A Newtonian (vectorial) approach is used to develop the governing differential equations of motion for a three layer sandwich beam in which the uniform distribution of mass and stiffness is dealt with exactly. The model allows for each layer of material to be of unequal thickness and the effects of coupled bending and longitudinal motion are accounted for. This results in an eighth order ordinary differential equation whose closed form solution is developed into an exact dynamic member stiffness matrix (exact finite element) for the beam. Such beams can then be assembled to model a variety of structures in the usual manner. However, such a formulation necessitates the solution of a transcendental eigenvalue problem. This is accomplished using the Wittrick-Williams algorithm, whose implementation is discussed in detail. The algorithm enables any desired natural frequency to be converged upon to any required accuracy with the certain knowledge that none have been missed. The accuracy of the method is then confirmed by comparison with five sets of published results together with a further example that indicates its range of application. A number of further issues are considered that arise from the difference between sandwich beams and uniform single material beams, including the accuracy of the characteristic equation, co-ordinate transformations, modal coupling and the application of boundary conditions.