TEN QUESTIONS – Orphanage Guitars

Sometimes I get the opportunity to meet and talk to some very interesting people in the CAD world, and this year was no exception. This year, I met the Jonathon and Matt Harris, owners of Orphanage Guitars, at Autodesk University 2013 in Las Vegas.

Orphanage Guitars are using the Autodesk Product Design Suite to its full extent. So much so, Carl Bass, CEO of Autodesk, had Matt Harris on the mainstage at Autodesk University 2013,  demonstrating one of their guitars designed using Autodesk Fusion 360.

As you all well know, as a singer and songwriter, I have a love of guitars and music so to meet accomplished musicians who have taken their entrepreneurial skills forward using Autodesk products is manna from heaven for me, so I took the time to run the Not Just CAD! Ten Questions past them in a recent interview.


1. What was your first experience with guitars?

JH – My first experience was in the 3rd or 4th grade, when I traded in my go-kart for a Cort guitar, which was a Stratocaster replica.

MH – Years later, when Jonathon (JH) was away with his girlfriend, I started playing the Cort (guitar) and buying guitar tab books (such as Metallica). This, in turn, motivated JH to play more and we started a band with a mutual friend.

JH – I played bass guitar with Matt (MH) playing lead guitar in our band, Gypsy Love Hound. Later on, we were in a band together for six years called Aunt Dick – named affectionately after one of the band member’s room-mate’s relatives.

2. What motivated you to build guitars?

MH – Autodesk Fusion 360 Beta….it all made sense.

3. How did you fall in to using Autodesk products?

MH – I started using Autodesk products straight out of school, working for DEKA R&D. At the time, the present CEO of Autodesk had a close relationship with the company. I became one of the CAD experts in the company and then moved to work with an Autodesk reseller, M2 Technologies. I continued to use Autodesk products as part of my own design consultancy, Redpoint Studios, and we’re continuing with Orphanage Guitars.

JH – I worked with an architectural firm, Karlsberger, who were originally using Microstation, but then switched to AutoCAD around 2000. The workflow then switched over to Autodesk’s 3D Studio MAX for architectural visualization projects and sun studies. I also use Autodesk products in my own web/visualization consultancy, Demo38.

4. How and when did Autodesk approach you?

MH – Autodesk caught wind of my firm, Redpoint Studios (www.redpointstudios.com). We were  using every tool available in the Product Design Suite, which was unique. From there, we were invited to join the Fusion 360 team at AU2012 to have discussions about the future of Fusion 360.  My company, Redpoint, was highlighted in an Autodesk documentary and we made four guitars for Autodesk, one of which was demonstrated at Autodesk University 2013.

5. What sort of workflow do you use to create an Orphanage Guitar?

MH – I start sketching using Sketchbook Designer, and then use that design as an underlay in Fusion 360. I then model up the body in Fusion 360 and bring that geometry in to Inventor, using my pre-built Inventor templates to virtually “route” the guitar body for pickups and electronics. From Inventor, I take the model in to my CAM program to machine it up. At any point, I can render the guitar in Showcase for visualization.

6. What sort of marketplace are you aiming for?

JH – The boutique guitar market for players who want their own style and can’t find exactly what they’re looking for. Our guitars will start in the $2,500 range – we allow the player to design their own guitar body shape, configure any specification for their neck, spec their own woods, choose their own top wood, spec any electronics, any hardware…  All customs come with a 3d digital proof which they can spin, pan and zoom to preview their guitar before going to CNC.

7. How do you want to take the business forward?

MH – One side of me wants to do the organic process; word of mouth, old school – then after that, once our internal processes have settled – push the online configurator that is about ready to launch.

JH – We have a mix of orders to fulfil right now with a lot under the hood still being determined.

MH – We are working on a hollow body design right now, and also getting help with manufacturing from established luthiers while building the business.

8. Can you see yourselves partnering with other guitar manufacturers?

MH – We would be open to it, we could build partnerships helping to automate some of their processes. Also by making other parts for other guitar builders.

JH – Assisting other luthiers with 3D digital scanning – to help them produce complex parts repeatedly and accurately.

9. How big do you see the company in 5 years?

MH – As big as our wives will let us! (Laughter). Our ultimate goal would be making 30-40 guitars a month.

JH – We want it to grow over time and want to work together.

10. Which would be the most perfect guitar player to have as a client?

MH – Dave Navarro – a cool guy, with a lot of creative influence on the process. I respect his style, very rhythmic….and would like to think my playing style is similar. I also wouldn’t mind making guitars for Miley Cyrus and Bieber (lots of laughter).

JH – It would have to be a group…Nine Inch Nails – the drama, the soundtrack, the aggression, I love the range.

So there it is. Ten questions with the great guys from Orphanage Guitars.

You can find them on their website – www.orphanageguitars.com.

Here’s to a great 2014!

Happy CADD’ing!


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