More info on my "Signature Model" projects

More info on my Squier Thin Body projects

Under construction...

Burns Rez-O-Matik pickups
tone-shaping mini switch with Bethlehem Star decal and Marshall knobs
mini black/white British flag decal
body back
Brian May signature waterslide
black Charvel replica neck plate

Under construction...

Warren DeMartini playing the white "Frenchie" model, circa 1986 (guitar body).
black "Frenchie" model
red "Frenchie" model unveiled in 2021
sharp graphics
body back
DeMartini signature on body back
white SD '59/Custom Hybrid Trembucker and MIM tremolo with brass saddles
Too Fast To Live
Too Young To Die
with the Snakeskin - Charvel tributes

In the summer of 1985, Warren DeMartini of Ratt graced MTV viewership with his custom Charvel with a real snakeskin body in the "Lay It Down" video. His tone and playing, along with that guitar's look, became a goal for a lot of aspiring guitar players.

In 2010, Charvel introduced the Warren DeMartini Snakeskin model, and at $2400, it was a little out of my range (and it's painted on - not real or faux snakeskin). So in 2011, I picked up a one-humbucker KnE "Warren" body and a maple "Charvel" Musikraft neck. I comtemplated doing a tribute to DeMartini's French guitar, but got smart and found Jared from The Snake Pit in Lincoln, Nebraska who glues snakeskin tolex to guitars and they looked great on his Facebook page. So after about a month, I had an awesome textured snakeskin guitar body delivered to my door.

For the neck, I added a black Charvel decal to the headstock and because I had a set of chrome Gotoh tuners laying around, I decided to go with chrome hardware for the entire guitar. Chrome Schaller straplocks, and chrome Carvin mini knob, a chrome football jack plate, and a chrome R3, German-made Floyd locking nut.

For the tremolo, I picked a used black nickel Floyd Rose Special, but ended up gutting it. The Korean-made Floyd Rose Special is a great tremolo for the money, but it's cheaper for a reason. The bridge saddles and sustain block are a zinc alloy and not full-on steel, the locking nut doesn't seem to be top quality, and the tremolo arm feels a little light. So I bought a set of chrome, German-made Floyd Rose saddles. I also replaced all the screws (nut clamp, nut through neck, string lock & saddle lock) with stainless steel screws (great look!), and then swapped out the standard block inserts with titanium blocks. I also ditched the stock tremolo arm/assembly and upgraded to a real Floyd Rose one. Lastly, I upgraded the tremolo block to a 42mm brass Big Block and added a chrome EVH D-tuna. (I basically did the same upgrades to the EVH Floyd Rose on my EVH Wolfgang Ivory Stealth Special.) Now a super-solid Floyd Rose Special!

For the pickup, I went with a GFS Fat PAT and for the money, it's incredible. Worth 3x the price I paid. I would have loved to install a Seymour Duncan Custom Shop RTM (DeMartini's special order signature pickup - Rattus Tonus Maximus), but $160-plus for a pickup is a painful purchase. I added a couple of coins to the control cavities - a 1985 quarter with the electronics and a replica 1875 French Angel 20 Franc Lucky Rooster (tribute to his Frenchie) in the tremolo spring cavity. And I had a custom Charvel neck plate (WD1985) made to top it off.

The GFS pickup smokes and the Musikraft neck has to be one of the best necks I own. And everyone who sees is loves the snakeskin look on the body. Lay It Down.

July 2014

UPDATE: January 2018

I saw a deal on a black nickel Floyd Rose 1000 base plate, so I simply replaced the Special plate on the Floyd Rose tremolo. So now it's a Floyd 1000 with German saddles, titanium block inserts, and stainless steel screws with the same black nickel/chrome look. The difference between the Korean-made Special and the Korean-made 1000 base plate would be that the 1000 has a better quality of hardened steel - basically the same as the German-made Floyd steel, but made in Asia.

UPDATE: July 2023

Finally! Although Seymour Duncan recently added the Warren DeMartini signature RTM Rattus Tonius Maximus humbucker to its standard line, I tracked down a used 2018 Custom Shop Trembucker model signed by both DeMartini and Duncan. Now it's complete!

DeMartini Snake with installed RTM
RTM with the Floyd 1000 plate/stainless steel saddles & hardware

I also re-wired the guitar and replaced the 500k pot. Wanted Man!

Under construction...

