Inventor with the F4c

T

he F4 line was invented by a guitar player. A friend complained that no one could make a guitar with a neck that stays straight. Intrigued by this problem, he realized that the harder you pull a string, the straighter it gets. To demonstrate this, pull on a guitar cord. If the guitar strings position the neck, rather than the neck trying to position the strings, then the neck stays straight. This is the key to the BORN TO ROCK concept.

Designer's Statement

Here is how I developed the BORN TO ROCK concept: I was taking a jazz-guitar lesson from a friend who played a nice SADOWSKY Strat-style electric guitar. He showed me the neck, and asked if it looked straight. I told him, no, it needs to have the trussrod adjusted. My friend complained: "Why can't anyone make a guitar with a neck that stays straight?"

This got me thinking. The problem, in a nutshell, is that the neck is too long and thin. It really does not matter what you do to it, or make it out of, a long and thin column is inherently a weak design (think of a piece of spaghetti).

Historically, the guitar started out as a violin, with a short neck and gut strings with minimal string tension. To lower the pitch the neck was lengthened. To increase the volume, the strings were changed to steel. Steel guitar strings have a tension of over 100 pounds, which pulls up on the long and thin wooden neck.

Someone thought to put a trussrod in the neck, to counteract the string tension. It is an improvement, except that when you tighten the trussrod, you put more still more force on the neck. The result is usually a neck that ends up in an S-curve, from over 200 pounds of compressive force (string pull 100 + trussrod pull 100 = 200). There is no way that a wooden neck can withstand that force over a long time (considering that the force is continuously on the neck, whether you are playing it or not).

While graphite composite necks are touted as a solution to neck warping, in fact composite material is largely plastic, with a little reinforcement from graphite fibers. A characteristic of plastic is that it is subject to "plastic flow" over time, which makes it a particularly poor choice of material for a guitar neck that is under constant string tension and has a critical requirement for shape stability.

So, should the designer give up on this seemingly hopeless task of the perfectly straight neck? No, there is a solution and here is how it works. Consider that a guitar string is very thin and light, yet it is always straight. In fact, the harder you pull on its ends, the straighter it gets. Hence, if you design a guitar in which the string positions the neck, instead of trying to make the neck position the string, you will always have a straight neck.

This is accomplished in the BORN TO ROCK guitar. It comprises essentially two parts: a body which has the function of holding the strings to pitch, and a neck that is not subjected to any force and carries the frets to establish the intonation. The body is like the bow of a bow and arrow. It is light (hollow tubing) because it is intended to bend just like the bow of a bow and arrow. We don't care if it bends, because it is not the neck and it does not position the frets on the neck.

The second main part of the BORN TO ROCK guitar is the neck. The neck is located at the nut end on a pivot, so that the bending of the body's neck support tube cannot be transmitted to the neck in any manner.

At the bridge end of the neck assembly, the bridge is supported on a shelf on which it is also free not only to pivot, but also to slide back and forth. Therefore, no compressive force or force of any other kind can possibly be transmitted from the body to the neck at that end, either. In consequence, if you machine the neck straight in the first place, it stays that way forever. This concept was patented in the U.S. (4,915,009).

Why is the main material for the BORN TO ROCK guitar aluminum? Because wood is an unstable material. Wood was used for violins in the 17th Century, because violin strings were gut and exerted little force on the neck; because it was readily available and easy to cut with hand tools; and because it has good acoustic properties for an unamplified instrument. None of those conditions apply in the 21st Century. Today, we have automated CNC machines for metalworking; aluminum is no longer a rare material; and an electric guitar (unlike an acoustic instrument) is modifiable by its tone controls.

Hence, fascination with wood as a material for electric guitars, and indeed the very idea of evaluating guitars like a fine piece of Chippendale furniture, is a misplaced concept today.

For example, Mike Eldred (Fender custom shop manager) promotes Fender's "Relic" (intentionally beat-up) guitars by stating on a video (8/20/11): "They are really cool because there is not a lot of finish left on the guitar . . . The guitar just resonates a little differently the less finish there is on there." So self-evidently, the traditional fine-furniture-finish approach to guitarmaking is not helping the tone, it is hurting it. http://www.themusiczoo.com/product/2445/Fender-Custom-Shop-Exclusive-Masterbuilt-64-Stratocaster-Ultimate-Relic-Electric-Guitar-Candy-Apple-Red/

Les Paul determined over 50 years ago that metal has excellent tone, but he did not make a metal guitar light enough to hold comfortably: "We lived across the street from the railroad, and I realized that railroad tracks are pretty sturdy. So I got a wagon and five other guys and we lifted a four-foot piece of rail that had been taken off the line and took it home in the wagon. When I put strings on it and put my homemade pickups on it, I realized it would do the job perfectly." http://www.guitar.com/articles/les-paul-legend-behind-legend

The BORN TO ROCK guitar does what Les Paul wanted to do in the first place -- before he made his LES PAUL guitar from wood as a compromise. Since the main material of a BORN TO ROCK guitar is aluminum, which is uniform from piece to piece, each guitar sounds exactly as it was designed. Wood, in contrast, varies significantly in tonal properties from piece to piece. If you get a bad piece, you are stuck. The tone does not even stay consistent as the wood ages; so you are better off buying a "vintage" wooden guitar than an unproven brand new one. The "vintage" wooden guitars that turned out to be the good ones, cost more than new wooden guitars; which proves that wood is an unpredictable material and hence a poor choice of material for the design of new guitars. For example, here is an ad posted on Craigslist (8/24/11): "1963 Fender Strat, the most sought after strat! In good condition! All original! Some wear as you can see from the pics., finish worn on back. Buyer pays shipping. Asking $18,000." Hopefully for this buyer, this was one of the good ones!

You can put a strung BORN TO ROCK guitar in a flight case, ship it in the unheated cargo hold of a plane from New York to Hong Kong, take it out of the case and it will still be in tune -- just like when you put it in the case in New York. I have done it myself. You cannot do that with a wooden guitar. You cannot even ship it with the strings tuned to pitch -- since the neck might crack from string tension.

Bottomline: with the BORN TO ROCK guitar you have an instrument that is consistently dependable, resonant and tonally versatile; all in a form that is lightweight and comfortable to play.