Things of Beauty- Metalin Guitars

“Aluminum guitar bodies are not unique. Other companies have made them but they do it in layers – a top layer, a back layer, and then they actually put divisions inside and weld the layers all together with an outside seam around it and then grind it and smooth it out. What I wanted to do was make a full-sounding, closed chamber body out of a single billet of aluminum. That way it would be much stronger, have better tone quality, and better sustainability.”
Ken Wolfert, Owner, Metalin’ Guitars

Ken Wolfert, owner of Wolfert’s Tool and Machine Co. in St James, Missouri was reading an article in a music magazine about how the hardwoods used in making solid electric guitar bodies were becoming endangered species and would be depleted in the not-too-distant future. “Why not make guitars from aluminum then?” he wondered. After all, his company routinely makes components for small aircraft out of solid aluminum billets.

Wolfert, who was a rock band member in his teen years and still has his own collection of guitars, made some sketches reminiscent of classic Les Paul models and took them out to the shop where his Plant Manager, Dave Bast, was writing CNC programs. “Can you make this?” Wolfert asked. Bast knew very little about guitars but was very confident about his ability to use Mastercam’s advanced toolpaths and simulation capabilities to cut complex mono-material parts from aluminum. He studied the drawings briefly and said, “Yes.” Thus began a three-year journey that would culminate with a new product and the spinoff of the Metalin’ Guitar subsidiary to market it.

Wolfert originally conceived Metalin’ Guitars as one-off products with a fully customizable look that would be unique to each owner. During the early design phases, Wolfert decided to also offer two off-the-shelf options that would be affordable for most serious guitarists. He had Bast modify the body design to make it easy and less expensive to add such options as an “F-Hole” and a “whammy bar” without having to come up with new models to accommodate these add-ons.

Wolfert and Bast were also been running through the numbers to reduce manufacturing costs as much as possible. Having a solid body design that can be manufactured with minimal setups has helped. The base price of the basic Metalin’ guitar model is $2447, about $5000 less than aluminum guitars with fabricated bodies.

Once they had a prototype version that had superior structural integrity, great sound quality, and was easy to play there was one other drawback to be overcome. The guitars weighed 10.5 to 11 lb., about 3 lb. more than the most popular electric guitar models. This led to the next prototyping challenge, carving about 50% more material from the initial body designs without sacrificing structural integrity or musical qualities of the instrument.

Bast worked closely with Metalin’ Guitar’s Luthier, Jeremy Tessaro, to ensure that structural changes for weight reduction did nothing but improve the sound of the instruments. He used Mastercam’s Dynamic Motion technology to create safe toolpaths undercutting sidewalls and creating narrow ribs in interior sections. Typical wall thicknesses were approximately 0.050″, unless additional material was required to support such components as the bridge, pickups, and a whammy bar on the guitar’s face.

When cutting was complete, guitar bodies that started as solid 24 lb. billets of aluminum now weighed a couple ounces short of 3 lbs. The total instrument weight was 7 lbs., 2 ounces— right in the ballpark with the popular electric guitar models.

See more of these expertly designed musical instruments here

More Images:

Summer NAMM 2014 Metalin’ Guitars – YouTube
Down to Playing Weight: Using Mastercam’s Dynamic Motion Technology the company removed 50% more material from its guitar bodies without affecting the structural integrity or excellent sound quality of the instruments.

metalin | Custom Shop
(3) Metalin’ Guitars
A Rat Rod model has engravings of hot rod art all over the body. The body was anodized and bead blasted to give it a black satin Look

(3) Metalin’ Guitars

metalin | AOC and stand

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