1980s Charvel Gary Moore models
single EMG HZ H4A humbucker
string-thru-body mod for the upgraded hard tail bridge
Gary Moore signature waterslide on the back of the headstock

Under construction...

original Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Hillel Slovak, who died at age 26 in 1988
my wild tribute Strat with a red RHCP logo decal
headstock with Charvel and Hillel Slovak signature waterslides
purchased a custom painted Mutant pickguard and loaded it with LAMSAM single coils ("Mutant green" covers and tone knobs) and a red-covered Fleor hot humbucker
custom Charvel neckplate with scratched-off serial number
body back - Slovak was born in Haifa, Israel
Fender Road Worn vintage tuners
what a waste and it's a shame he missed the bulk of the band's success

Like most Edward Van Halen fanatics, I took note of Allan Holdsworth in the early 1980s based on EVH's numerous recommendations.

When Van Halen was asked (Guitar Player, April 1980) if there were other guitarists who inspire him, he answered:
"Allan Holdsworth - that guy is bad! He's fantastic; I love him. He's got a rock sound. I love his solo in 'In the Dead of the Night' on the U.K. album. I love the solo in 'Hell's Bells' on One of a Kind. (Drummer) Bill Bruford plays hot on that album. Holdsworth is the best in my book. I can kind of play like him, but it doesn't fit our style of music. He's a real artist. He plays a guitar like mine, too. He wears it up high, like a jazz guitar. I could play all that stuff, too, if I played with my guitar up that high, but how would a rock and roll kid look with a guitar up like that?"
It really would have been something if EVH and Holdsworth could have found the time to do a project together (like EVH did with Queen's Brian May in 1983), and that possibility was lost when Holdsworth passed away in San Diego County in 2017. Besides having named Holdsworth early on as one of his favorites, Van Halen attempted to jumpstart the British virtuoso's career with the offer of producing his next album. In April 1982, EVH jammed with Holdsworth a couple of times (GIT and the Roxy) and the plan was for Holdsworth to wait until EVH got off the road from the Diver Down tour, which ended up going from July 1982 to February 1983. Holdsworth didn't want to late that long, so he went into the studio with VH producer Ted Templeman and the result was the 6-song EP, Road Games. But Holdsworth wasn't thrilled about this Warner Bros. release due to the album's production tones, as well as Templeman pushing for a more commercial sound.

EVH in 2013 ( regarding playing live with Holdsworth:
"I did have the opportunity to play live together a couple of times. The first time was by complete accident. I was in the process of helping him get a record deal with Warner Bros., so I picked him up, took him to some meetings and somehow he ended up spending the night at my house. When we woke up, Allan said, 'Sh*t, I have to be at GIT (Guitar Institute of Technology) at noon to do a seminar.' So I raced him down there just in time. Before I knew it, I was on stage with him and his band, and we were both answering questions and playing together. It was quite fun actually and very interesting, especially for the students/audience. Because Allan and I play very different, we answered the same questions very differently. I was very nervous at first because I didn't know any of the songs, but I managed to improvise my way through it.

"The second time Allan and I played together was at The Roxy in Hollywood. I got up and played the last song with them, which was a riff that Jeff Berlin (Allan's bass player) and I came up with, so I was more comfortable because I was familiar with what we played."
Holdsworth jamming with EVH at the Hollywood Roxy on April 29, 1982
Holdsworth and EVH that night with Seymour Duncan
EVH jamming with Holdsworth (L) and bassist Jeff Berlin (R) at GIT, April 1982

So that's some of Holdsworth's story and his limited association with EVH. I wanted to do a tribute to his early 1980s red Charvel, which eventually became the Charvel Holdsworth signature model 1 2. (Holdsworth also had signature models with Ibanez (circa 1985), Carvin (circa 1996), and Fernandes (late 1980s), and also favored Steinberger and Strandberg models.) I began the project by tracking down a used, beat-up Squier Strat body (Torino Red) and a new Mighty Mite ebony Strat neck - just like his original. And I wanted to go with the one humbucker look with a black pickguard.

For the electronics, I didn't want to just do the single bridge pickup with a volume and tone, with a split-coil, mini switch. I wanted that look, though, but I wanted the mini switch to act as a standard 3-way switch as with a two-pickup system. And I wanted to hide that other pickup under the pickguard - like players have done over the years with the Fender Esquire. I tracked down a CALIG Alnico 5 Vintage humbucker with double screws - just like Holdsworth's Seymour Duncan signature pickup - and a CALIG Flat Rail pickup to mount in the shielded neck route. I positioned that single-coil sized humbucker right into the wood so it just touches the underneath of the pickguard placed over it. I wired everything up to a volume, tone, and the 3-way mini switch, along with a .033 tone cap.

