Guitar Stand Contest
September 4, 2004
Here are the results of the first WoodCentral Craftsmanship Awards competition: the Guitar Stand Contest. Entrants were asked to design and build a guitar stand that would look good and function well. They submitted photos of their entries along with brief explanations detailing materials, methods and design decisions. Judging was done by Lee Grindinger, Richard Jones and me. We judged the pieces based on design and craftsmanship. Design considerations include function, originality, choice of materials, engineering and appearance. Craftsmanship includes how nicely the piece is made and finished: tight joints, fair curves, surface preparation, appropriate and well-executed finishes, tolerances, etc.
Our sponsor, European Hand Tools, graciously provided our prizes for the competition, including a set of six Two Cherries bench chisels, a Lynx brand handsaw and a Kell honing guide.
... Ellis Walentine, Webmaster
Bainbridge Island, WA
"I was recently commissioned to design and build four guitar and four ukulele stands for some very special handmade instruments. These stands were meant to stand on their own as a sculpture yet be functional in their ability to display safely these fine instruments.
"The curved triangular base is very stable and is made of alternative laminates of Oregon walnut and Honduras mahogany. The neck of the stand is cut out of solid walnut with a center laminate of mahogany. The use of mahogany was to give a reddish hue to complement the Koa in the instruments.
"The neck of the instrument is held snugly by the mouth of the stand. All in all, the design functions as intended. As with most of my pieces, I glued up all the laminations with West System Epoxy. The finish is hand-rubbed, using OS Hardwax oil."
LG: Beautiful, just beautiful; your curves compliment the shapes of guitars nicely. The woods give a good color for a piece of work like this. Splendid work!
RJ: I dubbed this the Nest of Cobras. Eye-catchingly attractive. The stands were made to set off the instruments and intended to stand alone as sculptures. Flowing sinuous lines. Technical sophistication including lamination and difficult but elegantly executed joinery. I'm fairly sure the construction of the long vertical member either was or could have been less wasteful than might at first appear. Wide planks could have been glued together and two or three of the shapes won out of the glue-up. The designs could be batch produced and the joinery jigged up to reduce cost.
EW: Elegant in its simplicity, this design is also economical of materials, minimalist and modern in its form, and beautifully designed for the function at hand. The curves are fair and nicely engineered, and the execution and finish appear flawless.
"This guitar stand was built for my middle daughter. She wanted something that was sturdy enough to hold her guitar, yet light enough to be portable for her frequent trips to church to play. Since I love the lines of Shaker furniture, I got to thinking, if the Shakers built guitar stands, what would they look like? Here is my interpretation.
"Starting with the cyma leg popular in Shaker design, I added the necessary elements to hold a guitar safely and securely. The guitar rests on two turned pegs covered in felt. The post of the stand ends in a likeness of the head of a guitar, the overall effect mimicing the shape of the guitar itself. The neck is cradled in a felt covered fork. Felt was also added along the post to protect the back of the instrument.
"The stand is made of walnut, stained with a walnut aniline dye, and finished with three coats of gel varnish. It is angled at 24 degrees from vertical so that gravity will hold the instrument in place. The three legs ensure a stable platform even on uneven surfaces. One feature of this stand is that the weight of the stand will keep all in place - i.e. the limit of the leg's travel is also its operating position. For additional ease of use, a locking knob is located on the right side enabling the stand to be lifted and moved with one hand while keeping the rear leg in its operating position. The rear leg folds flat for compact storage and ease of transportation. The entire design was thought out to provide a stand that can be used with a minimal amount of fuss for musicians with their hands full."
LG: Lovely and functional design. The cyma legs extend a bit too far beyond the body of the guitar and I feel as though your design could benefit from narrowing this dimension. A nice choice of wood.
RJ: Inspired by a Shaker leg form the finished piece is visually spare, elegant, clean and it's neatly made. My one concern is the possibility that the leg might break off where the grain is short around the curve in the leg -- the same unease that occurs in any piece of furniture with this type of leg. There are no parts to lose when the stand is folded up, a plus point.
EW: The simple Shaker styling of this stand complements the shape of the guitar nicely while not competing with it too much visually. The knob mechanism on the folding leg is a nice touch and neatly done. I like the ability of the stand to fold for storage.
