By Jordan Usatch
There are many models in the guitar industry that take notes and inspiration of guitars from the past. Like the musicians who play them, many designs tend to take a little bit of this model and a little bit of that model to make something new. It’s nice to see something that’s a cross up between two of your favorites; a Fano guitar that mixes a Les Paul’s woods with Fender scale length and finishes, a Caparison that’s equal parts Jackson and PRS… but it takes a luthier looking to be a visionary to create something from scratch both in design and sound.
Enter the Chrysalis guitar, designed and built by Tim White of the Chrysalis Guitar company in New Boston, New Hampshire. The Chrysalis is a modular guitar that comes apart and back together in less than a minute (that comes after practice, trust me). If you’re quick with a tuner, this guitar is good to play out of the attaché case in less than 90 seconds.
The travel aspect isn’t really the main point of the instruments design (to me, at least), but more so the components and what they’re made of are what make the guitar unique. The two-piece frame and neck are all made of an epoxy-graphite composite that make the guitar as sturdy as it is, and the string tension is brought on by a cam lever on the back of the headstock that raises up the headstock after you’ve attached it to the neck via the two metal rods.
On top of the composite body, the guitar is meant to be an acoustic instrument, and in lieu of a soundhole, the guitar comes with mylar balloons which are meant to be inflated, giving the guitar the air needed for the strings to resonate. By now, the glue which held the inflating tube to the balloons had come undone and the tube had to be held on by hand. Once the balloons were inflated and attached via the fabric and Velcro covering, the guitar took on the acoustic tone of a Dobro guitar. Not as loud as a true acoustic, but with the Fishman piezo bridge plugged in, it sounded excellent. Chords rang out nice and clear and there was a feel in the resonance that reminded me of playing other acoustics made of materials like carbon fiber.
This particular guitar is #4 out of the Chrysalis Company, which has since gone on to be Ridgewing Guitars. Ridgewings are guitars that are focused on being electrics and do not have any inflatable balloons for acoustic use. This Chrysalis (#4) was actually sold to infamous guitar salesman Ed Roman around the 2001 NAMM convention, and it has the serial along with an engraving for Ed on the headstock string retainer.
The Chrysalis, while no longer in production – made news as it was first unveiled as the “inflatable guitar.” Although that’s a stretch, the design earned the guitar its place in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Click here to read about Tim White and some more technical specifications on the Chrysalis design.