If you had told the legendary Gene Autry that musicians would be playing carbon fiber guitars in the 21st century, he may have thought you crazy. Yet here we are. Carbon fiber guitars are all the rage among musicians in search of a hard-wearing instrument that stands up to weather, travel, etc. They are so popular that some brave musicians are even making their own.
Yes, you can make your own carbon fiber guitar body. The process will be described here in basic format. If you would like to give it a try, Salt Lake City’s Rock West Composites says there are online seminars you can check out. Needless to say that making a carbon fiber guitar is not for the faint of heart. But compared to building one from wood, carbon fiber is a lot easier.
Step #1 – Design and Build Your Mold
Before you can start laying out the carbon fiber fabric, you are going to need a mold to lay it in. There are lots of ways to build in. The easiest method is to use a 3D modeling app that can translate your design into cross-sectional layers.
The individual layers can be cut from cardboard, balsa wood, foam, etc. You glue each of the layers together to create a single piece that will become your mold. Alternatively, you could go the other way. You could start with a solid block of foam and carve out the shape of your guitar body.
If there are any sharp or jagged edges on your mold, use auto body filler to smooth things out. Apply the compound, let it cure, and then sand it to perfection. Now you are ready to move on to the next step.
Step #2 – Layup the Carbon Fiber Fabric
The next step is to actually layer your carbon fiber fabric over the mold. Before you do, however, coat the mold with some sort of release agent. You can buy release agents wherever you buy your fabric and resin.
Lay your first layer of carbon fiber fabric over the mold, being careful to orient the fibers in the preferred direction. Now use a disposable paintbrush to coat the layer with resin. Make sure you don’t leave any dry spots – especially along the edges and corners. Once fully coated, repeat the process.
You’re going to do this several times until the body is as thick is you want it to be. The very last layer is the finish layer, so be careful that you don’t leave any creases or bubbles behind. The smoother and more consistent you can make this layer, the less finishing you’ll need to do.
Step #3 – Cure and Finish
The final step is to let the mold cure, then remove the guitar body from the mold and finish it. Depending on your choice of resin, the ambient air temperature, and the amount of air circulation in your workspace, it could take several days for everything to dry and cure. Avoid the temptation of touching the fabric before it’s completely dry as any fingerprints you leave behind will be embedded in the finished product.
Once you remove the guitar body from the mold, use sandpaper to knock down any rough edges and level the surface. You can use any car wax to polish when you’re done. Now you are ready to attach the fret board, hardware, and strings.
What has been described here is rudimentary. There is a lot more to it when you get into the details, so just be aware of that should you decide to build your own guitar.