"I play guitar and mandolin and have started torturing the world with fiddle as well. Since I play in a band that occasionally performs in public (and sometimes in crowded stage areas), I needed to come up with a way to hold all three instruments in an economical amount of space and that would collapse at least partially, for transport. While I may exhibit moments of magic or brilliance in creativity, I cannot, in all fairness, claim the complete design of my guitar stand as my own. I saw one once that had been made for fellow musicians. It was old and beat up, out of plywood and some oak, with peeling, red velvet contact paper as instrument cushioning, black nylon webstraps with velcro to hold instruments in place, and a piece of wire to help keep the stand from collapsing during use. They used theirs for a guitar and two fiddles. Since a mandolin is about the same size/weight as a fiddle, I figured the design idea would work fine for my purposes.
"The main uprights, which connect at the top with a gate hinge, and long feet are alder (hey--Alder for Adler!), as are the guitar neck brackets. I chose alder since it is strong, but lightweight; when you schlep three instruments around, every ounce counts. The long feet connect to the uprights in a mortise-and-tenon joint, draw-bored with a walnut dowel. The little bottom brackets for the two small instruments are cherry with walnut dowel pegs for pivots. The flip-down brackets for the small instrument necks are cherry and mahogany with walnut dowels for pivots. The lower rear brace and instrument 'stays' are walnut. I made my own little mahogany and walnut bolts that screw into T-nuts to hold things in place. There are two walnut dowels that protrude out the top rear for fiddle bow, hanging kazoo, ukelele, or any other small addition to my musical menagerie. Instrument contact points are covered with suede leather strips. (I used a new glue formula from Liquid Nails called Perfect Glue #1.) The finish is a coat or two of thinned tung oil, followed by several coats of wiped on shellac.
"Overall, I am extremely pleased with how this came out. When wear and tear forces me to rebuild or repair, I will work at getting the brackets to collapse a bit more neatly for transport."
LG: What do you get for a woman who plays everything? A place to put it. I think your design is very clever. The instruments are all well supported and the entire piece breaks down fairly well for transportation. Your focus was on the engineering, less so on the aesthetics. It would be nice to get away from the linear feel of the base by adding a few curves, perhaps working out a few proportions of the pieces to better the balance.
RJ: Not as visually elegant as my selected winner perhaps, nor as neatly executed but packed with practicality. All the parts fold up for transport and there are no loose bits to get lost. A well thought out solution.
EW: Joanne, you went above and beyond with your solution to the design problem. Functionally, the stand is a success: it holds your instruments at the ready and collapses for storage. Aesthetically, I think the stand would have benefitted from a bit more styling.
Foothills of Mt. Level, IL
"My design intent was to make an artistic interpretation of a banjo. The base is round with five full thickness poplar inlays that represent twanging strings. The carved band represents the metal elements of a banjo. The base was sized so that the carved rim would reveal around the banjo resonator. The ebony moon piece on the stand's top fits between the banjo tuning pegs to secure the banjo. The stripes on the curly maple neck represent frets.
"I used several kinds of wood in this piece: cherry, walnut, maple, poplar and ebony. My design balances the various woods in harmony. The ebony pegs that support the banjo are repeated in the top to secure the tuning pegs. The cherry square in the base is a contrasting shape to the round base. The cherry is repeated at the top with the cherry burl 'tuning head.' I left the natural bark on the back as a design statement. The curly maple of the neck is repeated as the middle band of the base.
"The base is basically a large segmented turning. This is my very first attempt at a segmented turning piece so my nerves were on edge! The base is 16 in. in diameter, the maximum for my lathe. It is made up of curly cherry with full thickness poplar and walnut inlays and a middle band of curly maple. The front was hollowed to a concave to receive the convex back of the real banjo. I hand-carved the band while the piece was on the lathe."
LG: Wow, you put a lot of thought and work into your base and it shows. I love the front, it's quite beautiful. I think there could be issues with wood movement down the road due to cross grain problems like the cherry piece surrounded by the walnut. The entire base appears a bit too upright and the absence of a fork to support the neck seems precarious. The curly maple was a great choice for the neck of your stand. Overall I really liked your design but felt the engineering could have been better.
