Archive for the ‘Van Halen’ Category

Finding a 1971 Quarter

Posted on July 8th, 2009 in Van Halen | 6 Comments »

Just a quick tip for all of you trying to find a 1971 quarter.

I took a cruise last year and was in the casino playing those quarter push games. I got $20 worth of quarters out of the change machine and looked at every one before I played it. I found a ’71 quarter, so a casino could be your source. You can always cash them back in if you don’t find one.

Build Your Own Frankenstein Guitar, Part Seven

Posted on January 15th, 2009 in Van Halen | 7 Comments »

Part six of this series was all about what kind of hardware Eddie used and how to find it. Now that we have everything we need, it’s time for final assembly.

To start, I screwed the single coil and five-way switch to the body. You can see on the template how the switch is mounted, with the screws pointing towards the bridge in the wood between the first and second pickup routs. Then I screwed the humbucker directly to the body. Make sure you use screws that are long enough but not too long. You don’t want to screw all the way through the body! Also make sure you get a pole piece of the pickup under each E string.

I’m not very good with a soldering iron, so I had a buddy do the wiring of the humbucker, volume pot, and input jack. Put the input jack in the jack plate and run wire through the rout to the electronics cavity. Solder the jack, pot, and pickup together. Poke a hole in the foil shielding on the pick guard and stick the volume pot through. Tighten it down and then screw the pick guard and jack plate to the guitar. You’ll also have to run a ground wire to the bridge.

I screwed down the 1971 quarter using this photo as a guide and added the tuning keys, string retainer, and locking nut to the neck. Then I took everything to a local guitar repairman and explained exactly what I wanted him to do:

  1. Adjust the Floyd Rose pivot screws to that the bridge sat parallel to the guitar body when resting on the quarter.
  2. Adjust the string height by shaving down the heel of the neck.

He did a great job and now the action on the guitar is very nice with the bridge resting on the quarter.

The last thing I did was put a burn mark on the neck. Eddie liked to smoke onstage and the most convenient place to hold his lit cigarette was between the strings on the headstock. I’m not a smoker, so I had to buy my first pack at the local grocery store. It went something like this:

Me: “I’d like a pack of cigarettes.”

Salesperson: “What kind?”

Me: “The cheapest ones you have. I’m not going to smoke them.”

Salesperson: (Befuddled look) “These are pretty cheap.”

Me: “I’ll take them…It’s for a guitar.”

Salesperson: (An even more befuddled look)

I sat the guitar on a stand out on the back porch. I lit a smoke and stuck it between the E and A tuning keys so that the lit portion of the cigarette was in contact with the wood. You’ll probably have to remove the cigarette and take a few puffs to keep it going. Try not to inhale the smoke, and if you are a smoker, try to quit. Eventually, you will have a nice burn on heastock. I still need to go back and add some more burns between the other tuning keys, but judging by the size of the burn, this was Eddie’s favored location.

You’ll notice on the template that there is some electrical tape on the top horn which I didn’t add, and there is also some double-sided tape with a pick on it that I didn’t add. What you can’t see are several amber and red bicycle reflectors that Eddie added to back of his guitar. He also used big hooks to attach his guitar strap, but I didn’t add the reflectors or the hooks. Fender couldn’t find the same reflectors, so that means I can’t either. Maybe some day I’ll add some similar ones, but for now, I’m done.

And that’s it! The last piece of advice I can give you is to play it all the time after you build it. After all, the best way to make it look well used is to use it well!

Build Your Own Frankenstein Guitar, Part Six

Posted on December 21st, 2008 in Van Halen | 20 Comments »

In part five of this series, I added tape to the guitar body and painted it two more times. Now that the hard part is over, it’s time to talk about what kind of hardware Eddie used and you will need to find.

Here is a list of items you will need to complete your Frankenstein:

  • Chrome Original Floyd Rose tremolo bridge and associated parts (springs, claw, anchors, studs)
  • Chrome Locking nut and string retainer
  • Black Humbucking pickup
  • Any Single coil pickup
  • 5-way pickup switch
  • 500k volume pot
  • Fender-style tone knob
  • Chrome neck plate and screws
  • Input jack
  • Chrome Jack plate
  • Black-White-Black 3-ply pick guard
  • Chrome Schaller mini tuning keys
  • Shielding foil
  • 1971 United States quarter

Read the rest of this entry »

Build Your Own Frankenstein Guitar, Part Five

Posted on November 30th, 2008 in Van Halen | 12 Comments »

In part four of this series, I showed you how to get started painting your own Frankenstein replica guitar. Part five will focus specifically on how to tape up the body to make the signature stripes.

