The importance of making a prototype

So I was hired to make a case for this thing. It’s a custom-made electric guitar amplifier. The guy who made it has no woodworking ability and was looking for someone to make a case for him. He really didn’t care how it was made, just so that the inner components could be taken out and put back in if need be.

I’ve never made an amplifier case before and wasn’t sure how to design one with a removable back so I knew that making a prototype would be a must. Scrounging around in my shop I looked for old pieces of scrap plywood and off cuts of hardwood. I gathered up some wood and made a simple box put together with pneumatic staples and drywall screws.

The idea for a removable back was simple. Screw on the top and route grooves down the side so that the back could slide up and out-of-the-way. The prototype worked and was easy to make which is what I was after because I wasn’t making a killing on the box anyway. More of a favor for my stepson’s friend.

Now it was time for the real deal which was easy because I already knew how to make it and already made my mistakes on the prototype. Anytime I make something, it’s usually the first time I make it. As I measure and cut and drill, I inevitably make a mistake or two. I often find out that the second time I make something, that I learned from my mistakes on the first one and make the second one so much better. It’s one of the reasons I cringe when people ask me to do commission work. I’d much rather have a product line of pieces that I already know how to build and build quickly.

I made the amplifier out of hardwood cherry and maple plywood for the front and back. It came out flawless! The only real differences I made between this and the prototype is I rounded over the edges to give it a better look, added a piece of wood to the sides so that I could move the screws that hold down the top away from the edges so they wouldn’t interfere with the round overs and eliminated the vent holes on the back panel.

The good thing was making the prototype only took about an hour but it saved me so much time and material working out some of the bugs in the design process. Plus I screwed up on the cheap throw away wood instead of ruining the nice expensive stuff.

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4 Replies to “The importance of making a prototype”

  1. Thanks Chris, there’s a chance that the guy will want me to make some more since he builds the components and knows of other musicians that he could sell them to. I don’t know anything about guitar amps but apparently the way this guy builds them, they are very high end amplifiers.

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