Plek: The Idea

In the mid 80's Gerd Anke, a musician and guitar teacher living in Berlin, started to get involved in fret dressing and setting up guitars. Like so many company stories, the story of plek also started with a key event.

Once upon a time there was a guitarist living in Berlin. One day he discovered that his instrument had worn out over a period of time. The frets had gotten notches and a couple of the strings were buzzing. "No problem" said the guitarist named Gerd and brought his instrument to the shop of a professional repairman. He also said "no problem". As Gerd went back to pick up his guitar again the strings were still buzzing. "No problem" the repairman said again. "I'll just go over it again with sandpaper," took a sanding-block and rubbed it over the frets a couple of times. The result remained terrible. Gerd contemplated and asked himself: "Is this supposed to be the work of a professional? - There must be another way to do this." (Carlo May, Gitarre und Bass 04/99)

In his apartment in Berlin-Kreuzberg Gerd tried first to file the frets by hand. But as a schooled tool-maker it was not long until his ambition grabbed him to optimize this process by means of a machine.


  


Like so many guitarists I dreamed of a guitar that was easy to play and did not buzz even when it had a very low action. Soon it became clear to me that while dressing frets one has to consider the oscillation of each individual string. It is clear that a thicker string vibrates differently than a thinner one. This has effects on the fretboard.

(Gerd Anke, inventor/developer of plek technology and co-founder of plek)

When I first met Gerd in 1988, he showed me this strange device : an adventurous contraption made out of wall-mounted iron angles and a pulley-block that was attached to the ceiling. With the help of a washing machine engine an aluminium block with sandpaper glued to it was being moved around in some way . "That a crazy thing" I was thinking but in the end was relieved that Gerd set up my guitar by hand...

(Michael Dubach, musician, co-founder of plek)


Two things emerged from these first attempts:

  1. In order to give each string enough room to vibrate in each position, the fretboard must have a different curve for each individual string and
  2. To be able to work on the frets with the required precision the fretboard must be scanned beforehand and this must be done under string tension.

And so the concept of an electronically driven measuring and processing system was born. In 1990, Gerd Anke and Michael Dubach founded their first company "PLEKTRON".The idea was as simple as it was naive: to build a machine that would set up the guitars of Berlin musicians. A computer was bought, various guitars set up (predominantly still by hand), test-played, analyzed. Gerd's nephew Thomas Kuhlebrock, then a physics student, converted the empirically determined data into mathematical formulas and began to write the first control programs on a 286 PC in MS DOS.

Three years and a couple of sawn table legs later it was then at the stage of the computer controlling two devices : one to measure the guitar under string tension and the other to grind the frets. The whole process took almost a day, but the result was something to be proud of and, more importantly, something you could hear!.Then came the next steps: a shop was rented, the company's name was shortened to plek, diverse guitar parts were bought, flyers handed out. After a few months there were a couple more happy guitarists in Berlin and an ever growing hole in the plek cash flow. The development of plek technology could not be financed.

A manager friend hit the nail on the head : Why restrict yourself only to Berlin, wouldn't it be possible to sell this technology worldwide?

And so the dream of a better guitar became the vision of conquering the world market. Partners were looked for, business plans written, financing options investigated. Finally, in January 1998 the new company plek Gitarrentechnologie GmbH was founded.



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