MaxSus is a minimalist guitar with maximum sustain (watch the video here).
Using a hybrid approach (both printed and off-the-shelf components), the instrument is able to achieve sustain as good as many professionally built guitars at a fraction of the price (<$100) and with open files to enable modifications and experimentation.
A full write-up about this project with build instructions and inline photos is also available at makefastworkshop.com/hacks/?p=20190523.
Build Instructions Summary
The MaxSus guitar uses many off-the-shelf components. You can swap out most of the parts for something that's more to your liking (i.e. different tone, color, style, price-range, etc.), making changes to the CAD files (f3d and step files included) accordingly:
- A stiff, bolt-on electric guitar neck (like this 24.72" scale Kmise Les Paul Replacement neck)
- Tuners to use on the neck (we used these Machine Head Tuners, but needed to drill holes slightly larger than what was in the neck's headstock to fit)
- Single coil pickups (there are lots to choose from, like this cheap Set of Single Coil Pickups; you could modify the design to use a humbucker if desired)
- A fixed bridge (like this 65MM Metal Fixed Bridge)
- Electric guitar strings to match your desired tuning (since we chose Nashville tuning, these High-strung D’Addario XL are great, or just pick strings from your spares if you have some)
- 4 x (#8 x 1" long) wood screws (or sheet metal screws if you can't find them) to secure the neck to the body, ideally stainless steal and with an oval phillips head
- 5 x (#6 x 1.25" long) bolts and nyloc nuts to secure the bridge and bridge spacer to the body, ideally stainless steal and with an oval phillips head
- A 1/4" audio jack for the pickup's audio output
Additionally, you'll need to build some parts:
- 10.585" long piece of aluminum U-channel (1/8" Wall Thickness, 1" High x 3-1/2" Wide, comes in 4 foot lengths on McMaster-Carr here, cut to length)
- 2.5" long piece of solid rectangular aluminum to support the bridge (3/4" Thick x 1-3/4" Wide, on McMaster here)
- 3D-Printed drill templates
- 3D-Printed faceplates to hold the pickups in place and smooth corners
After all pieces are printed and cut to length (there are only two cuts to make, so a hacksaw is adequate here), file down any rough edges. If everything is sized correctly, it should fit together as shown.
Next, mark the center of each hole with an autopunch (or just use a nail and hammer if you don't have one). This is important so that the drill bit won't wobble around when you go to make the holes in the next step.
Also note that you should mark the underside of the bridge spacer (short aluminum rectangle).
Drill all metal parts using a 3/16" drill bit (start with a smaller pilot hole, ~1/8", then go back through with the final size).
Next, place the neck into the template and mark the holes from the back as shown. You can use an autopunch on the wood, but it may chip your finish (twist a small drill bit instead if you want to be safe).
Now, using a 7/64" drill bit, carefully drill the holes into the neck, being very careful not to drill all the way through! Measure and mark the maximum drill depth (with a bit of a safety margin) using a piece of tape on the bit.
Make sure all the holes line up nicely, then carefully attach the neck and the bridge/spacer to the aluminum U-channel body. To ensure alignment before final tightening, you can pull a string between the nut and the bridge and adjust the bridge slightly so everthing is exactly where it should be.
Add the tuners and string it up. You MaxSus Guitar is ready to try out!
To finish the guitar, we'll add the pickups. Drill a hole in the side of the guitar where the 1/4" audio jack will go (typically 3/8", but double check based on which jack you're using).
Install the pickups (you may need to slightly file down the sides to fit within the aluminum channel depending on the pickups you're using) and wire everything up (parallel is most common, but feel free to experiment to play with different tones).
And since the ground wire of the pickup is connected directly to the sleeve of the jack, the entire aluminum guitar body is nicely grounded to reduce noise/hum.
Loosen the strings (or fully remove them if you prefer) and carefully press the top pieces into place. If anything is a bit loose or seems like it could rattle, add a strip of tape to the side of the printed part as needed. Everything should press-fit together tightly.
Voilà! Now plug it in and have some fun.