RJ: A quite literal design interpretation. A banjo stand that looks like a banjo. This was made as a gift for his father who plays banjo. Thomas obviously had great fun making and turning the base (or banjo body) of glued up parts -- a variation of segmented turning with carving on the rim. Beautifully lively. The tuning head is a piece of burr-wany-edged cherry, and the base and head are linked with figured maple. You left the neck square in section. I wish you had shaped this neck at least slightly on the back face to 'blend' it in at the junctions with the body and the head.
EW: The amount of work you put into that body would make me want to not cover it up with a real banjo! It looks like that ebony detail in the tuning head is designed to keep the banjo from tipping left or right. I think I would have felt more secure with a more positive holder. I also worry a bit about the narrow stance. It wouldn't offer much resistance to something bumping into it from the side. Lovely work, though, and very creative and thoughtful use of materials.
"I designed this for my Telecaster, but a variation of this design would work equally well for any of my acoustics. In fact, I will be doing a variant on this design later this year for each of the guitarists in our church's praise band. Each of those stands will be able to hold electrics, acoustics, or a bass guitar.
"One goal I had was to make it from materials I had on hand, and I did not have big enough pieces to make legs that would fit my largest model acoustic. Hence the decision to make it for strictly the Fender. The instrument is held by gravity, combined with friction. The guitar rests in two foam rubber strips found inside the notches on the front of the legs, while the back rests on the six clear rubber bumps that are located where the little guitar would have a bridge. I prefer this stand design to many others I have- including the neck suspended and neck supported designs. The idea for the suspension came originally from a metal folding stand I use when performing. The size of the back is such that it is easily recognizable as a guitar, yet is small enough to disappear when a real guitar is put in its place.
"The body was made from a book matched chunk of flame maple I found on my scrap shelf. It was originally 4/4, but I split it in half to try out a resaw jig I built as part of a mantle project. Then I book matched it and joined with biscuits. The shape of the legs was decided by the shape of the 4/4 scrap I found. It had a long slope as it had been from a crotch joint. I sanded out the bark, and that was what was left. I just notched for the guitar and the stand back. The neck is made from a single piece of wenge I had been saving for such a project. The mounting is simple Velcro. The pick guard is a piece of 1/8 inch cocobolo. All the parts were finished individually with 2-5 coats of semi-gloss oil-based poly spar varnish."
LG: Your use of the woods is terrific. It's a simple design that relies on figured woods and it works. However, I feel the legs are too long and protrude too far in back. This appears to be a function of the angle at which the instrument rests in the stand and eliminating the fork probably necessitates this angle to get enough friction on the rubber bumps.
RJ: Here is a quite literal interpretation. It looks like a guitar. It holds a guitar. Beautiful woods and the varnish finish highlight the grain. Simple and practical. It works well visually except the two feet do rather dominate. Tom says he intends to make several variations for his church choir. Perhaps folding feet aren't too important for occasional use on stage, but it might be worth having a look at this possibility.
EW: A showpiece with or without a guitar on board! Great looking wood and nice execution. I would like to see something more positive than those six little bumpers to keep the guitar from being knocked over sideways.
"My problem with most commercial guitar stands is that they are not particularly portable. They fold up but are still clumsy. I wanted one that would truly fold flat.
"There are two folding table leg braces that sit in recesses routed into the legs. The upper cross piece for the neck support is simply a friction fit with screws at each end. It flips up and down and stays where you put it by friction. The part that the guitar sits on is turned and is an itegral part of the lower legs. The lower cross piece is attached with through mortises, as is the short bar that extends the neck support out from the upper cross piece.
"The C-shaped neck cradle is made of solid wood, but it's strong. I think you would have to hit it pretty hard to break it. I gave it a little stress test with a clamp and it came out OK. It's a glued-up 4/4 chunk of red oak, attached with a through tenon. There's another through tenon that attaches it to the upper cross piece at the back.
"I'm trying to figure out what kind of padding would be best for the support surfaces. I'm leaning toward the sticky back velvet stuff you would use to line jewelry boxes. If I finish the piece at all it will be just a couple coats of water based poly."
