As a teenager, Jort Heijen started making guitars by hand with his dad in their garage. From there, his hobby soon became a lifelong passion.
Problem with that? Working full-time at a bike repair and rental shop in the Netherlands didn’t really scratch the itch to design and build guitars. So he made the decision to quit his steady job, pack up his things, and move to Amsterdam to attend Hout- en Meubileringscollege, a four-year vocational school devoted to woodworking and furniture building.
While in school, Heijen was first introduced to AutoCAD—and an entirely new world of guitar design possibilities unfolded before him. Instead of sketching and building by hand, he started designing entirely in AutoCAD and found the incredible options afforded by CNC machines.
“Once I start working on a guitar design in AutoCAD, I just can’t stop until it’s finished,” Heijen says in a new article on Inspired by AutoCAD. “It’s very addictive and like a puzzle that I want to solve. Its precision is key. The CNC machine can have incredibly small routers and I can make sure all the angles work in the software.
“With AutoCAD you can do much more than a sketch on paper,” he continues. “I can take anything in my head and make it real.”
After graduation, Heijen set up his own studio and guitar business called Red Layer Guitars. Now that he has debuted his first retail model he is embarking on a new goal: a cutting-edge, high-end lightweight guitar using ziricote wood and an intricate fret board much like an M.C. Escher design.
Heijen also continues to work at the school, now as a full-time technical instructor.
“When my students come to me with ideas for a new project and they struggle with mathematical issues, calculating angles, and visualizing distances, scale, and ratios, I always direct them to AutoCAD,” Heijen says. “I show them how easy it is to draw it in 2D and how it can be used to get a better picture.
“One of the best things is that AutoCAD forces you to be as precise as possible and challenges me to translate my ideas into a DWG file,” he continues. “Idea to AutoCAD to CNC is my creating progress. In Dutch I made it into a motto ‘Van idee naar 3D,’ which means ‘From idea to 3D’ except, in Dutch, it rhymes!”