• Taking Chances2:24

In the spring of 2014, I brought a tele style guitar that I had built to band practice.  Tammy, who you can see on the home page, is an an eye-catching beauty with huge Nashville tone.

A longtime friend saw it, and heard me play it, and asked me if I built custom order guitars.  Of course, I said "sure", even though the only previous guitars that I had built were custom only to me.

He told me he wanted a Frankenstrat.  I was familiar with Eddie Van Halen's famous partscaster, but didn't know too many details about it.  Nor was I familiar with the culture surrounding it.

I learned that the guitar had been modified more times than even Eddie himself was sure of.  I started collecting info on the various necks, bridges, and other hardware.  

Then there was the famous paint job.  My friend, who works with graphics, actually had blueprints of the masking for both the white and red layers of paint.  The black was the original finish.  So I had that to work from.

He decided that he liked the Kramer "beak" neck from the mid-80's version.  So I got to work.

I decided to take elements from various incarnations.  The broken record pickguard just had to be there.

I obtained an 80's era Kramer body, which I proceeded to strip the finish from.  I used a Dremel tool to mangle the pickup routs appropriately, as well as doing some damage to the tremolo cavity. 

The pieces came together.  I obtained a NOS Kramer neck from the era, but it was unstable, possibly due to poor storage.  So I swallowed hard and bought a replica neck.

I also found a NOS (but still worn some due to banging around in parts drawers) Kramer made Floyd II bridge, which had appeared briefly on the real thing when Eddie was endorsing them. A locking nut and string retainer completed the ensemble.

We decided on Schaller M45 locking tuners, which had also seen their turn with Eddie.  Also Schaller locking strap pegs.  My friend didn't want to hook his straps to screw eyes.  I wasn't just making a replica here.  I was building a guitar that a guitarist was planning to actually play.

I wasn't sure what to do about the pickup(s).  I could buy a bunch of random 70's PAF pickups and see if any of them had the sound I was looking for.  Then I found out that the wizards at GFS (whose pickups are maybe the most underrated in the business) had designed their own replica pickup, which was advertised as having the "brown sound".  It turned out that they weren't just bragging.  I also obtained a replica of the single coil pickup, which isn't actually connected on the real thing.  But this one was a 12K screamer that actually makes a good companion to the humbucker.  Connecting it to the switch was no big deal.  That nest of wires looks the same either way.  I had a battered three way lever switch which fit the part perfectly.  One A500K volume pot (with a strat knob labeled "tone", and the electronics were complete.

The paint job was a real labor of love.  I used enamel automotive paint, and started with the black layer, which I then roughed up.  Then the first taping.  It took me hours of taping, using the blueprint for reference. But the results were better than I expected.  While taping for the red layer, I realized that I might be coming TOO close, so I intentionally changed a few elements, even adding my initials.  You can see the final result before you.

At my friends request, I didn't add the reflectors to the back, or do the "relicing" of the paint job.  No cigarette burns on the headstock.  It is a player more than a replica.

The real payoff was when he came over to my house to pick it up.  He brought over his 50 watt Marshall, fiddled with the controls for a while, then started playing "You Really Got Me".  It sounded like I had Eddie V in the house (did I mention that my friend is an awesome player?)!

I decided that I was onto something.  So here we are, and I've sold over 50 guitars.  My friend is still playing his "Frank"