LG: What you have done is build a model. You have accomplised the folding capacity and you've figured out how to support the instrument. Now you need to develop the idea into a sound design. Currently your design has racking issues. It has issues in the rotating joints concerning stiffness and aesthetic issues with the plain-ness of the wood. It does need a finish and it does need some embellishments.
RJ: Rob's design was spare and practical. A hinged frame with a pair of feet and two stays and a rotating top rail with instrument neck support. The sheer utilitarian nature and lack of ornamentation of the piece is functionally very attractive. There's nothing precious or affected about the design. A musician could take this piece on the road and beat the hell out of it and it wouldn't complain. I think if you found a locking solution for the top rail to replace the friction hold of a couple of screws into end grain you've got something interesting on your hands. And it doesn't need to be wood construction.
EW: This is an no-frills instrument stand that solves the immediate design problem as well as the portability problem. Appearancewise, it could benefit from a livelier choice of woods and a finish, and maybe something more elegant than the brass supports you chose. If you construe the design problem primarily in terms of function and cost, though, this is a winner.
Colorado Springs, CO
"This project would not have been possible without the help of my father in law Gilbert Biolchini who has an awesome wood shop and enough knowledge and expertise to make almost anything out of wood. This design was a collabration between Gil and myself. I'm glad he let me help!
"As a working musician, I've always been frustrated by the state-of-the-art in guitar floor stands. Generally, they are fabricated out of tubular steel. Not only are they flimsy -- quite frankly, they're ugly. I'm of the opinion that fine guitars not only sound great, but they are indeed works of art, and as such, deserve floor stands that reflect their inherent beauty. Stands made of materials other than wood are unacceptable in my world.
"Starting with a blank sheet of paper, a freshly sharpened 2H pencil and a grade school compass, I (we) began to sketch out ideas to solve the problem of ugly and unstable floor stands. Using the dimensions of my prize Gibson J-200 (formerly owned by Graham Nash of CSN&Y fame) I drafted dimensions sufficient to support this jumbo acoustic---the largest of acoustic designs. I felt that if my stand would support this guitar, then it would handle Dreadnaught, Parlor and various other smaller designs with ease.
"I wanted to design a stand that was not just simply beautiful but also very stable; and, it had to look and feel like musical art, if that's possible! The materials I chose were black walnut for the overall structure and a combination of oak and black walnut dowel rods for connectivity. I felt the richness of the woods and the contrasting colors matched that of most guitars. In order to have the stand "say" music, I (we) integrated elements of the musical treble clef in the design, hence the scrolling. It's not intended to be a treble clef, rather, it's intended to invoke the design of the clef.
"The dimensions of the stand were made wide enough (10.5") and long enough (15") to assure a large footprint for stability. The back height (13") front height (8") and bottom rest angle were constructed to create a canteliver effect for excellent stability in a compact package. My thought was that there would be no need for a neck support if the base was sufficiently elegant design.
"Another design imperative was transportability. When I travel to gigs, space is always at a premium, so I wanted a stand that could be broken down to conserve room in the van. In order to achieve this, I connected the sides of the stand with dowel rods secured with gluing dowels (minus the glue!) The stand can be assembled/disassembled using moderate thumb/finger pressure. When disassembled, the stands takes up very minimal space. To protect the finish of the guitar, all touch points are covered with adhesive felt."
LG: In some respects I liked your stand the most. I think you had a great idea and if uniqueness were the sole basis for judgement you'd be right up there. Having said that I must add that your engineering relys upon weak wood direction. The narrow strips that support the structure are too often short grain and weak. If you could find a way to retain the aesthetics of your design but beef up the strength by eliminating the narrow short grains you'd have a terrific design.
RJ: Your entry indicated a need for the stand to be collapsible as you're a practicing musician who is on the road quite often. You described and identified faults with commonly available guitar stands. I was struck by the economy of the end result -- no neck extending up into the air to get caught by wires and the like. I was intrigued by the treble clef or volute motif. I have two concerns with your design. Firstly, the volute (stylised treble clef) cutout rather weakens the structure and the rear of the stand might 'carrot' off. Secondly, the assembly/disassembly relies upon easily lost dowels used to hold it all together. If you can find a way of incorporating the motif, additional strength at the perceived weak point, and a neater folding or collapsing solution I think you have a very good design in the making.
