THE MAKING OF...
the CHARVEL WD RED BULL guitar
project completed MAR 17 2008
I've always been a big fan of Ratt - especially guitarist Warren DeMartini. Back in the 1980s, DeMartini played mostly Charvels, and these guitars looked so cool! Since 1985, DeMartini has been playing Performance Guitars out of Japan, but Charvel (Fender) announced at the 2006 NAMM show that it would be manufacturing four reissues of DeMartini's famous axes in 2006.
These Charvels and his Performance guitars feature Floyd Rose tremolos and a Seymour Duncan JB in the bridge position. These all look amazing, but they're quite expensive. And no one is mass-producing my favorite guitar of his, The Bugs Bunny sunburst guitar.
Warren DeMartini Bugs Bunny guitar (front #1)
Warren DeMartini Bugs Bunny guitar (front #2)
Warren DeMartini Bugs Bunny guitar (back)
The Bugs Bunny guitar is a worn tobacco sunburst body with a Performance maple neck. It has a Floyd Rose trem and a white pearl pickguard with black pickups (S-S-H) and white knobs. There isn't much on the Internet about this guitar, so I'm not positive on the pickups or the body wood. But that's not going to stop me from making my own "cousin" of this guitar. The Charvel WD (Warren DeMartini) Red Bull.
I'm obviously going to do some things different than DeMartini's original Bug Bunny guitar. First, no Floyd Rose - I'm going with a standard Fender 6-screw tremolo. My maple neck is 21 frets with a CBS headstock. I'm also going with a volume/tone-coil/split switch configuration, not the typical volume/tone/tone setup. And most importantly, I'm not using a Bugs Bunny decal for the body. I'm going with a Red Bull vinyl decal (I originally wanted to use a SHAG art decal, but the one I found was too big). I'm also using a Charvel logo for the headstock. And oh yeah, I'm going to "relic" the living crap out of this guitar. Just like Warren's guitar.
MAR 17, 2008 ~
I literally took the year 2007 off from this project. Not sure why, since it was nearly completed, but that's what happened. Anyway, I finally fot off my butt in February and dropped it off with the guys at The Guitar Shop in DC and had them file down the brass nut and wire this beast up. It came back perfect. One volume, one tone, one split-coil switch for the bridge humbucker (Duncan JB) and it sounds and Red Bull plays awesome! And that CBS Strat neck definitely has that worn-in feel to it...
DEC 11, 2006 ~
After putting this project on the back burner for a couple of months, I went ahead and bolted the neck to the body and screwed the six different coins (2 quarters, 2 nickels, two pennies) to the body. I'm not sure which coins Warren used, but these look pretty close. The top four coins (l to r) on the picture above are a 1979 quarter, a 2001 nickel, a 2001 North Carolina quarter, and a 1970 penny. The bottom two are a 2005 nickel and a 2006 penny.
AUG 14, 2006 ~
I installed the tremolo - I hope it's straight and even! This stock Fender tremolo is very heavy and I think it'll be okay. One note, though - the trem arm that came with the tremolo is crap, so I'll have to track down another one. The next step is to attach the neck and check the string alignment and action. I'll also study Warren's axe to see where he has those six coins and I'll attach them accordingly. After that, I'll take it in to get it wired up.
AUG 12, 2006 ~
After wrecking the body, I applied the Red Bull decal to the body and sprayed both the front and the back a couple of times with clearcoat. I then attached the loaded pickguard and jack plate. Next is the tremolo.
JUL 29, 2006 ~
I finally got back into the swing of things. The weather is nice and hot and I went outside this weekend and sanded, scratched, and dented the body to approximate DeMartini's "relic" look. The plan is to apply the sticker and clearcoat the front and back before installing any hardware. I love wrecking perfectly good guitar bodies!
I also decided to go with a different sticker for the guitar body. Warren has Bugs Bunny - I'm going with Red Bull. I think the red and yellow colors go better with the worn sunburst colors on the body and it fits very well. Maybe someday I'll work on a SHAG guitar! I also took six coins (two quarters, two nickels, two pennies) and drilled holes in them in preparation for attaching them to the body face.
MAY 14, 2006 ~
I finished the headstock this weekend. I've been applying several coats of tung oil to the fretboard and the neck back and it's quite sealed now. I then glued the brass but in place and filled in the nut ends with maple-colored filler wax. I'm sure I'll have to file down the string slots during set up as it seems kinda high.
