In 2014, a conversation with guitarist Tosin Abasi turned to an idea he had for his own signature guitar. Upon showing me a sketch of a design he had conceived, I offered to help him draw up his original design to help pull the development process along.
I stayed fairly true to Tosin’s original sketch, but refined the shape considerably, adding distinctive design features such as the elliptical bevel edge all the way across the top of the guitar body, the dot inlay arc pattern, and a couple of pickguard shape options.
An alternate design was also proposed, featuring aerofoil-inspired, fully radiused body contours, a convex top and concave back. There are no straight lines or flat planes anywhere on the body.
Initial CAD drawings were sent to the manufacturer, who did some refinement of their own, and a few prototypes were made. Tosin’s vision was spot on, and he was extremely pleased with the ergonomics of the guitar he had designed, and it fit his body and his unorthodox playing styles perfectly.
Fast-forward to late 2017, and Tosin felt it was time to put this design into production himself, with his own partner (and another a long-time friend of mine), instrument designer and luthier Frank Falbo. They began ramping up to début the production-ready design at the NAMM show in January 2018. (The National Association of Music Merchants show is one of the largest musical instrument trade shows in the world.)
With only a few hand-made prototypes completed in time for the trade show, Tosin and his partners asked for detailed, life-size renderings for display in the booth, on banners and/or screens, to show some configuration and finish options.
Up until this point, the CAD files were only used for cutting the wooden body and neck of the guitar, and only conceptual renderings were needed. But for full-size, detailed renders, every detail was needed, including 3D models of the frets, strings, pickups, electronics, and hardware, much of which had to be drawn from scratch, or from 2D drawings sourced from suppliers such as Fishman.
Once a detailed model was built, a virtual “set” was constructed and lit in Blender, and various finish options could be explored.
The renderings, along with physical instruments, were instrumental in securing initial orders for custom guitars and short production runs, by showing the potential of the design, and the imagination of the team behind it.