EW: Clever design, Rob, and although it holds that Jumbo nicely, I question how it would hold an electric or a thinner acoustic without allowing them to tip backward unacceptably. The other concern is with the very lack of a neck support that you considered a benefit. Without something more than felt to resist tipping, I would be very afraid of knocking a prized guitar sideways to the ground. I also echo Richard's comments about the short grain everywhere and the possibility of losing parts.
"I built this stand for my talented younger cousin. He had the classic small portable stand and I felt he needed something a little nicer to display his guitar at home. This stand is intended to be used as a display for a guitar and also as a piece of furniture. It is by no means small and portable.
"I dimensioned, jointed, and planed the walnut with power tools and glued it up to get thicker planks for shaping. I did not have any particular plan in mind. I just knew I wanted to incorporate some sort of bent wood and hand shaping into the stand. The idea of the hand-shaped prongs (for lack of a better word) that hold the guitar and the steam bent back came from seeing and reading about Sam Maloof and Hal Taylor. Both are chair makers that do a lot of hand shaping, and their backs are all some sort of bent slats. The rest of the stand was made in such a way to support both an acoustic (relatively light) or an electric guitar. Therefore, I chose to give the stand a bigger base than what I would have for just an acoustic.
"I recessed 3 tiger-eye gemstones into the stand. One is located front and center and the other two are located at the top and bottom of the bent back brace. I sanded everything down to 220 grit and applied a gel walnut toner. I then applied three coats of satin polyurethane, sanding lightly between coats."
LG: Wow, only one and a half years working wood? You've done well! Embellishmnets and form come as one understands the structure better. The structure is the skeleton upon which all else rests. Define your skeleton, then embellish it. You are well on your way.
RJ: Fairly new to woodworking, and I suspect the 'road travelled' has been quite long. The bent wood result is a bit 'notchy' and this is a reflection of the fairly rough cut former or jig. Try to marry the smoothness of the curve with the desired end result next time. I suspect the horns designed to carry the base of the guitar body might be a little fragile due to the amount of short grain at the 90º turns. The rear foot is placed further back than I think it needs to be from a practical point of view.
EW: For a beginning woodworker, this is an excellent effort. The most obvious flaw is the curvature of the bent back brace. Also, the shaping of the sculpted parts could benefit from some refinement, and the stance is quite deep. This adds to stability, no doubt, but it forces the stand to occupy a larger footprint than necessary.
"Here is my entry. It is made of cherry and walnut. I glued up the main hexagonal part of the stand with a birdsmouth bit mounted in router table to make staves for a glueup, leaving room in the center for the adjustment feature. Each stave is routed on only on side and trimmed to width on table saw.
"The lower rest consists of dowels inside foam pipe insulation and covered with a sleeve of ultra-suede sewed by my wife. It is all held on by the turned walnut balls."
LG: You found a nice way to extend the height of your stand. I think you could take this idea to the next level by using a figured wood that would draw attention to this feature. The legs and rests are turned nicely. You design is very linear since most components seem about the same size. Breaking this up by making the legs heavier than the rests or making the rests curved would benefit this style.
RJ: The digital photography I received let you down a bit. It was quite fuzzy on my screen and hard to see detail. I was intrigued by your turned solution. This reminded me of what I call the American rustic style. Windsor chair in feel from this Brits point of view, but not quite.
EW: This piece is an excellent example of spindle construction and a great solution to this design problem. The foam insulation idea probably provides the softest cushions of any of our contest entries. The extension mechanism is also a superb idea. We definitely have to work on your photo quality though.
ALL PRIZES COURTESY OF EUROPEAN HAND TOOLS
Boxed set of six
Two Cherries bench chisels
Lynx Brand hand saw
Kell honing guide
In addition, each entrant will receive a WoodCentral T-shirt for their efforts. Thanks to everyone for your interest and participation. Stay tuned for future contests!
. . . Ellis Walentine, Host