KOZM Guitars – Digital Lutherie

Last week I discovered KOZM Guitars from Portland, Oregon (USA), and after looking through the description on how they use CAD/CAM to design and build guitars, I invited them to send me a detailed background story.

I found their unique approach quite exciting, and I hope you do to:

KOZM Guitars in Portland, Oregon (USA) is single-handedly trying to bring electric guitars into the 21st century. Just as the designs of trains, planes, automobiles and practically everything else have changed since the 1950s, KOZM is intent on bringing guitar-making (aka lutherie) into the modern age.

Baffled that the vast majority of guitars today are still basically flat and two dimensional (the Fender Telecaster and Gibson SG being the best examples), Jeff Kosmoski, the company’s driving force wondered what guitars might look like if guitar-making hadn’t fallen into a time warp, and actually embraced modern manufacturing techniques. What if guitars weren’t made to resemble flat planks, but the design was free to become “organic”, with natural curves and seductive 3D surfaces?

Wood block prepared for manufacturing the guitar

After the clamps are removed and the glue has cured, the block gets clamped to the router table to be machined.

As a mechanical engineer and product designer (as well as an avid guitar player) Jeff is well versed in designing with modern 3D CAD programs (Computer Aided Design). He is also well aware of the tremendous power and flexibility of modern, computer controlled milling machines, and their ability to flawlessly replicate complex geometry and surfaces. Armed and dangerous, he used this mindset as his creative springboard for designing guitars.

Front side of guitar body after first machining operation

Front side of guitar body after first machining operation.

His first several guitars were admittedly “over the top”. “I figured that if I was going to explore this idea, why not aim high and start with a VERY challenging target – the female anatomy.” Although creating the natural curvature and topography WAS challenging, and a great immersion into the nuances of designing “non-flat” guitars, he wondered if the female anatomy concept was a little “too racy” – even for rock n rollers. As a result, he decided to ratchet-down his next designs to something less controversial and go with more main-stream sensibilities.

Front of guitar after further machining

Front of guitar after further machining.

As a result, KOZM now has three models that have slowly evolved; the AW5, the BB2 and the MT3. (Details about the guitars can be found on the KOZM Guitars website, kozmguitars.com). Because the bodies look so organic and unconventional, people often ask if the they’re actually made of wood – and seem surprised when told they’re made of conventional guitar tone-woods, such as ash, alder, maple, mahogany and walnut. His selection of pickups, tuners and bridge hardware is also fairly conventional, employing components by Dimarzio, Gotoh and Hipshot.

Body flipped over for machining on back side

Body flipped over for machining on back side.

He’s very happy with the way they all sound and play – and look. But as a designer and engineer, he’s ever-tempted to tweak, modify and experiment with his designs. Even though his current models are fairly mature, he envisions them all continuing to evolve and morph over time.

Initial backside machining

Initial backside machining.


After final machining operation and light sanding

After final machining operation and light sanding.

And this is good. Jeff believes he has only exposed the tip of the 3D-guitar iceberg. Yes, there will always be a place in the musical world for vintage, 1950-esque, flat-bodied electric guitars – but he hopes the guitar-buying public will begin to awaken from its stupor and begin to demand guitars with a more modern look – and just possibly, even some sex appeal.

The finished guitar after adding all the parts

The finished result after adding all the parts.

For more information visit kozmguitars.com/digital_lutherie.html

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