Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Real wood embedded electronic guitar lights

It started out as a suggestion when we very first began this project, over a month ago - why not just drill holes in an existing fingerboard and put a PCB behind it?

Well, after numerous attempts at removing the fingerboard, we never quite managed to get it off and keep the whole thing in one piece, let alone in a re-usable, playable condition.

Then Nick got chatting to those lovely people at who said that, for a minimum order of ten guitars, they could supply kits with the fingerboards detached from the necks (they simply skip the step where they glue them on, during manufacture!)

Well, ten guitars is a lot, even for a bunch of nerds (who, let's be honest, only two or three are actually interested in playing guitar anyway). But, never one to miss an opportunity, I said we should got for it, and sell any extras online; who knows, there may even be a market for full-colour RGB light-up guitars.....

Anyway, the order is in, and some time in early 2016, we can expect our first batch of 10 guitar kits. The PCBs have already been made at and are winging there way over here - hopefully in plenty time before a few of us have to go away for Xmas.

So we thought we'd see how butchering the existing fingerboard might look, rather than casting resin fretboards, just to compare the two.

Using a scrap of fingerboard removed with the bandsaw, we lined up the LEDs on one of our test sectoins and drilled some holes (using a 1100W hammer drill and a 3mm metal drill bit - no messing about doing things properly with a pillar drill and dedicated wood-working equipment!)

The finish is terrible, but gives us an idea about how it might look. The result was - surprisingly - better than we'd expected.

When viewed full on, the lights are quite bright and - as you can see in this photo - they shine out quite clearly. But when you're playing guitar, you're not looking at the fretboard from 90 degrees, immediately in front of it - you tend to look down and along the neck...

The photo above fails to demonstrate just how bright and vibrant the colours actually are. They look far better than we could have hoped. And even from a very shallow viewing angle, it's not only very easy to see which LEDs are lit up, but because of the way the light reflects off the inside of the drilled holes, each colour is bright, vibrant, and distinct.

So if we're going to try flogging a few of these guitars, it might be worthwhile being able to offer either the "synthetic" resin finish (which looks awesome) or "real wood" (which feels nice).