Hand-crafted in Asheville, NC, the Water Cut Aluminum Voyager is a testament to American craftsmanship. We visited with Andrew Hayes, the local artisan responsible for creating this one-of-a-kind Moog synthesizer, and took the opportunity to talk with him about his trade.
How did you get started with metal working?
I Started Metal working in college at Northern Arizona University as a sculpture student. I got some base skills down and that summer break I helped a friend build a fence around an apartment complex in Tucson. After I left school I started working in the welding industry at different factories or shops mainly in Portland, OR. I welding stainless steel flexible hose for a while, car carrying trailers, and also stainless steel takes for fermentation or any other function. This stint in industry lasted about three years but it allowed me to hone some skills and put my work ethic to the test.
Where do you draw inspiration for your work?
I draw from sculptors in all materials. I'm interested in forged steel shapes. While I 'm not a blacksmith, I am fascinated by the movement of the metal. I weld or connect metal with rivets or screws but forged metal is pushed like clay into different shapes, that has always intrigued me. I am always looking at industrial shapes such as boilers or water towers… things like that, as well as fifties office furniture.
How did you layout/plan the project pre-build?
Working with Moog Music allowed me to bring a few ideas to the table and through great conversations and some sample making we arrived at using aluminum as the base material. The focus was not to change the shape of the cabinet but to celebrate the form of the Minimoog Voyager. Since the design work was already established I focused on connections, surface work, and other details that would hopefully be appealing.
What was the process for producing the voyager cab in aluminum?
Working with the engineers at Moog Music I got the full layout of the cabinet and got an idea of how the Voyagers are put together. I had a several shapes water cut locally and started putting the pieces together. All of the parts needed to be handled in various ways: the mill scale needed to be removed, the edges chamfered, holes were taped to receive machine screws, and then every part was hand polished. I was very careful to hit all of my tolerances while assembling the cabinet to make sure everything fit perfectly was crucial.
How long did this project take to complete?
It took some time to work out my end of design stuff and some back and forth to the Moog factory to see just how the electronics fit into the cabinet. My biggest fear was this thing would get to the line and I would have missed something and therefore slowdown production. To answer your question, it took some time.
What obstacles did you need to overcome to make an aluminum Minimoog cabinet?
I guess my biggest obstacle was getting up to speed on the in's and out's of the production line at Moog. Having worked in factories I know how frustrating it can be when something new hits the line. I just wanted to make every one's job handling this aluminum cabinet as low impact as possible. The Voyager production team was such a huge help, they went over the process and sequence of assembly for me just to make sure I hit all of my marks.
What was your most indispensable piece of equipment during this build?
My table saw. I needed it to cut the inch thick aluminum parts and the large angled cuts. I didn't expect to use it as much as I did or that it would work as well as it did. Yeah, my table saw kinda saved the day.
A few people have nicknamed the instrument the "Aluminum Monster" (because of its weight). Did you have any pet names for the project in your studio?
No not really, I just called it Heavy. I was so worried about the weight of it. I was handling it a lot so I kinda got used to the girth but I kept thinking about when all the guts were in it and how bad I'd feel for whom ever had to shlep it around. I apologize for that.
If you could be commissioned for any project, what would be your dream gig?
I've always fantasied about having a custom trophy shop.
The one-of-a-kind Water Cut Aluminum Voyager is available exclusively at Big City Music.