G UITARTRACK S
Luthier Fantasy Camp
Have you ever wondered what went into
manufacturing your guitar? Have you ever
wanted to make your own instrument? Now
you can! At the Purdue Guitar Workshop,
you can be your luthier for a week and
experience designing and building a solidbody electric firsthand.
Luckily for us, Dr. Mark French, Assistant
Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Technology (MET) at Purdue University and
his coworkers are guitar people. After working as an aerospace engineer in noise and
vibration labs for the Air Force, Lear, and
Bosch, and then joining the MET teaching
force at Purdue, French saw the chance to
apply some of that technology to guitar
design, manufacturing and analysis.
The experts are all generous in sharing their
experience and provide plenty of quality
instruction time with the would-be luthiers.
Workshoppers get to choose their guitar’s
shape from several solidbody electric styles,
design their own headstock, body contour
and exotic wood inlays, and then choose
their pickups and electronic features. After
the design phase, they put the whole thing
together. Wood choices range from the
“standard” maples, spruces, rosewoods and
mahoganies to many different exotic woods
from all over the world.
With a little bit of advance notice, just
about any design request or idea can be
accommodated, no matter how wacky.
For instance, you could choose to install
There are plenty of exotic wood fretboards for
students to choose among.
fighter jets, so there’s no shortage of can-do
attitude. Within the framework of an electric
solidbody, you can
make any guitar
you can think of,
and do it in
With the help of
Brad Harriger and
French kicked off
the first Purdue
year and the 2008
Workshop promises Each of the students in last year’s Purdue Mechanical Engineering Technology Guitar Workshop took home their
to be even bigger own custom designed and built guitar at the end of the week.
and better. Participants get to design and a Roland 13-pin GK kit or a Graph Tech
build their own custom guitar with hands- GHOST system, onboard effects or preamps
on help from guitar industry experts. This or just about any specialized electronics that
year, some of the manufacturers and guitar can go into a guitar. After all, mechanical
gurus that are expected to help out include engineers like nothing better than sinking
authorities from Seymour Duncan, Fender their teeth into a design challenge.
French says that
women do really
well and for some
than the guys.
We’ll see about
that at the next
Purdue Guitar Workshop, which will be held
July 14-18, 2008. I will be attending the
next workshop and am extremely excited
about it. The number of attendees is limited, so get your registration in early. I’ll see
Bodies and necks waiting to be turned into finished
guitars by the students. No two are alike, so each student ends up with a completely unique instrument.
If you’d like to attend and have wanted to
build your own guitar but don’t think you
have the ability, don’t worry. “All you really
need is enough ability to get a C in Junior
High Woodshop,” says French. All the tools
you need will be supplied, but there is also
an arrangement with Stewart-MacDonald
to deliver tools to the workshop if students
wish to pre-order them.
You’ll learn CAD/CAM to design your headstock and then finish the week by taking
home with your custom-shaped headstock
attached to your custom designed and built
guitar. Laser etching is also available – these
guys teach people to make satellites and
To learn more about the Purdue Guitar
Workshop, visit http://metalsound.tech.
Kenny Bergle plays a custom Heritage Eagle, is Senior
Sales Engineer at Sweetwater, and is Program Director
of Music Technology in the School of Creative Arts at
the University of Saint Francis, in beautiful Fort Wayne,
Indiana. Contact him at 1-800-222-4700 ext. 1270 or