It Might Get Weird: Metal Guru — Dave Gartland’s Aluminum Ali Kat Guitars

A handful of companies have produced aluminum guitars over the years, but no one has taken the concept as far as Dave Gartland of Ali Kat Guitars in Adelaide, Australia.

Whereas most builders use aluminum mainly as a substitute for wood to make rather traditional designs, Gartland hand sculpts aluminum into a wide variety of unorthodox guitar shapes that resemble everything from hot rods and classic cars to the crow logo of the Adelaide Football Club and even Satan’s head.

Gartland has worked with aluminum and stainless steel for almost 30 years, but he started building guitars only five years ago.

“I have been involved with the rockabilly scene as long as I can remember, either as a photographer, DJ, or just a fan of the bands and the music,” Gartland explains. “In 2009, I decided to make an aluminum double bass. That was a success, so I decided to make a rockabilly guitar that was big, had f-holes, was hollow, and looked and sounded like it was from the Fifties.”

Because Gartland is neither a guitar player nor a luthier, he solicited input from another guitar builder, Billy Mostyn, to help him with his first designs. “I tell people that I am not a luthier,” Gartland says. “I am a sheet-metal worker who handcrafts guitars. Each guitar has a bespoke feel, with every part fabricated, rolled, welded and polished by hand.”

Recently, Gartland has focused on designs inspired by classic cars from the Fifties and Sixties, including his Black Kat Chev, 1959 Pink Kat-illac and Pitbull Deluxe Chevy. “When I was looking for old guitar parts, I thought I should use old car parts too,” he says. “I started searching the internet for badges, emblems, tail lights and other parts from the cars I wanted to replicate. That makes each guitar more unique.”

Inspired by the classic Batmobile, Gartland’s Batwing guitar features a unique, unorthodox hollowbody design where the body is wider at the top than the bottom. Tony Craddock from Nightmare Designs painted the detailed Batman graphics on the back. “I tell him my ideas and leave the rest to him. The most exciting part of the build is going to pick up a guitar that he has painted and seeing what he has done. I’ve started work on a second Batwing that will be even more radical.”

Every Ali Kat guitar is a one-of-a-kind creation, entirely hand built to order. Basic designs start at $2,000 and can go up to about $4,500, depending on options.

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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.