Hopper

Ricky Hopper, sophomore in computer science, has built his own guitar. "I wasn't satisfied with any guitar out there and wanted something unique," says Hopper.

N.C. State students let their creativity shine in a number of unique ways. Rick Hopper, a sophomore in computer science, recently started building guitars.

After five years of playing the guitar, Hopper set his eyes on a new challenge: building his own. While this might seem like a daunting task for those not musically gifted, Hopper described the experience as rather enjoyable.

The whole process took Hopper roughly eight months. Hopper only spent a fraction of his free time on constructing his guitar. Hopper said if he had focused solely on building his guitar it would have taken only a few weeks, but his grades would have dropped drastically. 

Hopper said the few weeks it would take to build a guitar include roughly 80 to 100 hours of actual labor. The remaining time is spent waiting for glue to dry. 

Hopper was looking for a new guitar to upgrade to and after a disappointing search, decided to build his own electric guitar. 

Hopper built his guitar from African Padauk, a wood very similar to maple in terms of tonality. Hopper chose Padauk because it has an aesthetically-pleasing appearance in color and grain. Hopper found the Padauk after searching through three different wood stores.

Designing a guitar proved to be a long process. Hopper first had to design the different pieces while keeping the scale length where certain pieces would have to go in mind. With electric guitars, there are very few limitations in terms of design, as long as the controls still fit. Then you take the pieces and join them together into a big enough piece for the body and cut it out. The rest is mainly routing and sanding.

The control cavity has two channels going to each pick up through the body. This is the area of the guitar where the electrical work is stored. 

“Acoustic guitars have more limitations since the shape affects the sound,” Hopper said. “Basically, the good acoustic guitar designs have already been made. With electric, there is more room to be creative.”

Hopper said he wants to take what started as a hobby and turn it into a business. He wants to work with people to design their guitars. Instead of having a basic list of body shapes for people to choose from, Hopper’s goal is to let people help design their instrument. Hopper wants the customer to incorporate his or her own ideas into the final product.

Hopper described his minor in arts entrepreneurship as a great way to prepare for his future business plans.

“The minor basically teaches students how to market the arts in an effective way,” Hopper said.

Hopper is still working on how to design the neck of the guitar and wants to wait until he perfects that aspect before he starts building guitars for other people. In addition to designing the neck, Hopper also wants to have better access to a workshop.

Students interested in designing their own guitar can get into it the same way Hopper did. Hopper was able to find detailed instructions online that helped guide him through the process. Anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort — and who has access to a workshop — can build hir or her own guitar.