Student tackles guitar challenge in shop class


It took blood, sweat, tears, and more hours than he could count, but he's walking out of the IA classroom with something he can strum.
Last fall, Christopher Struck, a Grade 12 student at Lake Lenore School, had an idea. He decided he wanted to build an electric guitar, from scratch, in Industrial Arts (IA) class.
So he approached his IA teacher J. R. Dingwall about it. Struck knew Dingwall had a background in guitar-making, and he thought he could convince the teacher to let him try.
Dingwall had built a guitar before, he told the Journal, and he had worked with Dingwall Designer Guitars in Saskatoon, the family business, building primarily bass guitars. So he knew what Struck was up against.
"I warned him it was a lot of work," Dingwall said.
The teacher informed the student that it would take at least 150 hours, and that he would have to work on it both inside and out of class to get it finished in one school year.
"He asked if I was serious," Struck said, and if Struck was ready for a ton of extra work.
"I said yes," he said simply.
Because for Struck, he wasn't just building a guitar. He was getting a jump on his future dream job.
Building musical instruments is what Struck wants to do with his life - well, it's one of the things he wants to do with his life.
Struck has played guitar for a long time, and owns two other electric guitars as well as four acoustics.
"I've always been into instruments," he said.
He plays, he writes his own music, and he wants to eventually start his own band, in addition to building his own instruments.
He plays rock, blues, country - basically everything, he said.
"I'm trying to get a good, rounded playing style," he noted.
Also among his future plans is to become a recording engineer.
He has some software at home, he explained. "I've played around with it. It's pretty cool," he said.
Struck saw the first step on his future career path as building that first guitar, so with the help of Dingwall, he set out to do just that.
It's not simple, building a musical instrument like this one. It takes talent, and dedication. Struck had to do all the planning for this piece, drawing it out on bristleboard, then making templates out of medium density fibreboard (MDF) before starting on the final product.
Then there was the whole electronic component to add. Struck had done some electrical work before, he said, "but nothing as intense as this."
Along the way, Struck also had to build some tooling - something that will benefit other students who, in the future, may want to take on this challenge.
"It probably won't be long until another kid will try it," Struck said.
Almost everything to make this guitar was done by hand. The only power tools used were a router and a bandsaw, Dingwall said.
And it did take time - from the start of the school year until the beginning of June, every single shop class, and almost every noon hour and spare class - but it's done.
And it's pretty.
The white, flying-V guitar sparkles nearly as much as Struck's eyes when he talks about it.
"Electronically, it works perfectly," he said, holding it almost reverently in his hands.
"I'm very glad I did it," he said.
Though he took photos of the guitar along the way, Struck said he can hardly imagine a time when it wasn't complete - though he had just added the final touches the week before.
"I was breathless when I first saw it," he admitted.
Then he played it for some people at school.
"I said, 'holy crap, it sounds good'," he smiled.
He painted it white, he explained, because he's seen white guitars like it on stage, and liked the look of it.
And he chose black hardware - pickups, knobs, bridge, tuners and string tree - to set it off.
There were some tricky moments along the way. They messed up a little, they admit, when putting the neck together and had to start again. But it worked out for the best. Struck is far happier with how the second neck looks - due to the grain of the wood - than he was with the first.
The neck they made out of maple, Struck noted, and the body was made out of alder, so it's extremely light.
Playing this light guitar is clearly a joyful experience for Struck.
"It gives... a good low, dirty sound," he grinned. "You can really... pretty much scream on the lower strings," he said.
Dingwall is obviously proud of his student's ambition.
He has known others who have built guitars in their Grade 12 year, he said, but he wasn't sure, at the beginning, how it was going to work. After all, he's only at Lake Lenore School every other school day - he also teaches in St. Brieux.
But Struck was dedicated.
"He worked great independently," Dingwall said. "He put his nose down and stayed with it. Once I saw his work ethic, and how dedicated he was, there was no doubt in my mind it would be done by the end of the school year."
Not even the few days of job action by teachers was able to slow Struck down. Dingwall simply gave him instructions which he followed while on his own.
"As a teacher, I'm pretty impressed," Dingwall said.
This was the first time he'd ever instructed a student doing anything like this, and with the limited time he gets to spend at the school, it was good to see it turn out successfully.
"He took to the tools very quickly... (and) was continually asking questions to find ways to do things," he said.
He definitely saw growth in Struck as a woodworker within the past year, he added.
Struck, Dingwall feels, gained an appreciation for the different kinds of hardwoods, and their different properties.
"He saw wood is as individual as the person making the guitar," Dingwall said.
This guitar, though it was Struck's first to build, will not be his last, he promises. He plans to build a guitar of each kind, and name it after someone close to him.
The flying V, for instance, he has named Ashley, for his girlfriend.
He already has some other names picked out for future guitars.
Struck is the son of Eldon and Naomi Struck of Lake Lenore.

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