CAD/CAM Features Are Music to Guitar Maker’s Ears
When Anthony Bragg started his own custom guitar company, he took the expertise he honed at Gibson and Teve Guitars and invented a whole new plate for the neck of his new instruments. By using every applicable feature in his CAD/CAM software, Bragg has been able to design and manufacture his new Skidplate and all of the fixtures needed by simply programming toolpaths and editing as necessary.
Woodworking, Job Shop
The electric guitar has been offered in thousands of shapes, models, and materials, with twice as many add-ons, accessories, and options for the ultimate in personalization. Finding the right guitar comes down to some very simple criteria: how well the guitar sounds and feels.
That’s something Anthony Bragg, owner of Madtown Guitars, knows all too well. After helping manufacture guitars at Gibson and Teye Guitars, Bragg started Madtown Guitars in 2015 in a garage in Madison, Georgia. While at Gibson, Bragg used Mastercam to program toolpaths for fixturing, custom work, one-offs, and engraving.
“Time is money and one of the biggest advantages to this software is not only saving valuable time and money on the machine with reduced cycle times, labor and wear, you’re also allowed to save considerable time inside the software. You don’t necessarily need a fully drafted CAD model to produce 3D surfaces. The software creates surfaces for you based on a selection of simple lines or geometry.”
Today, Madtown designs and manufactures guitars from the ground up. They offer two models, the Railrider and the Gravelcaster. Both are custom, six-string electrics and, according to Bragg, “100 percent hot rods.”
It was an idea Bragg had about the neck plate, which connects the neck of the guitar to the body of the guitar, that sent him on a riff to starting his own company. The result was the Skidplate® which Bragg calls “the world’s first and only 3D ergonomically advanced bolt-on neck plate and sculpted body contour system of its kind.”
“As far back as I could remember, the neck plate of a guitar was always a flat piece of material with four screws in it,” Bragg said. “I remember thinking, what if I could design and make an ergonomic improvement on that piece?” He wanted to design and build whole guitars, but by changing this one piece, he had something that would set him apart.
The Skidplate became the launching pad for innovative guitar design. Bragg explained how he originated his own guitar shapes and other proprietary components then designed the guitars’ body contours to accept the new neck plate. “This new neck plate system offers unparalleled upper register comfort and reach on the fingerboard.”
“I spent a considerable time on the design of the Skidplate itself, hand-making prototypes just to find out what angles, what distances, what feels best, and what is most ergonomic. Some changes were needed, but it was all so easy because everything was in the software.”
Bragg does all the programming himself using Mastercam Mill and a Laguna CNC router. “The guitars are still very much hand-made and finished, but starting with cleaner, more accurate parts certainly helps.
“Being a one-man shop, being familiar with the software, being able to program to where I can step away and execute the program to make the part on its own, while I go off and do other things—it’s like having two employees working with me.”
Mastercam Surfaces is used for the arm contours, tummy contours, and neck plate contours. “Putting in a contour is one thing, but going back to add a particular radius on that edge and being able to machine all of that is sometimes a huge advantage over doing things with a rasp and sandpaper.”
Bragg considers the ability to leave stock one of the most “brilliant” aspects of the software. “When you carve a back of neck radius, it takes a lot of time to set up in that surface, or for that model. Should you need to change something, you can affect the outcome of the part inside Mastercam and never change the model.”
For the Skidplate alone, Bragg uses multiple fixtures, including two for cutting them into their final shape and drilling through-holes, one for engraving, and one to cut the form that actually bends the plate to its three-dimensional final shape. This is in addition to the many fixtures needed for other parts of the guitar.
“The software not only changes the way you think, but it elevates the way you think, so you can apply it as a tool, in and of itself, to your process or your approach. In my case, Mastercam is responsible for nearly every process and the way I approach it. The software’s really a lot more powerful than just a couple of toolpaths.”
When it comes to customer service and support, Bragg relies on Mastercam Reseller, CAD/CAM Solutions located in Snellville, Georgia.
“We worked out my post issues and other things pretty early on,” Bragg said. “When I do call, Brian Kadow and Steve Landkamer are on top of it in a split-second. There’s not been one problem they haven’t been able to resolve, and they have always done so with the best attitudes in the world.”
While “feedback” is something most electric guitar players try to avoid, at Madtown it’s always welcome.
“While working at a big-name guitar company, I saw how Mastercam made it possible to do design and programming in one package, how the software minimized set-ups, helped minimize tool wear, minimized costs, and minimized time to turn the jobs around. It was really a no-brainer for me, when I started moving in my own direction, to take what Mastercam had to offer and incorporate it into everything we would do at Madtown.”– Anthony Bragg, Owner, Madtown Guitars
“I worked out my post issues and other things pretty early on with the guys at CAD/CAM Solutions. When I do call, Brian Kadow and Steve Landkamer are on top of it in a split-second. There’s not been one problem they haven’t been able to resolve, and they have always done so with the best attitudes in the world.”– Anthony Bragg, Owner, Madtown Guitars
Design and machine the patent-pending Skidplate and the custom guitars it fits with one software program that can maximize the productivity of a one-man shop.
The milling and solids functionality of Mastercam CAD/CAM software.
- Easy to learn and use.
- Timely service from nearby Reseller.
- Solids allow easy editing without changing the design.
- Full-featured software allows one programmer to manufacture multiple parts without standing in front of the machine.