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Every year the guitar making students at Newark College put aside their normal studies and practical work, and take up their tools for the guitar race challenge.
Students are divided into 2 teams, and each team has to make a classical guitar in just 5 days. Although it's called a "race", the winning team is not the first to finish, but the one that produces the "best" guitar in the time.
They start at 9.00am Monday morning, and finish at 2.00pm on Friday.
A small amount of preparation is allowed before the official start of the race. The students can draw up the plans for their guitar, and glue up a few critical joints that would otherwise lead to delays while waiting for glue to dry. More importantly, they can draw up a schedule so that all team members know what jobs they should be doing, and when they need to be finished so that the next part of the process can start.
Just to give some idea of the challenge they face, it takes a professional luthier around 150 hours to make a guitar from scratch, and that doesn’t include glue drying times, which become critical when the whole instrument has to be finished in 5 days.
The guitar race is an opportunity for students to learn from each other and share ideas, and also gives the first year students an insight into the complete guitar-building process. This year, the students were allowed more freedom to try out new design ideas, rather than having them work closely to a plan provided by the tutors.
A few thoughts from the students:
“A great experience. It was really interesting to try new things and the team worked really well, so everyone was involved, allowing us to solve every problem we encountered.”
“Super stressful but enjoyable experience. A great opportunity for first years to see how the guitar comes together.”
“Great team building experience. I became closer friends with my team-mates – and the other team. A chance to try new things.”
“Good to see the whole guitar come together. Perhaps even more freedom to make what we like for the next race.”
Tutor James Lister said: “We’ve been running the guitar race for nearly 10 years now, and it’s always a positive experience for the students. This year we gave them more freedom over the design of the guitar – the only restriction was that it should be nylon-strung (classical) – and as you can see from the photos, both teams came up with unique designs for their instruments. The guitars were played and judged on Friday afternoon, and it was very difficult to pick a winner with such different instruments. Both played well, and sounded good, although it was difficult keeping the strings in tune so soon after they had been strung up for the first time, especially as both were fitted with traditional wooden tuning pegs rather than modern machine heads! In the end I chose the winner based on how well the guitar worked for me as a player.”