A Not So Subtle Approach to Weight Reduction

In Important Elements For An Ergonomic Guitar, I list weight as one of several important design considerations in an ergonomic guitar. Weight reduction can be accomplished in a number of ways including such methods as the use of lightweight woods (or other materials) or chambering the guitar. Here is another possible approach as seen in Kevin Chilcott’s Royal Electra Custom Guitar:

Royal Electra Electric Guitar

It’s a simple approach easily implemented with a few hole saws. (CORRECTION 09.01.2006 – Please see the 09.01.2006 update below for Kev Chilcott’s clarification on just how difficult this actually was to accomplish.) Aesthetic considerations aside, this approach to weight reduction fits well with other stated design goals of an ergonomic guitar such as picking arm support and balance. A chambered body, of course, accomplishes the same goal in a subtle way. Nonetheless, it’s a straightforward option.

UPDATE 09.01.2006 – Kev Chilcott kindly contacted me to provide additional background on his Royal Electra Custom guitar design. As he indicates, the design was done for aesthetics rather than ergonomics. I didn’t mean to imply otherwise – I thought it was an interesting design element that could be used in pursuit of reducing a guitar’s weight. However, I failed to realize the amount of effort that went into execution. Kev Chilcott explains further:

“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.”

Kev Chilcott then goes on to share some additional and very interesting details regarding his work:

“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 realizing 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.”

I thank Kev Chilcott for taking the time to clarify these points and provide me with additional information. Its always great to have the input of a professional luthier! Thank you again!

8 Responses to “A Not So Subtle Approach to Weight Reduction”

  1. Thanks so much! I hadn’t come across this particular model yet. What a departure – it would certainly make for an interesting implementation. It also suggests that it is time for a followup to A Gallery of Ergonomic Designs which, interestingly enough, I had recently started…

  2. yamaha’s (detachable) ‘wings’ on their silent guitars is maybe another departure from the solid (and weighty) normal solid body design! here’s a link; silent guitar

  3. Take a look at zacharyguitars.com and acheck out his early work. I wonder who had the idea to use holes in the body first. I think Kevin probably did.

    1. Steve: Thanks for the heads up. My impression from Kev Chilcott’s feedback is that he came up with it first.

  4. Great blog!!!

    What’s your take on Parker stuff?


    1. I haven’t had the opportunity to check one out in person but I really like some of their design ideas – the subject of a post perhaps? For one, they are incredibly light which is a boon to any of us with back problems for example. I’m curious how they balance while sitting…

  5. Looks similar to the Jazz Bass I *Holed* in the early 70’s way before anyone else did… hehe

  6. The ‘holey’ idea came from Russ Ballard (Argent) who holed his Strat in the early ’70s.
    I did my prototype in 1986 and made about 50 up to 1989.
    They were quite popular.
    A few other companies did make the odd one or two after that in the late ’80s – BC Rich for one who made their ‘Outlaw’ model – essentially a bolt on neck ‘Strat’ type with the holes… and also Wayne Charvel in his ‘WRC’ incarnation.
    I have pix of both of those on my site.

    I have had a few enquiries recently, but no one has taken the plunge on a new Electra. I think it’s down to “the style of the time” – in my case the late ’80s.
    Everything comes around again and I expect they will come back into fashion :0)

    If anybody has any questions they’d like to ask – drop me a line from my website and I’ll do my best to answer them ASAP.

    All Best Wishes,
    Kev C.
    Royale Guitars.