Tool, machine shop owner also makes metal guitars
ST. JAMES - It begins as a 25-pound billet of aluminum. It ends with a guitar which some are saying could be the model for the future guitar technology.
In between are months of design and a lot of fine tuning.
It all takes place at Metalin' Guitars in the industrial park of St. James.
"I read an article years ago about how the exotic woods that are used in guitars were at a point where they were going to be depleted in 10 to 20 years," said Metalin' Guitars President Ken Wolfert.
For close to 20 years, Wolfert has operated Wolfert's Tool and Machine Co.
However the guitar afficionado asked himself how else could a guitar be made.
"So, I thought what about a solid-block aluminum guitar," said Wolfert.
He enlisted Jeremy Tessaro, who at the time was a guitar repairman at Merle's Music, to make his idea a reality.
"Ken came into Merle's with a guitar body and all the parts and asked me to put it all together," recalled Tessaro, who is today Wolfert's technical manager. "I was very curious."
"In the end it took me about four hours to put the electronics and wiring and sett up the tone," he said.
For those who played it, weight was a big issue, according to Wolfert.
"It weighed more than 12 pounds which is a lot of weight to keep around your neck for a performance," he said. "But it was the 'ah-ha' moment that told us that this could be done."
It was back to the computer, where Dave Bast, Wolfert's plant manager and chief designer was able to get the weight down and not lose the guitar's sound integrity.
Last summer, Wolfert debuted his prototype guitars at the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) summer trade show in Nashville. According to Wolfert it was, for many, a novelty item than a real guitar.
The concept of a metal guitar is nothing new.
"There have been some welded guitars out there but they've weighed too much to be practical," said Wolfert.
Wolfert hopes that Metalin' Guitars' niche will not just be solid-body aluminum guitars but a place where high-end custom guitars can be made to order.
Earlier this year, Wolfert and his team designed an Albert Pujols model in honor of the slugger's 500th home run.
"We got contacted by Pujols' foundation and were asked to make a guitar for a charity auction," explained Wolfert. "We were able to digitize some baseball graphics and add the 500 insignia. It came out pretty good."
He added that former Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa ended up buying the guitar and giving it to Pujols.
Metalin' Guitars will return to NAMM this summer where they hope to introduce a Les Paul type of guitar that will appeal to a wider audience of guitar players.
As well the company will introduce a line of unique music stands.
Tessaro said that a few of the guitars have sold at Eddie's Guitars in St. Louis, and the guitar shop is interested in having more guitars made by Metalin' Guitars in stock.
Tessaro and Wolfert are hoping that this summer's NAAM show would bring on a Metalin' Guitars representative or two who could market these unique instruments across the nation.
Until then, Wolfert summed it up by saying, "I want to get these guitars into the hands of people who want to play them."