The Plasticaster: Story of my 3D Printed Guitar

by Jim
3d printed guitar

When the COVID-19 lockdowns hit, I found myself working from home.  Since I was stuck at home, I decided that I needed a project to work on.  Like many people, I found myself working from home.  Working from home allowed me to run big, long running print jobs on my 3d printer without having to leave it unattended.  I had recently gotten interested in learning to play the guitar, so what better way to learn than to make my own 3d printed guitar.

3d Model:

3d model

3d model of the plasticaster

I knew I wanted a Stratocaster style guitar, but I also knew that I don’t have the 3d modeling chops to create a model myself.  I fired up Thingiverse and found a few models of Stratocaster bodies.  The guitar I wound up printing was a honeycomb stratocaster based on this 3d model created by Conceptor.

Modifications:

I made the following modifications to the model before printing it on my printer.

  • Joined all the pieces together and re-sliced them into smaller pieces
  • Added holes & pegs to assist with alignment when gluing pieces together

I sliced the model into smaller pieces to account for the smaller build plate of my Ender 5 than what the model was originally designed for.  I also moved the seams where the pieces would glue up to minimize glue joints underneath the strings where the tension from the strings would be the highest.

Printing & Print Time:

Plasticaster part on the printer

I printed the guitar in Silk Blue PLA available at Amazon.

Here are the settings I used for my Ender 5.

  • .2mm layer height
  • 220 degree nozzle temp
  • 60 degree bed temp
  • 20% infill for most of the body
  • 40% infill underneath the strings (higher stress from the string tension)
  • Gyroid infill pattern

This took over 150 hours of printing time spread across 9 pieces and used between 2 and 2.5 kg of filament.

Assembly:

I sanded the mating surfaces and assembled them using super glue.  I intentionally did not sand the surfaces of the guitar, since I wanted the look of the layer lines, however if I were to make another one I would probably sand the whole things since it would be more comfortable.

Guitar Components:

It took me some time to figure out what I wanted to do for the electronics and neck of the guitar.  My main two choices were either:

  • buy each component individually
  • buy a beat up guitar and scavenge all the parts.

I priced out components individually and found that it would be cheaper to buy a cheap working guitar rather than individual pieces.  This was the biggest delay in finishing the guitar.  Finding a cheap guitar to tear apart took several months.  When the COVID-19 lockdowns hit, people were suddenly stuck at home with nothing to do.  This resulted in most local music shops being cleaned out of affordable guitars.   Eventually I found a Mexican made Stratocaster on the site Reverb.  I ordered it fully intending to strip the parts for my build.  But as soon as it was delivered, I knew that I liked the guitar too much to tear it apart, so back to my reverb searches I went.  Eventually I found an inexpensive Stratocaster clone that fit the bill.

3d printed body with donor guitar

Plasticaster body with the donor guitar

donor guitar

Stripping down the donor guitar

Everything fit together mostly as planned.  During a dry fit of the electronics, I found that a one of the pick guard screws fell on a glue joint. In order to not split the joint I left that screw out of the finished assembly.

mockup of 3d printed guitar

Testing the fit of the neck

I had to sand the sides of the neck in order to make it fit into the neck pocket of the guitar properly.  This did not affect tuning at all since I sanded the sides of the neck, not the end of it.  I did have some screw heads strip out during assembly.  A quick run to the hardware store for some better quality screws and everything was fine.

Finishing Touches:

Waterslide Decals

Waterslide Decals

 

I ordered some waterslide decal paper and made myself a set of decals for the headstock.  The name ‘Plasticaster’ is a nod to the original design of the Stratocaster. As a tribute to Fender, I found a custom font that mimics the ‘Fender’ script and created my own headstock decal.

I plan to write a bit about using waterslide decals sometime soon.  Keep an eye out for that if you are interested.

Here is a breakdown of the costs and time of my 3d printed guitar:

  • Parts guitar: $160
  • 3d printer filament: $60
  • Misc. screws: $20
  • Printer time: 150 hours
  • Assembly time: 8 hours (first time building a guitar, so I took my time on this one)
Finished 3d printed guitar

Finished Guitar

Overall, I wanted to make this guitar as a conversation starter, and to answer the question ‘can I print a guitar’.   That was why I went inexpensive on the electronics.  I did not want to invest a lot of money into high end components if the guitar was going to rip itself apart from the tension of the strings.  I can say that 6 months later everything is holding together just fine.  The tuning stability is about what you can expect from a guitar with unbranded tuning machines.  At some point down the line I may upgrade this guitar with high end electronics and locking tuning machines, but for now it is good enough.

If anyone has any questions about making a 3d printed guitar, feel free to leave a comment or use the contact form to ask me anything.

 

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1 comment

darlina March 5, 2021 - 12:24 am

Incredible story there. What happened after? Take care! Dorie Justinian Voltz

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