General tech questions

New guitar design?

1

Ut-oh, I've been thinkin' again! Hey, what would be wrong with this? How about a solid aluminum guitar neck possibly made on a CNC machine that is super accurate? Maybe wouldn't be subject to heat and humidity changes associated with wood. Wouldn't have to worry about back-bow, front-bow, twist, or any other maladies found on regular wood necks. It wouldn't be too heavy and could run the entire length of the "whole" guitar. I think of Les Paul and his "log" that was just a big ol' solid piece of wood that he strapped some makeshift guitar body side to. Maybe it's already been done! Just wondering! What do yall think? Steve

2

It's been done before. Can't remember the names, but there's been a couple different variations of it.

3

Travis Bean, Kramer and Aluminati spring to mind.

4

And Proteus if I recall correctly

5

And if I remember correctly, those aluminum necks were very sensitive to heat.....

6

Travis Bean, Kramer, Veleno, all preceded by Wandre out of Italy. there are also several boutique builders minting money by building aluminum guitars, most notably Electrical Guitar Company whose designs cost well north of $2500 and are booked up a year and a half in advance. there's a builder called Harvester out of Australia who does really interesting Italianate designs. you can also get aluminum bolt-on necks if you really need to experience extreme neck dive. the Velenos were notoriously unstable--Rundgren had one that went out of tune every time the spotlights hit it--but the Bean/Kramer type are quite stable.

7

One of the best acoustic guitars I've ever tried was a freakish Applause -- that's Ovation's budget series with (IIRC) such a neck. At least the fretboard -- with frets milled on the top -- was aluminum. It was freakish because it played and sounded so good.

8

One of the best acoustic guitars I've ever tried was a freakish Applause -- that's Ovation's budget series with (IIRC) such a neck. At least the fretboard -- with frets milled on the top -- was aluminum. It was freakish because it played and sounded so good.

– lx

It was an extruded aluminum neck that was machined, then filled eith structural foam to create the back side profile. I know this because I snapped the head off when it fell off a 6ft tall Army foot locker. I was able to glue it together and got 10 more years out of it.

It was my guitar through Army and college days and on...until my 2 yo son used it for a sliding board.

9

ah, yes...back in the day we called them Applesauce guitars LOL.

10

Meloduende Guitars ally lap steel is very high on my wish list.

11

You guys must've gotten lucky with your Applauses - every one that came through the music store where I worked in the 80s had miserably stiff action, and the necks felt awful.


My first hands-on experience with an aluminum neck was on my buddy Gregg's bubinga-bodied Kramer 350, around 1978.

As the history goes, Gary Kramer had worked with Travis Bean in California, then with some investors set up to build his own guitars in Neptune, New Jersey. Partners included music business guy Dennis Berardi and real-esate money-man Henry Vaccaro; they contracted with luthier Phil Petillo for prototypes. A Peter LaPlaca, who had experience with Norlin, was also involved. Kramer himself was more an idea man, and not so much either a hands-on builder or experienced manager. He flaked out early and went back to California.

So the first Kramers were these aluminum-neck beasts, built from 1976 and maybe into 1982 - but the wooden-necked Stratcopy Kramers started around '81, and that's the way the company went. I believe Berardi ran the company during its Van Halen 80s glory days - and in 1985, bleeb it or not, Kramer was the best-selling brand in the industry. But by 1991, they'd cheapened the brand in many ways, and went bankrupt.

I wish they'd changed the name in 1982 so those later derivative guitars wouldn't now be what most people associate with the name "Kramer."

Because the 350 (single-coil) and 450 (humbuckers) are unique, honorable, and dandy guitars, with a clean and clear full-bodied tone and vast sustain. Frets are machined into the neck, which has two scoops on the back fitted with bubinga inserts (so the fingers don't feel the "cold" metal), and ebonol (bowling-ball plastic) fingerboard. But they're heavy. (They're also great weapons in a bar fight.)

So Gregg was the first (and only) guy I'd met who had a Kramer. His story is that he'd gotten bored with his Les Paul, having mastered all he cared to develop in the blues-rock vein of 60-70s rock, and gotten more interested in funk, R&B, and Steely Dannish jazz rock. He'd wanted a guitar as far from a Lester as he could get, and the radical Kramer 350 filled the bill.

That guitar became his signature tone for several years, and further set him apart from all the other hot area players. It has a naturally somewhat compressed tone, is far more revealing than even a Telecaster, even fights the player in some ways. You work for what you get out of it; it has to be earned. Maybe the humbucker-equipped 450 is more forgiving (I've never played one), but the single-coil 350 punishes slop in either technique or rhythm (because its tone is so clear and the response so immediate). No one else who picked up Gregg's Kramer could make it do the things he got out of it. We played together for 10-12 years; in our first band together, he played guitar all the time and I split efforts between guitar and keyboards. So Kramer-by-Gregg became a huge part of our sound.