For the hardware, I went with a GFS vintage Strat tremolo with a "shorty" steel sustain block, and swapped out the vintage saddles for stainless steel modern ones. I ordered a custom aluminum Charvel Allan Holdsworth neck plate (1946-2017), and picked a set of chrome Gotoh locking tuners with mini knurled buttons as a tribute to Holdsworth's Carvin and Strandberg years. Throw in a set of Schaller straplock buttons, a Charvel headstock waterslide, and a black tremolo cavity cover and I had my Holdsworth tribute.

The guitar was kind of a pain to set up (I broke off the original 10-32 tremolo bar in the block - ugh!), but once ready, I can say it is a player. Nice low action, and the CALIG bridge humbucker gets a really great tone. And the hidden neck position pickup sounds like pure progressive jazz. I was expecting something really muffled, but it actually sounds cool. Overall, a great guitar, and I was able to resurrect a thrashed 1999 Squier body!

March 2018

Under construction...

$2K-plus Charvel Jake E. Lee Model
Jake with his original Fender "Charvel", circa late 1980s
with Ozzy and his Charvel, circa 1984
G.M. pickups - Premium Hot Alnico 5 in the bridge and two slanted Hex single coils
brass hard tail bridge
Road Worn aging
body back
1980 Teaser tribute Charvel replica neck plate
amazing relic'd body

Under construction...

Under construction...

Beck played both Jackson (Soloist) and Charvel (Model 8/Spectrum) guitars in the late 1980s and early 1990s
cream F-hole Strat with blue pearl pickguard
body back
chrome Charvel neck plate
body F-hole
white Giovanni Hot Stacked (neck and middle) and Strat Rails (bridge) pickups
beautiful tribute project to the legendary guitarist

Under construction...

Under construction...

Neal Schon in the early 1980s with his red "Italian flag" Roland guitar
under the pickguard - Giovanni humbucker & singe-coil combo
Charvel replica neck plate
Neal Schon signature waterslide on the back of the headstock

Under construction...

simple project with one single-coil pickup
Charvel neck plate with Houston area code
Billy Gibbons signature waterslide on headstock with chrome locking tuners
body back with Texas vinyl decal
Tone Emporium Testify Texas Blues Strat pickup
ZZ Top vinyl decal
looks great and so simple

This is what happens when I buy a cheap Fender Squier body and a Mighty Mite Strat neck. I get a bit carried away.

The idea for all of this started back in the mid-1980s when I worked at Guitar Center and we had a DiMarzio body with the Japanese "Rising Sun" flag graphics. Man, I should have bought that. I always thought it looked cool, and the prices on these old DiMarzio bodies has skyrocketed. I didn't think I could paint that graphic myself and do it justice, so I went with the next best thing and tracked down a used WD Japanese "Rising Sun" Strat pickguard. And a Strat with that pickguard would be good to go, right?

I loaded the Rising Sun pickguard with aged G.M. pickups and purchased the same "Greasebucket" tone circuit harness as in my Fender Telecaster -Western- guitar. The quality harness came with CTS 250K pots, a CRL switch, .022 Orange Drop tone capacitors, a volume treble bleed (150K resistor, .001 cap), and a Switchcraft jack. So now I had a loaded pickguard ready to go. For other hardware, I went with a GFS MIM Strat tremolo with a heavy brass block and modern stainless steel saddles, along with chrome Gotoh locking tuners.

The used Squier body I purchased was black, but I thought it would look better with the pickguard if it was white, so I taped off some rough patches and sprayed it white/off-white. And of course I thought it would look better with some Japanese graphics, so I ordered a large vinyl decal that reads "Kamikaze" in Japanese. And I also found the ESP George Lynch Kamikaze decal package and used the small bombs above the pickguard, along with another "Kamikaze" decal and a small Japanese flag sticker. That's not over-doing it! And for the body back decals (clockwise from top): George Lynch signature, Japanese "Kamikaze" script, Kamikaze pilot photo, and Japanese "Warrior" script. Lastly, I applied a black Charvel waterslide on the maple Mighty Mite headstock and I ordered a custom black 1986A Charvel neck plate

The G.M. pickups are an amazing value. I didn't order a stock set - I put these three together from individual pickups they sell on eBay (all Alnico 5 models). The bridge SC is Hot, the middle is a standard reverse-wound "62'z", and the neck (my favorite) is G.M.'s take on a P-90 single coil. It may be over the top, but it's a great-sounding guitar with cool graphics! The kind we loved back in 1986.

