By Christopher Scapelliti
If luthier Tim White has anything to say about it, his Ridgewing guitar will be the future of travel guitars.
Or maybe guitars, period.
Built of carbon fiber, the Ridgewing is a completely modular full-size guitar that can be broken down for storage and travel and reassembled in a flash. The entire instrument can be carried in a small briefcase.
More than 30 years the making, the Ridgewing started life in 1981 as an experiment to make a full-size acoustic guitar that could be quickly and easily deconstructed and reconstructed. The goal was to find the minimum volume into which such an instrument could be broken down and stored.
White spent the next few years trying build the instrument using a range of materials, including a carbon-fiber frame that encased a fully inflated weather balloon, and—on a $500 bet with Dick Boak of Martin Guitars—a leather-bodied instrument that proved too heavy and was unable to vibrate freely.
By 1997, the basic design of the Ridgewing began to take shape around the model of a dragonfly wing. After figuring out how to make the intricate grill work for the body, White was able to create a prototype that could be packed into a space the size of a violin case.
Dubbed the Chrysalis, the guitar had great acoustic tone and a piezoelectric pickup in the bridge to allow amplification. Its modular design even allowed it to be converted into an eight-string Mando-Cello or 12-string guitar.
The Chrysalis got praise and press, appearing on the cover of Guitar Maker magazine in 2000. Unfortunately, large-scale production was impossible due to the complexity of many parts, including the grill. After making 14 prototypes, White shelved the project.
But he never stopped thinking about it. Over the next dozen or so years, new design and materials technologies began to make the creation of his guitar possible.
In 2012, White created his company Ridgewing to continue R&D for the guitar. He and business partner Arjun Mendhi were joined in 2014 by a team of designers and craftspeople. As of January of this year, the group had completed three Ridgewing prototypes from their small woodworking shop in New Boston, NH.
The company is launching at SXSW in Austin in March, where it will introduce a range of models that include features like self-tuning headstocks, golden grills, and bridges with built-in DSP and a preamp.
It’s a fascinating story, and you can read it all here.
Better still, you can hear the Ridgewing for yourself in the accompanying video, below.
Ridgewing is currently making guitars on a custom-order basis. To learn more, visit Ridgewing.com.