In the last decade or so, luthiers have increasingly used non-traditional materials for constructing guitars, ranging from uncommon woods to composites and plastics, and more recently, aluminum. Jim Normandy of Normandy Guitars is one such pioneer. Jim has been producing aluminum guitars since 2007, and he truly believes that building with aluminum has something serious to offer to the world of guitar. These instruments, including the first aluminum archtop guitar, are manufactured and hand-riveted in Salem, Oregon.
I am a Tele guy through and through, and I'm pretty traditional when it comes to my definition of a Telecaster. I must confess that I was initially very skeptical when I found out I would be reviewing an aluminum Telecaster. However, I quickly realized that the Alumicaster differs from a traditional Tele in more ways than just materials—from the playability to the tones, this instrument goes beyond the shape it embodies.
The Alumicaster is shaped like a Telecaster, with a slightly oversized headstock and wide-looking maple neck with maple fingerboard. The headstock design reminds me of a sneaker logo. The body is anodized Obsidian black, with grain pattern designed to give the material more character. Visually, it’s hard to tell off the bat that the guitar isn’t wood. Normandy also offers chrome and custom finishes with laser engraving [Normandy also sent a custom aged copper finish Alumicaster with rosewood fingerboard].
Taking the guitar out of the case, I missed the feeling of a wood body—for me, the feeling of cold metal wasn’t very inspiring. I immediately noticed that the guitar’s hollow body makes it very neck-heavy, like an SG. The nut is cut to 1 11/16” with a C profile neck and a 12” radius. I found the neck to be too wide for my liking, but that’s a personal preference. The scale length is 25 1/2” and the neck meets the body at the 17th fret. The guitar is stocked with a Seymour Duncan Custom-Custom humbucker in the bridge and a Duncan "Hot Tele" pickup in the neck.
The guitar comes with a nice setup, which is refreshing, and it feels easy to play. The intonation is dead-on all over the neck. As I checked the intonation unplugged, I realized I had a hard time finding any dead spots—everywhere I played it rang like a tuning fork, more like a 335 than a Tele. The Gotoh tuners are great and there are two string trees on the headstock, which is good because this thing really resonates (likely due to the aluminum blocks at the bridge and neck joint). However, the string trees are also really close to the nut, which might trip up some players who rely on behind-the-nut bends.