Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Alternatives to the T-beam

I've tried quite a lot of places to get the crucial component, the T-beam. It is more difficult than I originally expected. I've tried a couple of scrap metal dealers and the leading Danish metal distributor. Plus a couple of web-based stores. No success yet. It's quite disappointing, especially since I thought that obtaining the T-beam would be the easiest part of the project.

Until I find the T-beam - *if* I ever do - I've been contemplating other shapes of aluminium for the "spine" of the guitar. One possibility is an aluminium flat bar, 100 mm wide and 20 mm (approximately 4 and 0,8 inches) thick. With it, I could make the neck in aluminium only (as opposed to the T-beam version, where the neck sides are wood).

It would look clean and probably give a more pure aluminium sound. It would also be very thin. But it would imply a much larger amount of metalworking than I'm comfortable with. Plus, it would be quite heavy. Good thing it's headless, otherwise it would probably be very neck heavy.

Perhaps worst of all, I'd have to abandon the feature you see on the back of the T-beam versions: A flange of metal sandwiched between wood. I had (or have... I haven't yet given up on finding a T-beam) great expectations for the looks of this particular detail, which would resemble old sports cars' steering wheels ...as well as some knife handles with the blade going through it.

The principle of making a full-aluminium neck that extends down to the bridge is not at all original. The guitar would more or less be a headless version of instruments like Electrical Guitar Company's Custom Guiar - which in turn seems to be based on earlier Travis Bean models, though it seems that the former has a wider piece of aluminium for the body, ensuring greater strength as the pickup holes do not completely intersect the aluminium piece.

The lack of originality takes some of the fun out of the project, but still, with headless neck and an ergonomic and very thin body, it still distinguishes itself enough from existing guitars to allow me to feel just a little like a pioneer.

Next week I plan to visit yet another scrap metal dealer. There might be a T-beam waiting for me there.


Anonymous said...

Have you considered using an I-beam sawn in half?

Alex said...

Thanks for the suggestion. Yes, I did think of it, and actually, I know a supplier who can sell me an I-beam that'll work sufficiently, but not perfectly.

This particular I-beam gives me T-beams, which are 12 cm (4.7") wide, as tall as necessary and with a thickness of 12 mm (1/2") on the top flange and 5 mm (0.2") on the vertical flange.

Unfortunately, it is quite expensive as it is not available as scrap. It'll cost me around 3.000 Danish Kroner (550 US$ or 400€) which is a lot more than I'd like to pay. Plus, I'd have liked the bottom flange to be a little thicker for strength, since I don't intend to use a truss rod.

(That's a lot of conversions... Things would be easier if only the whole world would use the metric system. And Danish Kroner as currency ;-)

If all other options fail, I'll buy it, but I'll look around for better alternatives a bit longer.

I am aware that building a guitar is not cheap, and the 3.000 kr is probably way less than other builders pay for their raw materials. It's just that one of the great things about this guitar is that I imagined it to be not only reasonably easy to build, but also really cheap.

Anonymous said...

Why not buy and cut aluminum sheet and weld your own T-beam?

Alex said...

I suppose it could be done, but not by me with my very limited welding skills. But screws and epoxy glue might do it as well. That's another option if nothing else is available.