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A Method For the Design Of the Guitar Body Outline Part 3: Compound Radius Curves

A Method For the Design Of the Guitar Body Outline Part 3: Compound Radius Curves

by R.M. Mottola

Originally published in American Lutherie #103, 2010

See also,
A Method for the Design of the Guitar Body Outline by R.M. Mottola
Parametric Models of Guitar Cutaways by R.M. Mottola

The article “A Method for the Design of the Guitar Body Outline” in AL#97 presented a model for drawing guitar body outline halves based on five circular arcs and three straight line segments, as shown in Fig. 1. Here I will present an enhancement to that model. As the original article pointed out, the five-arc model can be used to draw most but not all guitar body outlines. So it was probably inevitable that the first feedback I received following the publication of that article was from someone trying to draw an outline for one of the instruments for which this model is not ideally suited. There are a couple of common instruments that have outlines which cannot be drawn using this simple five-arc, three-straight-line-segment model. These instruments, the OM and the Maccaferri-style guitars, have a “dropped hips” look to the lower bout that cannot be approximated by a single circular arc (Fig. 2).

Fortunately, the lower bouts of these guitars can be accurately drawn with a simple enhancement to the model. The enhancement replaces the single-arc lower bout curve with a compound-radius curve. A compound-radius curve is composed of a series of circular arcs, each tangent to the one succeeding it. Although all manner of complex curves can be built up in this fashion, for the purpose of enhancing the simple guitar body outline model, we really only need to introduce compound-radius curves of two radii.

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