Lava Drops: Revisited
Normally, we don’t tend to revisit stories on this website. There are always new stories to tell and new innovations to explore, so we typically focus on those. Variety is the spice of life, and all that.
However, as a guitarist and long-time SOLIDWORKS user, I have been following Lithuanian guitar company Lava Drops since we interviewed them during the launch of the firm’s Kickstarter campaign back in June 2016.
Since then, Lava Drops has been touring the world and showing off its wares to professional musicians, it has built a custom guitar for Jack White of The White Stripes fame, and just recently, the company’s founder visited SOLIDWORKS World 2019 with a new guitar designed especially for the event.
So, with all these recent developments, we figured it would be a great time to catch up with Lava Drops founder Rapolas Gražysto see what’s new in the world of Lava Drops guitars.
But before we do, let’s just have a recap of what Lava Drops is all about.
The guitars in the Lava Drops range are crafted from a variety of exotic materials and woods for the body, neck and inlays of the instruments. Such exotic materials have included actual pieces of cooled lava, (hence the name, Lava Drops). Add to that an aircraft-grade aluminium trim, and you have some very exclusive-looking instruments, which are far removed from the Fender and Gibson clones that have dominated the market for decades. They are both inspired by natural forms and give a nod to modern technology.
And did we mention they have lasers on them too? Yes, as an optional extra feature, you can get a laser MIDI controller fitted on your guitar, so you can control a range of effects and noises by manipulating the laser beam with your hand. Cool stuff!
Who doesn’t like lasers?
Heck, who doesn’t love MIDI controllers? Monsters and Luddites. That’s who!
So, cracking on with the article. First up, we wanted to know about the custom guitar that Lava Drops designed for SOLIDWORKS World 2019 (you can see this beauty in Figure 1).
“Lava Drop X, the xDesign Edition, is based on the usual Lava Drop X model shape, but as it was specially created for SOLIDWORKS World 2019, it had some custom-made options,” explained Gražys.
“It is a futuristic musical art piece handcrafted using neck-through technology in a combination of Lithuanian Maple, Sapele wood and aluminum contour. These precious materials connect the past and the future and create unimaginable resonance and fascinating sustain.
“Aluminum contour reveals high frequency, and enlarges the instrument’s sustain, making this instrument sounding very clear. The fingerboard is crafted from Ebony wood. A special aluminum “X” inlay is encrusted into the fingerboard. This custom instrument is painted in the Dassault Systémes blue color and signed with the 3DEXPERIENCE symbol.”
As you can see from Figure 2, Lava Drops designers aren’t just using SOLIDWORKS for the design, but are also making good use of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform for their product lifecycle management (PLM) needs.
Jack White III Signature Edition
So, how does a company grow from a Kickstarter campaign to creating a signature series guitar for one of the world’s most renowned guitarists in the space of less than two years?
There has to be a cool backstory attached to the development of this special guitar. Indeed there is!
“It was a totally mind-blowing and one of a kind experience,” explained Gražys.
“Jack White had a world concert tour last year and he had a concert in Lithuania. I was invited by the organizers to create a special custom gift from all [the] people [of] Lithuania who appreciate Jack’s music. After two months of creating and three months of building this instrument, finally I met Jack and showed him the guitar, the Lava Drop Jack White III.
“He was totally astonished and I was very happy meeting the legend and holding the guitar.”
The Jack White III has been designed all around the number 3, because, according to Lava Drops, it defines most of the aesthetics in the world. Consequently, the company selected three different wood species to craft the instrument, with each coming from three different continents.
Add to that, and you have three boutique vintage-sounding Haeussel mini-humbuckers, 3mm of aluminum surrounding the sides of the body to boost sustain as well as reinforce the body, and three colors blending into a unique aesthetic.
In addition to Jack White, Gražys has met a whole bunch of other iconic guitar players throughout the whole Lava Drops experience.
“I had privilege of meeting one of my guitar idols who has tried and appreciated—and has said fantastic words about Lava Drops—the one and only guitar legend Tommy Emmanuel.
“It was a great experience meeting him in person and listening to how he shreds the Lava Drop.”
Emmanuel is an Australian acoustic guitarist, known for his finger style technique that was heavily influenced by Chet Atkins. Indeed, Emmanuel even teamed up with Atkins to create an album together. He has also been voted the best acoustic guitarist on a couple of occasions by Guitar Player magazine.
As well as finding fans of Lava Drops guitars overseas, the luthier and design company is generating some fans on its home turf.
“At the moment, one of the most well-known musicians in Lithuania, Andrius Mamontovas, is playing and using the Lava Drop X model.”
So, all seems to be going well for Lava Drops. The company’s range is expanding, and it is gaining new fans.
So, what is next for the company?
“I am really interested in the new way of using rare materials for musical instruments,” said Gražys.
“I have already created the Black Amber Drop guitar that was crafted from 50-million-year-old amber.”
You can see a video of Steve Morse (from Deep Purple) test-driving the aforementioned Black Amber Drop guitar in the video below.
“At the moment, I am creating another guitar that will be created from a very, very rare material, and it will be presented I hope this year, as it takes a lot of work to design, create and craft the instrument.”
Mysterious! What could be more rare than amber, we wonder? Well, there are lots of rare materials, but they have to be machinable, so they can be shaped into a guitar.
Dinosaur bone maybe? With a chunk of meteorite machined for the contours? Or how about some million layer Damascus steel? There are a fair few possibilities.
But for now, Gražys isn’t saying what the material will be. Some things are best left as a surprise perhaps.
“Just follow Lava Drops social media and subscribe to Lava Drops newsletter,” he says.
“We have a lot of going on there!”
Indeed they do, and you can follow Lava Drops on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or if you’d like to get your hands on one of these instruments, then you can check out the company’s range and order one from the Lava Drops website, over at this link.
About the Author
Phillip Keane is currently studying his PhD at the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. His background is in aerospace engineering, and his current studies are focused on the use of 3D-printed components in spaceflight. He previously worked at Rolls-Royce and Airbus Military and served as an intern for Made In Space and the European Southern Observatory.