Gregg's 350 is long gone, but I bought one on Ebay maybe 15 years ago, partly just for my personal history with the guitar, but also to see if I was misremembering its voodoo or if I might since have grown into a player who could handle it. While I've never made it sing and sparkle as Gregg could, I'm more at home on it now. I'm glad I have it.

The picture is not my guitar - I'm too lazy to get it out of the case behind me and take pictures - but looks identical. The one shown is currently on Reverb.

12

Proteus Iconoclaster

So my experience with the Kramer sensitized me to aluminum as a guitar material. I'd also played a giant aluminum string bass in high school "jazz band" (quotes meaning that, whatever music we tried, the effect never remotely approached jazz) so the notion of aluminum as a musical metal never seemed foreign to me.

As Scorpio mentions, I "built" an all-aluminum hollow Strat about 10 years ago. (By "built," I mean I commissioned and/or ordered the components, then assembled it.)

It's a magnificent instrument, more tractable than the Kramer and, by virtue of its hollow body, sweeter in tone and more dynamic in response. I have most of the parts for a second one that needs finished, and hope to have necks enough to build 3 more, either Strat or Tele bodies. The body guy is willing to do a Jet body...but I need a Jet body to send him as a reference sample. If anyone has a Jet body (or whole guitar) which isn't doing anything for a few months, maybe we could work out a deal for loan/rental which would let me get the project off dead-stop.

The Iconoclaster (as I call the guitar) was inspired by a run of custom aluminum-bodied Strats Fender did in the 90s, some carrying the Harley Davidson logo on the body. But theirs had standard wood necks. I wanted my project to be as utterly aluminum as possible - and it is. Body, neck, and nut are aluminum, and I used Lace Alumatone pickups...yup, made out of aluminum. It has chrome-plated neckplate, pickguard, and Hipshot tremolo. No clearcoat anywhere, naked aluminum.

It's made me even more of a believer in the fundamental musical qualities of aluminum, and in an alternate life - pursued by a clone of myself - I would like to build/commission more aluminum guitars. I'm actually "registered" with Lace Products as a guitar builder, once appeared on their website as such, and got a few emails years ago from guys enquiring about buying guitars. I gave them a price (around 2k), and never sold one.

But the guy at Electrical Guitar Company claims to have sold around 1,600 of his designs at 2,900.00 and up, so clearly sustained application of effort and competent online marketing make a difference! I'm impressed by his model line, at least for thin-bodied guitars.

Another company was building full-deep hollowbody aluminum guitars some years ago, with an aviation theme. I've never heard one, but the idea is good. Problem with those (for me) was a lot of exposed rivets (per mid-20th-century aviation practice), which I thought was ooogly.

Besides the brands macphisto mentions (Bean, Kramer, Velleno), I think Henry Vaccaro (the old Kramer investor) offered some aluminum-necked guitars a few years ago.

So they're out there.

Problems? Yes, you have to wait for them to acclimate to the environment or you have tuning problems. But in a steady environment, they're phenomenally stable. Nothing I've experienced sounds quite as supernaturally in tune as a well-tuned aluminum guitar. For whatever reason, dialed-in intonation is spectacular. Maybe aluminum resonates in a way that produces purer overtones than wood, with fewer enharmonic contributions. The guitars are also supernaturally immediate in response: touch the guitar anywhere, and the whole guitar is immediately alive.

(Though the bubinga body on the Kramers somewhat dampens that effect.)

If you've never played an aluminum-necked/bodied, or all-aluminum guitar, do so if you get the chance. While the descriptions might sound far-fetched and exotic, and you might fear it's an alien experience, once you play one it all makes sense, and it quickly feels perfectly natural.

15

Les Paul had a headless, hollow aluminium guitar built in the mid 40's. He didn't play it much, because it was a tuning nightmare by all accounts.

17

I was reading that Kramer sold four times as many aluminum-neck basses as guitars. Apparently bassists are more receptive to new ideas, and guitarists are hidebound close-minded traditionalists.

18

My brother had an Applause. I remember that bending strings on those aluminum frets were like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. The friction of steel over aluminum is just awful. Same as heavy machinery table tops.

19

I knew, I just knew it! Boy, Proteus, that Iconoclaster guitar is one of the nicest guitars I've ever seen!! I'll bet it really sings thru a 25L15! I hope you keep a good supply of Mothers Mag and Aluminum polish handy! That is some good stuff. THANKS one and all for all the "aluminum" input. It just seems to make good sense to me to incorporate aluminum into guitar design. Hey, what about a solid BRASS guitar!!! You'd have to have a Junior Brown set up to hold the durn thing!! Heavy!!

