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A Method for the Design of the Guitar Body Outline

A Method for the Design of the Guitar Body Outline

by R.M. Mottola

Originally published in American Lutherie #97, 2009

See also,
Parametric Models of Guitar Cutaways by R.M. Mottola
A Method For the Design Of the Guitar Body Outline Part 3: Compound Radius Curves by R.M. Mottola

One of the most tedious and time consuming aspects of designing a new guitar for me is the process of designing the body outline. The body outlines of my early instruments were the results of many hours of labor, usually over the course of many weeks. This process was so time consuming that I would often forgo it entirely, opting to reuse an existing body outline as is, or scaling up a guitar outline for use in an acoustic bass guitar. But over the years I’ve settled into a method for guitar body outline design which is far less tedious and consumes far less time than did my original efforts. This method involves the use of a standard model of the guitar outline. Use of this standard model helps to make the process of developing an outline more standard as well, and this in turn has resulted in the development of techniques which save time and frustration.

In this article I will be outlining the model and discussing some common guitar body types in the context of this model. In talking about the design method which makes use of the model, I’ll try to touch on some of the generic qualities of guitar body outlines and how they can be quantified in terms of the model. Finally, some of the tools and techniques of the method will be detailed. Please note that what I am discussing here is only the mechanical aspects of a body design. Issues of acoustics or ergonomics are not covered. Also note that this method works equally well with either pencil and paper or CAD drawing tools, although there are some differences in how these tools are used.

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