Dohle · a stringed instrument for sound explorers

Guitarist Tom Zimmer had the idea of a stringed instrument which can be played nicely with a bow to produce epic pad sounds. He asked my if I could imagine to design it. A few sketches and a prototype later the “Dohle” was born.

A couple of weeks after I handed over the instrument to Tom, I saw him playing as musical accompaniment of a stage play at Volkstheater München. I was blown away by the broad bandwidth of musical expressions he found with his new instrument.

Therefore we decided to shoot a video demonstrating his different playing techniques. Please sit comfortably and prepare yourself for a psychedelic sound trip.


First 3D rendering of the Dohle instrument
First draft created with Autodesk Fusion

I did some hand drawings, and created the first 3D model which already outlines the basic design ideas of the instrument. Its base shape is very slim and the nut and the saddle are raised to make the instrument easily playable with a bow. Our initial idea was to mount it onto an a sawhorse, so even very steep angles with the bow would not cause any problems by touching a body.

Spruce Prototype

I wanted to have a quick proof of concept so see if the basic idea works out. To accellerate the production process, I chose quite cheap and soft materials which can be quickly routed with high aggressive rates on my Shaper Origin. For sure, I expected the sound quality not to be overwhelming but the prototype helped to find the weak points in the CAD design and also approved, after a test-drive with the customer, that this instrument will be a lot of fun to play with.

Build process

It quickly turned out that this is a perfect project for my Shaper Origin and the accompanying workstation. Basically all parts including the aluminium plate to cover the electroics compartment were done with these tools.

Especially when routing the hole for the flush mount output jack the workstation was extremly practical. Becasue it already was set up, I also engraved the name of the new owner.

For sure, working with really hard walnut wood and a 3mm thick aluminium plate needs endurance but finally, I was very pleased how things tourned out.

Final result

The Dohle is made of walnut. The maple nut and saddle help to prduce a defined tone with a lot of wamth in it. The bridge is optimized to prevent string break when hit hard with a stick, without producing a sitar effect.

The distance between the tuner is enlarged, so they are easily accessible because detuning the instrument while playing was an essential musical idea from the very beginning of our discussion about this guitar.

Both the tuners and the pickups were recycled leftovers from previous modifications shops to lower the build costs and to introduce some worn-in feeling.