The adventure-proof Alpaca carbon fiber travel guitar
By Paul Ridden
February 7, 2013
While Bob Wiley's Ministar and the Apache Series from Vox are certainly travel-friendly guitars, they're not exactly adventure-proof. Chris Duncan's Alpaca Guitar, on the other hand, is precisely that. Described as a great sounding, go everywhere instrument, it's lightweight, durable and weather- and water-resistant.
The Alpaca Adventure Guitar design and marketing team is made up of Duncan (who originally designed the instrument after a three-month trip through the southwestern United States and who has already offered an earlier version on Etsy's marketplace), Andrew White and Matthew Bogosian. After a year of tweaking and numerous prototypes the final design is now being readied for larger scale production.
The 32.25 x 11 x 3.5-inch (81.9 x 27.9 x 8.8 cm), 2.6-pound (1.17 kg) instrument features a carbon fiber and sugar maple body. A headless neck has Steinberger gearless bass tuners positioned left of the carbon fiber saddle and resin-filled 0.25-inch (0.6 cm) carbon fiber shaft bridge. The back and hollow neck are cast as one piece, to which the guitar's face-board and fretboard are then attached. There's an integrated daisy chain mount on the back for secure attachment to backpacks and the like, and the fingerboard sports 20 silver-nickel frets with a scale length of 24.75-inches (62.8 cm).
"The soundboard is a sandwich of carbon fiber top and bottom, with sugar maple tone-wood strips between them," Duncan told Gizmag. "This helps soften the sound and give structural support to the top."
"The sound hole's location for the Alpaca is offset primarily to allow for easy access to the guitar's inside cavity," he added. "In our experience, space is always a premium when hiking, and having a place to store some extra soft goods is a bonus. There is a line of debate regarding hole position. Some believe that the hand interferes with the exiting sound waves in traditional guitars, as well as the exiting sound adding feedback as it passes the strings. I've not experienced this, so we're just sticking with the extra space explanation."
The Alpaca guitar is made in the mountain state of Vermont by either the team members themselves or local craftsmen, and uses products sourced from the U.S. There are strong indications that the guitar will be the first in a line of Alpaca instruments, which will likely include a mandolin and a ukulele. Before that happens, however, the project needs a cash injection to upgrade the manufacturing process to include 3D CAD/CAM software and routing equipment (instead of the clay and cardboard modeling process used for the prototypes).
The team has pinned its increased production hopes on a Kickstarter funding campaign. Early bird backers can get an Alpaca guitar, a hand-made jute carry pouch/bag and some branded picks for a pledge of at least US$390. Once the two early bird specials have been snapped up, the cost will rise to $450 per instrument.
Should you be the kind of traveler who likes to carry around limited edition hardware, you'll doubtless want to take advantage of the Platinum level of funding ($700) to secure one of the first ten guitars off the production line.
The campaign is set to run until March 8, and backers will get the chance to specify string gauge preference on the post-Kickstarter survey. There's even talk of left-handed versions being made available. If all goes well, the first guitars will start rolling out to backers by the end of April.
The Kickstarter pitch video below gives a taste of the kind of adventures the Alpaca was created for.