for the tuning heads, thumb pics on the bridge, and bronze, metal nuts supporting the tuning heads. The walnut sound hole cover is a design element that I bought years ago to use on my Alvarez 12-string guitar. It never got much use on the actual guitar, so I decided to add it to this project because of its unique lasered design and walnut color. It is the only pre-fab piece of wood used on the project. Wanting something unique for the shape of the bridge, I came up with the wing shape fashioned originally after the phoenix bird that was the hood emblem for the Smokey and the Bandit Pontiac Trans-Am my brother bought in high school. That was back in the 70’s and it was probably the coolest car in town when we were growing up.

I chose a very simple solution for the guitar strings, which is cloth twine. The concept for incorporating the weathered cherry wood bark on the bottom half of the body and neck was that the older, earlier songs would be engraved on the lower section, and newer songs on the top section. I used cedar for the bridge/saddle, the head, and the nut to add some variety of wood textures.  The two-tone color of the head was inspired by a similar color design on the head of my Cole Clark 6-string guitar. The LED lights were added to emit an ambient, halo-lighting effect from the back of the guitar. The rotating RGB colors are somewhat reminiscent of those crazy disco lights from back in the 70’s. The LEDs are run using a remote control which offers some fun flexibility.

If you look closely at the top and bottom edges of the guitar body, you will see a subtle curved design in the edge of the wood. This is actually an “accidental” design element that was added while using a router to cut out and smooth the top edge of the guitar. The router slipped during the cutting process and created this erroneous curve. I thought it looked cool and decided to make a matching cut in the bottom edge to make it look symmetrical. I thought it would be cool to personalize the piece even more by adding the sculptured hands which are casts of my own hands. The copper color was chosen simply to make them not look too realistic (creepy), and because the color blended well with the warm brown and golden tones of the cherry wood.

In total it cost me around $460 and probably 75 hours of time to build this piece. There was a lot of “cranial energy” put into the design conception, with a fair amount of trial-and-error as the build work happened.

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