Last, but not least, I installed the locking Gotoh tuners. Should have been very easy, but I dropped one of the bushings down the kitchen sink and could not get it out. I turned on the garbage disposal and it shot out of there about 100 miles per hour! Oh well, I still used it - it fits in with the "relic" look of this project!
Next up is studying DeMartini's guitar and then sanding down the sunburst body in a BIG WAY!
MAY 7, 2006 ~
I spent the weekend assembling the pickguard and applying the Charvel decal to the headstock. First, I installed the three Seymour Duncan pickups to the white pearl pickguard. I then installed the 5-way switch, two 250K pots, and the mini toggle switch, which will be used for splitting the coils on the bridge JB humbucker. Everything went smooth, but the two-conductor Five-Two pickup (neck position) will need to have some wire added to it. I bought it used and I think the guy who had it before me used it in the bridge position. No big deal.
Second, I applied the Charvel decal to the headstock and then sprayed it six times with clearcoat. Next, I'll oil the neck, as there's a lot of bare wood showing on this relic. Then, I'll add all the heastock hardware - tuners, truss rod bullet, brass nut.
I'm still waiting on my SHAG decals for the body.
APR 16, 2006 ~
I spent a lot of time on giving this All Parts neck a worn look and feel. First, I sanded it down A LOT! It had a medium/heavy amount of gloss on it and I first roughed that all up. I then sanded down specific areas on the both the neck back and the fretboard, to give it the look and feel of a "relic" neck. I colored the worn areas with watered-down black ink and dirt. Yes, dirt. No Minwax stain or anything. I'd like to get it even dirtier, so I may experiment with some other things around the house/yard. And then I'll finish the neck by applying the Charvel decal to the headstock.
I really got lucky with both of these on eBay. I picked up the new Lace basswood body for $35 - including shipping! It had a couple of minor dings in it, but since my plan is to do a lot worse, then... And it's a one-piece body - solid basswood with tobacco sunburst and it will easily accept the S-S-H pickups and vintage Fender tremolo.
The All Parts neck is very nice - first piece of wood I've ever had from All Parts. It's different than the Performance Bugs Bunny neck as Warren's has 22 frets and a standard Fender Stratocaster-style headstock. But I've always wanted a CBS Strat-type headstock and the 21 frets fit in with my more "vintage" take on DeMartini's axe.
I read that Warren prefers the Seymour Duncan JB in the bridge position, so I picked up a Trembucker version in black. I had to guess as to what DeMartini uses in the neck and middle positions, so I went with two previously not-owned Duncans - the Five-Two and the Alnico II Pro - both single coils. The middle Alnico II Pro is a reverse-wound pickup, so I can get hum-cancelling in the #2 pickup selection. And yes, I did have to track down the black single-coil Seymour Duncan pickup covers separately.
It was important to me to get an official Fender Stratocaster 5-way switch, as I have one in my Fender Mini Stratocaster and it's very smooth. I'm using two 250K pots for volume and tone, and instead of going for a second tone pot for the #3 hole in the pickguard, I'll have a coil-splitting switch for the JB Trembucker.
BRIDGE/TUNERS ~ Going vintage! I bought a genuine 6-screw Fender tremolo used off of eBay. I have way too many guitars with Floyds on them, so I decided to take this WD Ratt axe down a more-vintage road. And the tuners are Gotoh's vintage locking tuners - very cool. These nickel locking tuners are very similar to the locking tuners on my Paul Reed Smith McCarty.
HARDWARE ~ Basic stuff here. A white pearl pickguard in the S-S-H configuration, white knobs, chrome neck plate and output Strat jack plate, and black Schaller straplocks. This guitar will feature my first-ever brass nut, too - from the Fender Yngwie Malmsteen model guitar. I also have a couple of different string trees to choose from, should I decide this guitar needs one.
DECALS/ACCESSORIES ~ Finally! It took over a month to get the SHAG decal, but this '60s cat is gonna look really cool! I'll position it in the same place as DeMartini has his Bugs Bunny sticker. The waterslide Charvel decal is standard and I'm actually getting quite good at putting these things on headstocks! The hardest part about sticking these coins on the body is drilling the holes in them. I studied DeMartini's guitar face to figure out the placement and what type of coin to use. I'd like to get it as close as possible.
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