Q&A with Drewman Guitars: Aerospace technology for an old idea

Drewman Guitars is the first brand of aluminium guitars that we have in Soundpeers. The exquisite design and the beautiful ‘radial burst’ archtop finish in the D1 model sparked our curiosity to learn more about these guitars: the manufacturing process, the materials and the company.

A few days ago, Andy, the man behind Drewman Guitars, kindly answered some questions for us.

Q. The company started in 2015, what was the motivation to embark upon Drewman Guitars?

Our vision was always very clear; we wanted to experiment with the tonal qualities of high grade Aluminium when coupled with extremely precise engineering and the classic curves all guitarists have loved for over 60 years.
Body: Milled from a single billet of 7075 grade aluminium, designed and machined with precision in Oxfordshire, UK
Body Weight: Milled aluminium body piece is only 2.85Kg (for reference a Gibson Les Paul Standard Body Circa 1994 weighs 3.5Kg, and the newest models with body weight relief are 2.5Kg)
Body Finish: ‘Radial burst’ machined finished archtop
Neck: 24.75" scale length with 22 Frets, Mahogany back with Rosewood fingerboard
Tuners: Vintage Double Line Tulip tuners
Neck Joint: Recessed 4 bolt-on neck construction
Pickups: Choice of IronGear Dirty Torque [neck] + Blues Engine [bridge] or Seymour Duncan SH-4 & SH-2 Hot rodded Humbucker Pickup Set [Seymour Duncan set + £80]
Bridge: Classic chrome Tune-o-matic bridge
Tail Piece: Classic chrome stop-tail style tail piece
Controls: One volume pot, one tone pot, 3-way pickup selector switch
Strings: Ernie Ball Super Slinky 9–42 9's
Case: Black hardcase with plush lining and accessories storage
Assembled: Each guitar is assembled and tested in Wiltshire, UK, just 12 miles from the facility where we machine the aluminium body

Q. As stated in your website, aluminium guitars emerged in 1890’s. How does the manufacturing process and materials differ from then?

Well, the purity of the raw product is probably not that much different than it was back then BUT access to computer controlled milling machines and CAD modelling has made the process more aligned with the Aerospace sector than anything else. We use the same machines to sculpt our hollow-body arch-top guitars as are used for specialist part production for Ferrari and Airbus industries, not very musical I agree, but it ensures we deliver identical tonal resonance with each body we produce AND everything fits perfectly. We call it “built in quality control”.

Q. How long did you spend developing the D1 model?

Months! From initial ‘back of an envelope’ sketches to first draft CAD, 3D modelling [where you could fly through the pick-up holes and look inside the body cavity] through to initial prototyping and then testing the first run production model, Months!

Q. There are several companies working on aluminium guitars, how do you see the market?

There are lots of brands out there that try this, some are beautiful to look at, some are not! some are very micro-phonic, some feedback, some don’t. I know that this is a very small segment of the market and we don’t want to change the world but we do think that there is space for us all and if we all keep innovating and enjoying the process, why not!

Q. In your opinion what are the benefits of aluminium body instead of wood?

Quality of finish; I love the way it feels, it’s different from a maple quilt top [not better, different] but the main benefit is the resonance and the sustain, we get great results in this department and it’s a joy to listen to.

Q. How would you define the tone of an aluminium guitar?

It’s not harsh, cutting or extreme, it’s jazzy when rolled back, it’s grunty when driven hard; dig in and get those punchy mid-tones. It’s got bass when you play those BIG power chords too! I like to hear that mid-driven blues tone come through and it does that very well.

Q. Are you working in order to expand your product line?

Yep! the D2 double cut is on the [virtual] drawing board but I’m not throwing loads of time into that right now, the D1 is the main focus.

Q. What benefits do you think Soundpeers can bring to your business?

Soundpeers seem to want to get behind the brand, innovation seems to excite them and new stuff always sparks the imagination, I think that Soundpeers could help with that push that us small producers really need out there where we’re competing for survival amongst some pretty scary competitors!
Soundpeers is an online community of luthiers, builders and handcrafters where to find boutique, custom and vintage musical equipment and buy directly to sellers. Do you want to write in this publication? Visit us on soundpeers.com or send us an email.