April 2019

Under construction...

CHARVEL TELE -Jimmy Page Dragon-
Under construction...

Under construction...

Steve Vai tribute
green abalone pickguard with G.M. Stratobucker Triple Coil with split/series/split mini switch G.M. Tele Rails under the hood
back of the body with a Charvel neck plate (CA 777) and California Here I Come! decal

I began this project in the fall of 2009 and over a year later - it's finally done! My first Van Halen Jackson guitar.

Typically, EVH-style, one-humbucker projects are pretty painless and quick, but this one dragged out a bit because of two reasons. First, I picked up the KnE Guitars alder body (Warren model for 24-fret neck) in November 2009 and rushed a striped paint job on there. I didn't prime it well enough, so it started to peel a bit in places, so I had to do it over. By that time, however, winter was in full swing and any new painting would have to wait until mid-2010. So there's one delay. And the new paint job looks A LOT better than the original one I put on there (loosely based on EVH's famous black/yellow Charvel from 1979), but I dinged it a bit afterward so I relic'd the body and some of the hardware a little to accomodate that look.

The other delay was caused by my choice in necks. I originally wanted to go with a new Kramer Striker (by Gibson) maple neck (24 frets), but wasn't happy with the quality. Let's face it. Kramer is no longer Kramer, unless you track down one those USA "1984" models from a few years back. Anyway, I was at a loss for what type of 24-fret neck to put on there. I wanted it to be maple and I was ready to slap a Jackson decal on there. So in early 2011, I decided to go all the way and splurge and get a real MIJ Jackson maple neck with black binding and black shark fin inlays. Wow - what a neck. Great quality and it looks amazing. And huge frets on it. The neck was used off of someone's 2007 Jackson DK2M model.

I was ready to go with a real chrome Floyd Rose on here, but after digging the quality of the Floyd Rose Special trems and using those on my Jackson JTX and Jackson Monaco Strat, I decided to be consistent and get a Floyd Rose Special (satin chrome) for this Jackson project, as well - and the satin chrome really looks good with the navy blue/silver theme. I even went with a real Jackson Floyd-licensed satin chrome locking nut to match. This way, I can save the real Floyd for another project. For the remaining hardware, I went with a black Jackson neck plate and black Jackson tuners (with chrome knobs). Even the chrome volume knob is from a Jackson. Chrome Schaller straplocks, a chrome football jack, and a 1976 quarter for the Floyd are also on there.

For the pickup, I was really torn. I wanted to go with - you guessed it - a Jackson model, but the one I've been looking for (J90) is tough to find. I actually had one for years in my 1984 Ibanez Destroyer X-Series that I put together in the late 1980s and parted out (except the neck - Ibanez Bolt) in 1998. Man that pickup sounded great! I should never have gotten rid of it. Anyway, I had heard good things about Fender's Tex-Mex bridge humbucker and I saw a used one cheap on eBay, so that's what I have in there. I have to admit that the buzz about this pickup is legit (no pun intended) - it sounds great - a lot like a hot '59 PAF or the Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates model.

So why the navy blue/silver EVH theme? It's a subtle tribute to my favorite NFL team - the Dallas Cowboys. I even loaded the control cavity with a vintage Dallas helmet sticker, a Tom Landry photo I took at the old Texas Stadium, and a little bag of the rubber "dirt" from the actual Texas Stadium field from a tour I took in 2008. But make no mistake - this is a killer EVH-like axe that gets the tone and the real Jackson neck is awesome.

January 2011

Under construction...

Under construction...
Randy Rhoads with one of his most obscure guitars 1 2 3
Tracii Guns playing the Harold Friedman (early Quiet Riot roadie) RR brown Strat - search it up on You Tube
Masa 59s strat pickups and Fender tremolo
chrome dome knobs and an on/off mini switch for each pickup
brass trem block
chrome Jackson neck plate
Randy Rhoads signature waterslide
off-the-wall tribute to the late Randy Rhoads

Under construction...

Frank Zappa with his 1960s Fender Stratocaster that was supposedly owned and later burned by Jimi Hendrix
my actual burned Squier body with mirror pickguard
body back
Frank Zappa signature waterslide with Fender Road Worn vintage tuners
closeup of the dark gray JB Weld epoxy used to build up the body under the pickguard and tremolo plate, as well as under the jack plate
Jackson neck plate

See other Charvels and Jacksons and fun Signature project stories:

Charvel and Jackson
Signature Fender Projects

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