Peeking Into the DTKreAXE Keyhole

Behind the scenes of turning old acoustic guitars into something else entirely \\ by Emily Shelton

pic432 AS THE DAYS GET colder, night falls sooner. And as the evening when the clocks roll back gets closer, the deadline for readying contributions to Night\Shift approaches quicker and quicker.

Under the glow of post-work fluorescence, teams from 10 tech firms are still chipping away. Perhaps there are blueprints strewn across a boardroom table, or they’ve set up makeshift crafting stations, or there’s a spirited debate over what direction to take.

Are they workaholics? Night owls?

Not quite. The architects behind the DTKreAXE project will soon reveal their reimagined retired guitars at KPL’s central branch for #NightShift16.

The creative process experienced by many of the 10 teams involved have been similar. The first wave of ideas being considered were absolutely amazing, but often too grandiose for the available resources – be it time, money or logistical constraints.

Kat Austin of InTheChat reports that their team grappled with an age old debate: aesthetics vs function. Happily, in the end, they found a way to fuse the two angles “to create unexpected harmonies.” (Nice pun, InTheChat!)



Sortable was forced to jettison their first idea of covering the guitar with colourful, 3D-printed HTML tags that each of their contributors could define. In the end, they settled on (SPOILER ALERT)  CNC-trimmed puzzle pieces custom fitted over the old acoustic guitar body. They plan to sketch the lines of the guitar with LED strips. Check out the pic of their nascent blueprints.



cnc-wont-let-me-be safety-first-in-the-old-kitchen trimmed-pieces-with-rounded-edges

NetSuite gave up on trying to bend the wooden surface of their once-playable canvas and took a holistic approach to the challenge: “Throw enough rotating blades and white-hot plasma at a problem, and the grain becomes irrelevant.”

saw darcy

Night\Shift loves the scorched earth approach to challenges – forge on, NetSuite. Forge On.


The guitar’s irregular surface was a no-go for some of the Lani team’s ideas. But, undeterred, their team removed all appendages from the guitar and sanded, primed and painted the body.

Check out these progress pics – clean canvass achieved! Looks like about as much work as my last Pinterest project… (Translation: a lot more damned work than initially thought.)

InkSmith is coy about sharing before-after photos, but their description will make your imagination run wild with fantasies of technicoloured Marvel comics! “Given our company’s focus on 3D printing,” says InkSmith’s Jeremy Hedges, “we’re making the guitar into an epic collision between art, technology and fandom. When all is done, there will be more than 50 3D-printed pieces that jacket and modify the guitar.”

Oh, and it WILL PLAY A SONG! (Hint: Nobody wants him \ they just turn their heads)



A question was posed to all participating teams: Is the tech mind also an artistic mind?

The answer was unanimous: there are no differences between techie and creative minds.

“What matters is how much time someone has spent practising the expression of the creativity that everyone already has, or exploring to find the voice or medium that best lets that creativity shine,” was the response from team NetSuite (whose sketch of a guitar-shaped beast will soon be unleashed).

sketch claw

Sortable’s team answered by way of example, shining a spotlight on their DTKreAXE project lead, James Strang, who embodies the sort of technical-creative overlap you’ll find throughout the local startup ecosystem. He’s using his basement maker lab to provide the CNC and LED-soldering services on their remade axe (he even rigged up a homemade mini table routers from a dremel, flex shaft and spare nut in order to do detail cutting over the plexiglass… for art!), and in the office he helps handle customer support services by using code to solve problems.



With an eye to the future, InTheChat pointed out that the tech sector could benefit from more artistic talent, and the art world would benefit from appropriating more technology. “Over three centuries ago, there was not such a defined separation between science and art, and many new ideas were generated in the bustling intersection between these areas of study.”

No doubt the coordinated riffing of science, technology and art will be on display at the KPL’s central branch on Nov 5 th. Do not miss the unveiling of these fabulously reimagined guitars!