In order to create the black stripes on a white guitar, Eddie painted his new Boogie Bodies guitar body solid black. Then he added tape to the body and painted it white. The tape masked the black base coat to create the stripes. You may have seen some older photos of Eddie with a black and white guitar. It might have a full pick guard and a standard Fender tremolo bridge. That’s the Frankenstein. As Van Halen became a popular club band and as Eddie’s reputation grew, people started to copy his signature stripes. That means people have been creating their own Van Halen replica guitar for over thirty years!

There are many ways to lay the tape on the guitar. You could just eyeball it and get close. You could also lay the life-size template on the body and use a ballpoint pen to carve guides in the paint. I chose a different way. I don’t know if I would do it this way again, but I’ll show you how I did it and you can make up your own mind. The point is that there is no right way to do it and you’re not going to be able to tell the difference unless you hang your replica next to the real Frankenstein anyway.

My idea was to lay the life-size template down and place a piece of glass on top of it. I used a piece of glass that was on an end table at home. Then I laid out the intricate stripes on the glass. Having some photos of this original paint scheme will be beneficial. A Google image search should find you all you need. Try a search for “black white frankenstrat”.

I took the life-size template, laid it on the guitar body, then made some heavy marks on the template with a ballpoint pen. This left subtle indentions on the body to locate the position of some of the major stripes. Then I carefully peeled the tape off the glass and transferred it to the guitar body. The stripes should come off in two big sections with the individual pieces of tape stuck to one another in place.

Hang the guitar body up again and paint it white. Remember that several thin coats are better than a few thick coats. Once the paint dries peel the tape off. Now you can start to distress the paint, or turn it into a “relic”. I took some sandpaper, a slotted screwdriver, a hammer, and a nail, and added some gashes and wear to the paint. The idea is to bang it around and add a couple of years a abuse. Eddie didn’t apply the red paint right away, so you need to add the abuse before you stripe it up and paint it again. It’s the only way to recreate the intricate stripes and subtle nuances of the original.

So using the same technique above, lay out the second set of stripes and apply the red paint. Then add some more distress to the paint using your hammer, etc. Take a look at the life-size template and note where there are scratches, gouges, gashes, and missing paint.

It’s now really starting to take shape. In the next post I’ll discuss the hardware you’ll need to find.

Build Your Own Frankenstein Guitar, Part Four

Posted on November 5th, 2008 in Van Halen | 7 Comments »

In my third post, I showed how I prepared the guitar body for paint. Now lets talk about what kind of paint to use.

Eddie’s original Frankenstein guitar was covered with Schwinn lacquer bicycle paint. Wanting this to be as accurate as possible, I found a Schwinn dealer and went back to the parts counter to buy some paint. After looking through a giant parts catalog, we determined that Schwinn no longer sells paint. So then I set out to find any kind of black, white, and red lacquer. I was told by some of the stores where I was looking that lacquer paint was no longer available in a spray can. That may or may not be true, but you might take that into consideration if you can’t locate some. After I had given up finding any lacquer paint, I went down to Pep Boys Auto Parts to buy some enamel paint to use. Pep Boys keeps the spray paint locked up behind a giant cage. After browsing the selection through the bars, I spied three cans sitting on top of the shelves. Three cans of lacquer paint…one black, one white, and one red. I ran (literally) over to the cashier and got her to unlock the paint cage. I grabbed the cans and blew about an inch of dust off the lids. You might find some the first place you look, but I was happy to find those cans of paint! One can of each color was enough for me to finish the guitar.

I’m no luthier and I’ve built only one guitar in my life, but that’s the beauty of making your own Frankenstein replica. Eddie wasn’t a pro, and you don’t have to be either. Don’t worry about priming the wood, sanding, priming, sanding some more, etc. Just hang a sheet up in the garage and go for it. I bent a wire clothes hanger up and hung the guitar on a garage door track. Then I grabbed the ugliest sheet that I owned and taped it to the wall behind the guitar.

The first paint to be applied is black. When applying spray paint, remember that several thin coats are better than one thick coat. It’s also a good idea to cover the walls of the routs and the insides of the horns with paint first, then finish up with nice even coats on the rest of the body. Eddie hung his guitar over a space heater to dry and some of the paint dripped on it and nearly caught the house on fire. So don’t paint in an enclosed area, don’t use thick coats of paint, and don’t hang your guitar over a heater. Lacquer paint is bad stuff, so don’t breathe any of it.

So with that bit of C.Y.A., you should now have a black guitar. The next step was the most challenging for me: striping it up. And that will be the subject of my next post.

