Carry-on luggage restrictions mean that musicians can't usually stow a guitar away in an overhead locker, so either have to pay for an extra ticket so that "Mr Les Paul" can sit in the adjacent seat or run the gauntlet and check it in. Fear of travel damage is what prompted Ian Reddick to design and build the Mercury Modular Guitar, which can be broken apart and squeezed into a carry-on suitcase during the flight, then slotted together when it's time to rock.

Reddick has been building guitars since 2013, and the Mercury project has been 2 years in the making. It has been designed for musicians who travel a lot but want more than a cut down version of a full guitar. Arguably, the most important piece of this instrument jigsaw puzzle is the machined aluminum core, to which the various modules – such as the bridge block, upper and lower body panels, pickup and electronics boxes and slot-in neck – are attached. Electronic components link up with each other via a self-aligning blind mating interface.

Prior to travel, the guitar can be collapsed down to fit inside a small suitcase or backpack. A few spare components could even be thrown in the carry-on sized luggage too. Reddick reckons that players can go from disassembled to pitch in under 2 minutes, no tools necessary.

This is thanks not only to the slide and lock nature of the components, but also the string tension system. The latter means that strings don't need to be removed and added each time the Mercury is broken apart for travel. All of the strings are brought to tension using a crank behind the headstock, and then fine tuned to pitch.

A big advantage for guitarists who travel a lot is that components can be swapped out for new in the event of damage, such as an upper body wing or headstock. But players wanting to change the sound of an instrument can just swap out the box in the middle that's home to the pickups. And if you feel like a different neck, say for a baritone guitar, then that's possible too, and of course going from a single cut design to a double horn axe is a snap.

It may even be possible to slide and snap together a custom double-neck guitar, or add built-in amp/speaker configurations and onboard effects, or set it up as a MIDI guitar. But we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves. The Mercury is not in production yet. For that, Reddick has launched on Kickstarter.

Pledges for a starter kit – comprising an aluminum central core, body set, neck, headstock, bridge block, pickup module, control module and tensioner key – start at US$2,099. If all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to begin in April 2019. The video below has more.

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