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Making a Guitar from Scratch

In high school, I spent as much of my precious free time working with my hands as I could. For my last piece of artwork before heading off to college, I decided to start what ended up being a two and a half year journey, to teach myself woodworking and build a beautiful guitar. 

Summary: This is a project I started on the tail-end of high school, and worked on throughout my first two years of college. Starting with no woodworking or electronics experience, I designed and built a working guitar completely from raw cut woods, and it sounds incredible.

View the attached videos to hear it played! 

What I learned: 

This project helped develop my independent learning skills more than anything. I learned all the woodworking through online research. I learned to carefully plan my steps ahead of time and figure out exactly how I would perform each step before attempting it.

My attitude was to make the best guitar I could on the first try, so I couldn't afford to make any permanent mistakes (I made plenty, but managed to fix them all... there's nothing quite like the adrenaline rush of routing deep into the face of your precious 2-year project during the final pass, and then finding a way to fix your mistake).

The most important thing I learned from this project was that we can learn to do anything – I had people telling me this wouldn't turn out, to buy a neck, there was no way I could make it straight and have it sound right... If you put in the time and effort, you can make it happen. Every string sounds beautifully in-tune on every fret. This guitar has been played at a house party by Vulfpeck – my all-time favorite band – and THE Theo Katzman was raving about it to me. There's no greater feeling than that. 

Demo Videos: This guitar has been played by some of my favorite musicians – my good friend Nick Vinsonhaler, and Theo Katzman/Jack Stratton from Vulfpeck (listen with some good speakers).

Click the slideshow to flip through photos

In-Progress Projects

My skills and interests lie on a spectrum between art and engineering, and provide a solid foundation for the design of consumer products. I thrive in a design & build setting, and as a freshman in college, I found a job in an on-campus woodshop to situate myself in a space where I could pursue personal projects. This allowed me to develop design and prototyping skills alongside my mechanical engineering education. I’ve since designed and built furniture, an electric guitar (played in concert by Vulfpeck), invention prototypes, experimental equipment and models, and commissioned sculptures and props. 

I also have some projects I'm in the process of developing now. The purpose of this page to share progress on these. 


Dynamic Ferrofluid Watch

My watch idea is inspired from the Stanford-published fluid dynamics book, An Album of Fluid Motion. The idea is to make a dynamic ferrofluid watch that tells time with black droplets swimming in white liquid. Imagine a watch face, with magnetic hands. A circular glass casing the size of the watch face is positioned over the hands with fluids of opposite polarity inside, one dyed white and one black. The black fluid is a ferrofluid, and as the watch moves, the fluid follows the magnetic hands underneath. Boom, you've got a watch that tells time through fluid flow. As the second hand sweeps around the face, a black droplet swims around the perimeter of the circle, colliding with and plunging through the minute and hour hand pools of black ferrofluid. 

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Sit/Stand Drafting Table Project

I believe that one's environment has a profound effect on their quality of work and efficiency, and a devoted "work-space" can help tremendously. This project is to create a beautiful, functional desk to use throughout my life. 

In my summer after High School, I worked as a carpenter making handmade furniture in Hawaii. I dreamed of an awesome career desk to use throughout my life. One's desk is quite literally the foundation of their work, which is what makes this a powerful image – designing and building the desk in college that will be with you for the rest of your career. 

My idea for this project is to use the Hawaiian wood from my very first job making furniture to design the ideal career desk. Requirements

  • It must be a sit stand desk. I love to stand and work – standing desks keep you awake and motivated. 
  • It must be mobile, able to be disassembled & transported. Nobody spends their entire careers in one room.
  • It must be beautiful. Telescopic sit/stand desks are universally plain and cold, resembling hospital equipment.

Update – June 13, 2017:

I've just finished the initial design, which is based on traditional Japanese carpentry.  The curvature of the legs, supports, and feet were designed to reference Japanese architecture, and traditional joinery techniques ensure sturdy construction as well as mobility. 

The desk was designed around a 14" stroke linear actuator made by "ECO-WORTHY" on Amazon, which can hold upwards of 650 lbs comfortably between the two of them. 

The biggest challenge here was combining Japanese carpentry techniques, which produce some of the most sturdy, steadfast, precise furniture and buildings in the world, with a moving, dynamic design. Combining stability and movement wasn't easy, but was achieved through a a telescoping linear guide system much like drawer slides concealed in the legs. Cables within the beam connect the two actuators to the singular switch and power cable. 

The 4' x 6' x 2" slab of Hawaiian Monkeypod I will use for the project, thanks Dad! 

The 4' x 6' x 2" slab of Hawaiian Monkeypod I will use for the project, thanks Dad!