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Kapiti man creates 'sustainable' guitar

JIM CHIPP
Last updated 14:12 29/11/2012
Bamboo guitar
JIM CHIPP
Sustainable: Innovative guitar maker Dave Berry.

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Kapiti Observer

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Electric guitars could excel at producing sparkling top-of-range notes or have a gutsy bass, but not both - until now that is.

An innovative material and a high-tech manufacturing method developed in Kapiti has delivered an instrument light enough to both shine at the top and rigid enough to have grunt at the bottom.

Raumati musical instrument maker Dave Berry has found a way to form a "sustainable" instrument from laminated bamboo.

"It's very, very light weight, but with incredible strength which equals good performance," he said.

Classical-style hollow electric guitars have traditionally been milled out of solid slabs of maple.

Berry said he had been looking for an alternative to exotic hardwoods when he stumbled on the bamboo sheeting, which was capable of being machined and formed into a lightweight monocoque structure, similar to the composite chassis of race cars.

"It is two desirable things in one guitar that won't normally get together," he said.

The bamboo base material was an architectural product imported from China.

It has been formed by splitting the bamboo and laminating it into five-millimetre thick sheets using a water-based adhesive.

"It works fantastically well.

"I'm a bit of a reactionary and I saw people making fairly artless guitars out of lumps of kauri.

"No doubt about the quality of the workmanship, but doing nothing new."

Although bamboo had the right material properties to form a great guitar, Berry faced a technical problem forming it and Kapiti machinist Rob West, of High Tech Carving, came to the rescue.

West developed a process using a modified version of an Italian-made computer-numerically-controlled router to produce the computer- generated three-dimensional forms that Berry had designed

West was meticulous, Berry said.

"Rob has come out of the UK aircraft industry. The slightest flaw and he would just about cut his wrists," he said.

Topping off the elegantly simple instrument is a state-of-the-art pick-up from Bill Lawrence in the United States, with a tuner built by Berry, which balances three electrical dimensions of resistance, capacitance and inductance.

"What you can do is tune the resonance of the pickup to produce a whole range of sounds," Berry said.

With one knob the guitar's tone can be tuned from a lovely acoustic- like sparkle to paint-stripping aggression, Berry said.

The guitar is finished with an organic oil formulated from fennel, hemp, soy and linseed.

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- Kapiti Observer

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