Rural Missouri - February 2014 - (Page 20)
by Jason Jenkins
en Wolfert has seen the reaction before. He sees it every
time he puts one of his guitars in a musician's hands
for the ﬁrst time.
First comes a look of discovery,
curiosity and intrigue. It's as if Indiana Jones has just unearthed the Ark
of the Covenant from the sands of
Egypt. But then, skepticism sets in.
What will be inside the
shiny exterior? How will
While good looks often
can be deceiving, you can't
feign good sound. Once you
plug into the ampliﬁer, there
are no excuses.
"Either they sound good
or they don't," says Ken,
president of Metalin' Guitars in St.
James. "You can't hide that. You can't
make that up. And our guitars absolutely sound great."
A machinist by trade, Ken and his
team have turned their collective skills
in manufacturing and design toward
creating aluminum-bodied electric
guitars that meet the needs of musicians in all genres. These are no gimmick. These are true guitars.
For 19 years, Ken has operated
Wolfert's Tool and Machine Co., a
full-service tool, machine and fabrication shop. He's worked with companies in the automotive, aviation,
computer and health-care industries
- including Ford, Cessna, Boeing,
Intel and Brewer Science - using the
latest technology and advanced CNC
machining to create products to the
highest tolerances and speciﬁcations.
When he approached Dave Bast,
his plant manager and chief designer,
with the idea of an aluminum guitar
there was no
company in mind.
It was simply a "what if"
"I had read an article that said
that in the next 10 to 20 years, all
the hardwoods for guitars would be
pretty much depleted," Ken recalls.
"That got me thinking. What are they
going to make guitars out of? The ﬁrst
thing that came to me was aluminum
because we work with it every day."
Now, the idea of creating a metal
electric guitar isn't a new one. In
fact, the Rickenbacker Electro A-22,
an electric lap steel guitar created in
1931, is believed to be the ﬁrst electric guitar. Like Metalin's guitars, it
also was made of aluminum. Others
through the years also have manufactured metal instruments, but
most have been considered novelties by the industry.
"There are a couple
welded guitars out there
made of sheeting, and
there are maybe two
other machined guitars,
but they haven't ﬁgured out how to reduce
the weight," Dave says.
Weight was an issue for Metalin's
ﬁrst prototype, too, which tipped the
scales at more than 12 pounds. "We
went back to the drawing board and
started thinking more on the lines of
aerospace," Dave says. "We were able
to get the weight down and still keep
our sound thanks to our closed-chamber pickup pockets."
Each Metalin' guitar begins with
a 25-pound billet of aluminum. It's
placed inside a computer-controlled
milling machine, which meticulously
cuts out the guitar's shape, its pickup
pockets and holes for knobs, leaving behind a body that only weighs
3 pounds. All the aluminum that's
carved away is recycled, Ken adds,
"making this probably about as 'green'
of an instrument as you can get."
An assembled guitar now comes in
right around 6 to 7 pounds. "That's a
tremendous savings when it's
on your neck
and you're playing
a show," says Dave, who, like famed
luthier Leo Fender before him, doesn't
know how to play.
While Ken plays a little, he admits
it's "only enough to irritate myself."
To ensure that Metalin's guitars
achieved the proper sound, he hired
Jeremy Tessaro as the ﬂedgling company's technical manager. Jeremy spent
the previous seven years working as a
warranty technician for other guitar
manufacturers and has played the
instrument for more than 20 years.
As the newcomer to Metalin', Jeremy says he was impressed that Ken
and Dave spent three years in research
and development before ever going
public. "The fact that it wasn't going
to go out until the weight was right,
the feel was right, the tone was right,"
he says. "That says a lot."
He adds the guitar's three closedchamber pickup pockets are unique
when compared to other traditionalstyle electric guitars. "We've opened
up all the chambers and made the
body section wider, so we're not limited as to what conﬁguration of pickups
we put in here," he says, explaining
that the pickups are what deliver the
vibration of the strings to the ampliﬁer. "It gives us lots of tone options."
Having such options makes the
instrument versatile, allowing it to
Metalin' Guitars president Ken Wolfert brought more than 25 years of machining experience
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - February 2014
Rural Missouri - February 2014
Ministering to motorists
A mid-winter read
Fighting more than fires
Out of the Way Eats
Metal & music
Hearth and Home
The Missouri Dinosaur
Rural Missouri - February 2014