20

that Iconoclaster guitar is one of the nicest guitars I've ever seen

Thank you, sir. It is ridiculously nice, turned out to be a much better musical instrument than I had imagined.

And I have at least 3 cans of Mothers around at all times. (It's what I use to polish bridges before shipping them, too.)

21

Meloduende Guitars ally lap steel is very high on my wish list.

– Mr Tubs

That's gorgeous!

And Proteus' aluminum beauty isn't just a guitar---it's art.

22

There's a builder called Harvester out of Australia who does really interesting Italianate designs.

Just the other day I remarked that I thought it was weird that nobody has bothered to replicate the Wandre candle smoke finish technique, as it's such a stunning look. Lo and behold, Harverster does it.

23

There's a builder called Harvester out of Australia who does really interesting Italianate designs.

Just the other day I remarked that I thought it was weird that nobody has bothered to replicate the Wandre candle smoke finish technique, as it's such a stunning look. Lo and behold, Harverster does it.

– Afire

Thanks for posting this. Hadn't heard of Harvester before. Beautiful stuff. This is one of the best threads of this year.

24

A friend of mine had a Travis Bean back when we were in High School. In spite of the astronomical prices they command these days and the beauty of the koa body, seems like that guitar was always out of tune. Maybe like Proteus said they had to get acclimated to their environments for a while first, but I remember at gigs him having to tune it between every song.

25

Proteus Iconoclaster

So my experience with the Kramer sensitized me to aluminum as a guitar material. I'd also played a giant aluminum string bass in high school "jazz band" (quotes meaning that, whatever music we tried, the effect never remotely approached jazz) so the notion of aluminum as a musical metal never seemed foreign to me.

As Scorpio mentions, I "built" an all-aluminum hollow Strat about 10 years ago. (By "built," I mean I commissioned and/or ordered the components, then assembled it.)

It's a magnificent instrument, more tractable than the Kramer and, by virtue of its hollow body, sweeter in tone and more dynamic in response. I have most of the parts for a second one that needs finished, and hope to have necks enough to build 3 more, either Strat or Tele bodies. The body guy is willing to do a Jet body...but I need a Jet body to send him as a reference sample. If anyone has a Jet body (or whole guitar) which isn't doing anything for a few months, maybe we could work out a deal for loan/rental which would let me get the project off dead-stop.

The Iconoclaster (as I call the guitar) was inspired by a run of custom aluminum-bodied Strats Fender did in the 90s, some carrying the Harley Davidson logo on the body. But theirs had standard wood necks. I wanted my project to be as utterly aluminum as possible - and it is. Body, neck, and nut are aluminum, and I used Lace Alumatone pickups...yup, made out of aluminum. It has chrome-plated neckplate, pickguard, and Hipshot tremolo. No clearcoat anywhere, naked aluminum.

It's made me even more of a believer in the fundamental musical qualities of aluminum, and in an alternate life - pursued by a clone of myself - I would like to build/commission more aluminum guitars. I'm actually "registered" with Lace Products as a guitar builder, once appeared on their website as such, and got a few emails years ago from guys enquiring about buying guitars. I gave them a price (around 2k), and never sold one.

But the guy at Electrical Guitar Company claims to have sold around 1,600 of his designs at 2,900.00 and up, so clearly sustained application of effort and competent online marketing make a difference! I'm impressed by his model line, at least for thin-bodied guitars.

Another company was building full-deep hollowbody aluminum guitars some years ago, with an aviation theme. I've never heard one, but the idea is good. Problem with those (for me) was a lot of exposed rivets (per mid-20th-century aviation practice), which I thought was ooogly.

Besides the brands macphisto mentions (Bean, Kramer, Velleno), I think Henry Vaccaro (the old Kramer investor) offered some aluminum-necked guitars a few years ago.

So they're out there.

Problems? Yes, you have to wait for them to acclimate to the environment or you have tuning problems. But in a steady environment, they're phenomenally stable. Nothing I've experienced sounds quite as supernaturally in tune as a well-tuned aluminum guitar. For whatever reason, dialed-in intonation is spectacular. Maybe aluminum resonates in a way that produces purer overtones than wood, with fewer enharmonic contributions. The guitars are also supernaturally immediate in response: touch the guitar anywhere, and the whole guitar is immediately alive.

(Though the bubinga body on the Kramers somewhat dampens that effect.)

If you've never played an aluminum-necked/bodied, or all-aluminum guitar, do so if you get the chance. While the descriptions might sound far-fetched and exotic, and you might fear it's an alien experience, once you play one it all makes sense, and it quickly feels perfectly natural.

– Proteus

That is CBell-quality gorgeous.


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