Blog Day 1 – An Explanation and a Dedication

Frank-Smith-Klein-Electric-Guitar-Player.jpgI’ve started this guitar blog in order to document my research into ergonomic considerations for the guitar as well as to document my attempt at building such a guitar (or guitars).

For my first project, I intend to build a Klein-like electric guitar. For those unfamiliar with this design, the Klein (seen to the left) is considered one of the most ergonomic guitar designs. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to come by. First, the builder has been experiencing problems building them. Some customers have been waiting over two years with little contact from the builder. For further details, see the Klein Electric Guitar Group at Yahoo Groups. Second, even used ones are selling for $5000 – or about $4999 more than I have available at the moment.

My interest in ergonomic designs has been fueled by my desire to learn to play the guitar. For that, I have my wonderful wife to thank. Back in my early twenties I made a failed attempt. I can blame many things for not having pursued it but ultimately I can only blame myself. Over the years I never mustered the energy to return to it. However, back in August 2005, my wife Sakinah gave me an Applause round back acoustic – a guitar which she knew I was interested in. Since then, my interest returned and my wife has been nothing but supportive. Thus, I dedicate my practice and these explorations of guitar design to my wife without whom I would not have returned to the guitar. Thank you, babe. 🙂

I became interested in ergonomic designs due to my suffering pain while trying to play with proper form. I’ve suffered from chronic back pain over the years and this fueled my desire to find a better way. I have largely overcome much of this discomfort through various means but the idea of a more comfortable guitar stuck with me.

This led to a great deal of research into the ergonomics of the guitar. I invested several months and came up with a great deal of information. For example, the idea that the shape of the guitar was not exactly ideal was nothing new. It was something that had been written about over the last couple of centuries specifically as it related to classical guitar. This led me to explore further until I discovered the Klein electric as well as a number of other ergonomic designs and features.

I have no intention of ripping off the Klein. I have no intention of misrepresenting it as a Klein. It is solely for my personal use. In that way it is no different than any of the countless copies and replicas that amateur guitar builders build in their own quests for the perfect guitar. I am just interested in exploring the idea of improved ergonomic designs for the guitar and the Klein happens to be considered one of the more ergonomic designs available.

After working through this project, I may find that the Klein is the ultimate shape. More than likely, I will find that it is just one of many variations that better suit the human body when compared to the Fenders and Gibsons of the world.

3 Responses to “Blog Day 1 – An Explanation and a Dedication”

  1. Hi,

    Kev Chilcott here… you have a picture of one of my guitars on this page – The Royal Electra.

    With all due respect, this design was nothing to do with weight reduction, it was about a designed style.
    I should also point out that the holes were not “simply cut with a saw” at all, as you suggest.
    Special jigs had to be made for a heavy duty router and the hole sizes were critical to the design.
    I should also point out that the finishing inside the holes was far from simple right through the sanding stages, spraying and to the final polishing of the lacquer, which is as good as on the faces of the guitar.
    The whole concept was, and is, very time consuming indeed.

    So, it’s about style and not weight reduction.

    The main ergonomic feature of the guitar is the ‘stepped’ heel joint, which I designed in 1986 and also the 5 way switch through the body without using a scratch plate which I also designed, by the way, in 1986 – this feature was seen in magazine reviews and guitar shows in that and the following year and is now used by just about every other guitar manufacturer on the planet.

    It’s funny how things creep into the mass production process without many people realising where it’s come from!

    I have also used the “thin guitar concept” which in my case is more about the particular wood used, usually a heavier variety with a nice grain structure, and thinning it to a weight that is more acceptable.

    Anyway – those are just a couple of comments on the Ergonomic design page here.

    Best Wishes,
    Kev Chilcott.

  2. Hi Kev:

    Thank you for the clarification! Forgive my misinterpretation of your design and my misunderstanding regarding the work involved in its execution. No disrespect was intended.

    I also appreciate your comments regarding the ergonomic feature of the guitar – the stepped” heel and the background behind some of your other work. Thank you again.

    Best regards!

  3. Hi Robert,

    No worries :0)
    Thanks for the reply.

    There are some pictures regarding the “stepped heel/neck joint” in a link from the “History” section on my site if anybody is interested.

    Essentially it allows better access and more confort on offset double cutaway guitars and which with some adjustments can also be used on L*s P*uls and the like… and I know of other custom makers that have used this approach since!
    I have used it on all my guitars that are suitable for this type of design since 1986.

    Another aspect that isn’t always covered is guitars for ‘smaller’ people with guitar bodies that are specially designed or just slightly smaller versions of existing models.
    Very often in these circumstances weight is crucial along with size and also neck/scale length as I know it can sometimes be a struggle to reach the first position for some people.

    I did design a guitar called the “Chimera” back in the late ’80s for a customer of mine… it was smaller all round, thinner and lighter but with a standard 24 3/4″ scale length with 24 frets ( I think – it was a long time ago ;0) but moved toward the body a bit more than what one would call “normal”, but with full access to the upper frets due to the “stepped joint” approach.
    Unfortunately as yet I have no pictures, but I have been in contact with the owner and hopefully I will have some at some point.
    He has been using the guitar constantly for teaching, studio and stage use since I made it for him in 1989.

    When I have some spare time I will take time and have a proper look around your site.

    Thanks again for the response – much appreciated.

    All Best Wishes,