The Kenwood Chef of electric guitars

Posted on: 5th May, 2015

Category: Music

Contributor: Mark Holland

Hunky Dory stocks a huge range of instruments, accessories, CDs and vinyl. Contact Mark on 023 8834982 or pop in to have a listen.

To me there is nothing as comforting as an iconic piece of engineering.  Engineering is a high bar. It can be hard just to make something work, and I mean to work at all, however badly. It’s also quite possible to make something that’ll work a few times, but with fundamental oversights stops working after a few laps around the park. I’m talking McIver style here, down in the garden shed with a few lollipop sticks and an elastic band. I can only imagine what it must be like to design a piece of machinery to be offered on the open market, to compete with machines that do a similar job. Machines that are attractive enough for people to want to spend money on them, take them home, and rely on them to do the job for which they were intended, presumably repeatedly, and in time to replace it with another one.

Have you ever invented something, in your head, the perfect solution?  (Apparently it took 48 years after they came up with the tin for someone to invent the tin opener!)  Drawing it, for me, is usually the proverbial bridge way on down the road and out of sight. From that stage I have been advised to make a three-dimensional model of it, out of sponge or something, as if things couldn’t get any worse! I am thankful that I got those notions out of my head long before Dragon’s Den come along to offer people the opportunity to do such things in front of a TV audience.

The beauty of iconic engineering, and by beauty I mean, for a certain type of person – like me, beauty in all its forms, is that by definition they are always superb. To be truly iconic, they have to be tried and tested over time, and embraced by those who have had the pleasure. Like the Kenwood Chef for example; though I do bake, and I love to bake, I have never owned one. I do remember them in mothers’ kitchens when I was a young fellow being fed pretty much everywhere I went. Not knowing the ‘mechanics’ of them, I can hardly believe that they are not only still in existence, but still the one to beat.  From what I can tell they seem to continuously go up in price, and other manufacturers, no matter how much time they have got to work it out, cannot seem to make a better one?

To me, the opposite of ‘Iconic Engineering’ is the ‘Italian Sportscar Syndrome’.   So wonderfully beautifully gorgeous that you are prepared there and then to risk losing everything so you can have hold and cherish this heap of junk that will break your heart until the day you get rid of it.

There are instruments like that, electric guitars in particular. Pigs of things that are way overweight and out of balance that’ll wreck you shoulder, break your back and eventually your toe when it falls on it, will never stay in tune because they are just over-complicated but, like the Italian Sportscar, people want them. People will justify them any way they need to and pay handsomely for the relationship. But not so the Stratocaster; at first uneducated glance it probably looks like its trying too hard to be cool, very 70s and maybe a little immature. Think again baby. The first time I picked one up it dawned on me about five minutes later that I was unconsciously trying not to put it down again. I didn’t even want an electric guitar at the time but I couldn’t get over just how sweetly this thing tucked in under my arm, curves in all the right places. Then the balance — if you rest it on the two strap buttons, the neck remains perfectly horizontal negating most of the weight. Switches all perfectly placed, cable insert, etc, etc… Every cubic centimetre of this yoke is designed to serve a purpose, effectively, a simple piece of engineering pleasure.

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