Build Your Own Frankenstein Guitar, Part Three

Posted on September 14th, 2008 in Van Halen | 4 Comments »

In my second post, I covered a little of the history behind the Frankenstein guitar and what we’re trying to build. With that in mind, this post will show you how to prepare the body for paint.

To begin, I started collecting photos of the Frankenstein in magazines and on the Web. The January 1981 issue of Guiar World featured Ed and a nice straight-on view of the guitar. I scanned the cover and blew it up full-size in Photoshop, then printed it out. You may have to print it out on several pieces of paper and tape it together like I did. This life-sized printout will be your template for laying out the stripes and routing the guitar. I have found better photos since I built my guitar, but you can download my template to use or get you started.

As noted in part two, the guitar body Ed bought was a standard Strat body routed for three single-coil pickups. To make room for the PAF humbucking pickup out of his Gibson ES-335, Ed took a hammer and chisel to the new body and enlarged the neck pickup rout. I didn’t want to risk destroying the guitar body, so I used a router to make nice clean routs and then used a hammer and chisel to rough the edges up.

If you look closely at the photo above you can see some lines drawn around the pickup routs. I layed the template I printed out on the body and taped it in place. Using a ballpoint pen and a lot of force, I traced the outline of the neck pickup rout. This left a slight indention in the body that I could go over again with the pen directly on the body. I gouged the clean rout with the chisel and actually hammered directly on the the guitar body. The result is a very roughly hewn pocket and I didn’t risk splitting the body in half using a chisel.

With the routing complete, I placed tape over the neck pocket. I didn’t want a lot of thick paint to build up here and decrease sustain. I wanted the raw wood of the neck and body to be in contact. I also placed tape in the electronics rout so I would be able to show the Boogie Body stamp to any doubters. And with that, we are ready to paint.

In the photo above you can see the really ugly floral sheet I hung up in the garage to create a makeshift paint booth. You can also see the new routs.

In my next post I’ll talk about selecting and applying the paint…

Build Your Own Frankenstein Guitar, Part Two

Posted on August 24th, 2008 in Van Halen | 11 Comments »

In my first post, I explained why I wanted to build a replica of Eddie Van Halen’s Frankenstein guitar. In this post, I’m going to cover a little of the history behind the guitar so we know what we’re trying to build.

When Ed set out to build a guitar from scratch, he went to a replacement parts manufacturer called Boogie Bodies that was run by Wayne Charvel and Lynn Ellsworth. He bought a guitar body for $50 and a neck for $80. Both were seconds and purcased at a discount. The body was ash and the neck was a maple capped neck. A maple capped neck is like a maple neck with a rosewood fingerboard, only the fingerboard is maple. This is different from what most people think of as a maple neck: a single piece of maple with a strip of rosewood on the back covering the truss rod.

I did some Google searches and found Lynn Ellsworth’s name associated with Speedster Amps. It seems that he was making amps instead of guitar parts. I gave Speedster a call and spoke to Lynn Ellsworth himself! I’m easily impressed, but that was way cool. I told him about my project and he said “Oh yeah, I know exactly what you want. I’ve got a piece of ash just like Eddie’s is made out of. I’ll cut it for you myself.” I gave him my credit card number and started to wait for the body to arrive. Apparently the amplifier business is good because it took a couple of months to get the body. But once it arrived, it was like holding a piece of history. It was a standard Strat body routed for three single coils and stamped “Boogie Bodies.” The only difference in my body and Ed’s is that mine is routed for a Floyd Rose bridge. You can now get your own Boogie Body at Sound Instruments.

Maple capped necks turned out to be more difficult to find. I finally located a site called 16 Tracks Digital that had what were called “Stratomaster” guitar necks. I got an unfinished maple capped neck for $50. I checked their web site while researching this post and they no longer carry Stratomaster necks so you’ll have to find another source, but they’re out there.

Next time, preparing the Boogie Body for paint…

Build Your Own Frankenstein Guitar, Part One

Posted on August 12th, 2008 in Van Halen | No Comments »


In 1983 I bought my first Van Halen album and they’ve been one of my favorite bands ever since. Around that same time (the 8th grade), my parents also bought me an electric guitar. While I don’t play much these days, I’ve always wanted a replica of Eddie Van Halen’s Frankenstein guitar. Some call it the Frankenstrat. All I know is, I wanted one. So in 2001 I set out to build one. It seemed simple enough…just look at it. Not exactly pretty.

These days you can just go out and buy a Frankenstein. That is, if you have an extra $21,400. Or you can do like I did and build your own. Over the next few weeks I will be detailing the process I went through to create my own, and in the process, save about $21,000.

Next time, a brief history lesson…