Enter the Dragon: Emerald Guitars Bahamut

Dr. Evil may have never gotten his sharks with “frickin’ laser beams,” but Taiwanese rock god Leehom Wang had no such problem when he asked Irish luthier Alistair Hay of Emerald Guitars to create the Bahamut, a guitar in the shape of a metallic dragon, complete with laser eyes.

Hay, who built Formula 1 racing boats before turning his attention to guitars, built the Bahamut using a combination of foam, carbon fiber and chrome paint, which allowed him to craft an instrument with a highly detailed design that looks like metal but is comfortable enough to play for an entire gig.

Hay’s first attempt with these materials was the Alien guitar, which he built for Steve Vai based on the cover art for Vai’s Ultra Zone album. “I had no training in guitar-building techniques,” Hay says. “I think that my lack of preconceived ideas about how to build a guitar lets me take a very unique and individual approach. That, in turn, allows me to create unusual, intricate shapes that are lightweight but also retain strength.”

Inspired by Vai’s Alien guitar, Wang collaborated with Hay on the Bahamut’s dragon design. “I carved and scrapped several foam bodies before getting to the final shape,” Hay says. “The fine details, like the claws and head, were carved separately and added to the body. The wiring was threaded into cavities to keep it hidden, and the laser eyes were fitted just before I completed the head. Doesn’t every dragon have laser eyes?”

Hay estimates that a similar custom design would cost between $15,000 and $20,000 and take about four months to complete. Emerald Guitars also offers a complete line of more conservatively appointed composite acoustic and electric guitars and basses.

For more details on the Bahamut guitar, visit emeraldguitars.com/custom.

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Chris Gill

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.