Stuart Keith Guitars are produced using cad/cam/cnc on production level Haas milling machines. These machines are accurate to within .0003", which is to say that when the machine is told to go somewhere it will arrive there to within one-seventh of a human hair. This accuracy, if truly understood, harnessed, and applied by the designer, can help to make an instrument that "disappears" in the hands of the player, allowing them to focus more on their music and less on making notes. But more than simple play-ability, this accuracy can aid greatly in the creation of artistic ideas.
Note these logos, which are wooden inlays of Holly, Ebony, Cocobolo, and other decorative hardwoods. The detail and accuracy with which they are made is applied throughout each Stuart Keith guitar.
It is difficult to convey the accuracy of the nut with photos so the cad model is provided here to help illustrate. Because the fretboard surface radius is accurately controlled, the relationship of the string height to the first fret can also be controlled at the nut. The nut can therefore be designed to follow the radius of the first fret perfectly. The string height is set by taking material off the bottom of the nut.
In addition, each groove is cut in a half round which is exactly .001 in diameter larger than its string, which provides for a very precise fulcrum (the point at which a vibrating string is held on each end). A precise fulcrum eliminates buzz and increases sustain.
Cad/cam/cnc facilitates a unique artistic expression. An artist is rewarded by having his or her vision develop into a creation that can be shared. This particular method of construction allows the production of nearly any structure or shape that can pop into one's head. In this way the computer becomes a truly open artistic tool.
These truss rod covers incorporate one of my design proclivities carried throughout all my guitars which is; a clean, basic presentation while attending thoroughly to detail. The marriage of polished aluminum and hardwood provides an exciting artistic potential. The truss covers and electronics covers attach with magnets, also carrying another principle design objective, which is to eliminate, as much as is practically possible, visible fastening hardware.
Precise manufacturing of guitar necks and fretboards offers very exciting and useful features for players.
The fretboards on all models use either a flat or compound radius surface, maximizing the potential for very low action by maintaining a perfect linear relationship of each string to each fret. This relationship is very delicate and must be maintained along the entire fretboard in order for the theoretical benefit to apply. Computers find a pure function here, conveying perfect accuracy from the design all the way into these fretboards.
I also use cad/cam/cnc to design and cut fret the grooves. This places each fret according to a theoretically perfect position. The fret positions incorporate "stretch compensation" which subtlety alters the fret position to accommodate the slightly higher pitch that will occur as one stretches the string to fret it. The intonation of each SK guitar is truly impeccable.
Play-ability is a key design goal for all SK guitars. Whether it be a set neck or a neck-through, access to the upper frets is a must for the player. Using this smooth transition from neck to body eliminates the abrupt transition that can be distracting to a player. Models Elise and June are set neck designs incorporating this type of transition. Molly the Machine is a neckthrough with its own unique transition shape.
My guitars are unique in their tactile appeal to players.
Bridges, knobs, pickup rings, covers, and even string tees are designed and made in my shop. This offers full control over artistic continuity and function.
My bridge designs articulate much the same as conventional bridges but they offer added benefits of carrying other aesthetic design elements of the guitars and full control over the string track..
Designing my own bridges allows me to follow the string throughout the entire instrument and guide it along its path. I design the string path such that at no point does the string bend around any sharp edge. This results in a constant tension along the entire length of each string.
Stuart Keith guitars stay in tune even after vicious bends...and they don't break strings.
Polished aluminum, Ebony and Cocobolo inlaid knobs are a good example of the value being offered as standard equipment on all my guitars. I would encourage you, as a discerning buyer, to fully compare what is offered here for your money, keeping in mind this level of design and detail.
Not being a big fan of solid colors I prefer to highlight the natural beauty of wood, offering clear coats and the optional clear color tint. In this case a Myrtlewood facing was baked to achieve this deep golden hue.
Note that computer design and construction allows for the inclusion of certain design elements that cannot be produced using conventional building methods. This is one example where computers allow for the full exploration of a mechanical or functional design element.
The front and back outside surfaces of the body are cut very accurately to a prepared computer model. The neat trick here is that surfaces of the chambers are created by "offsetting" the outer surfaces. This means that thickness between the inside and outside of these organically shaped surfaces are precisely controlled, allowing precise experiments of the chamber surface thicknesses in the pursuit of ideal resonant qualities.
This is the inside of model Elise. With the body nearly empty, but with the outside surfaces tied together with these narrow rails, the guitar maintains the tonal characteristics of a solid-body but without the weight. Depending on the wood selection Elise can weigh as little as 5.75 pounds.
This guitar, model June, has an extremely light playing weight of 5.25 pounds....which makes this particular model one of the lightest fully wooden electric guitars available.
As a rule I design to eliminate material that doesn't contribute to stability, rigidity, sustain, and tone. The result is a guitar that is as light as possible yet remains very strong. Aviation engineering habits die hard.
Note the Bamboo body on this one. I made this one with a Bamboo neck as well. The tone on this guitar is surprisingly wonderful.
Very Light Playing Weight
Fretboard Integrity - Stretch Compensation - Fret Placement
Whether I finish the guitar myself or send it to one of my colleges you can expect the finest available finish on your Stuart Keith Guitar. I personally do highly polished nitrocellulose lacquer, catalyzed polyester, varnish, and natural oil finishes.
I offer color tints on the clear, polished finishes but not solid colors. Note on the bottom photo, however. I often employ a baking technique which can dramatically alter and improve the natural qualities of some woods. This Myrtlewood facing was baked to achieve a deep, golden brown characteristic that is simply not achievable another way.
I finished the guitar in the top two photos with nitro. The bottom guitar was finished with catalyzed polyurethane by Tony Fergusen of Nunica, MI., a master craftsman by any standard.