Under construction...

EVH at Sunset Sound in December 1978 recording Van Halen II - note the natural Strat with the white pickguard and Danelectro neck
another pic from the same session with the "Dano" Strat in the backgound
close up and specs of the Strat body with Danelectro neck
zoom in pic of EVH's Dano Strat
Charvel EVH 1978 Explorer
25" vs. 25 1/2"-scale experience
EVH 80 Star
EVH 81 -Rude-

More info on EVH's Danelectro neck history

Under construction...

EVH with his axe collection, circa late 1979. Note the natural Strat on the floor in the foreground (zoom in).
EVH in the studio for the Women And Children First sessions, circa early 1980. Note the natural Strat with him, so it must have been used on the record.
my version with "gold-ish" hardware
amazing grain on the KnE ash body
gold Floyd Rose with the plating removed and aged gold saddles
gold Charvel replica neck plate
chrome/gold Gotoh tuners

Under construction...

One of the oddest EVH guitars - the Sandoval Megazone 1 2
EVH with his guitar collection, circa late 1979
EVH with Karl Sandoval and the VH II "Bumblebee", circa Fall 1978
Sandoval built the Rhoads polka-dot V
recent pic of Sandoval with the EVH Megazone?
EVH with his Sandoval Megazone 1 2 3 4 (original headstock shape)
The headstock options: like original, Charvel Strat, Wayne Guitars (Wayne Charvel with a Megazone body)
KnE Strat headstock with Schaller tuners
replica Charvel neck plate (SM 002 - Sandoval Megazone #2)
satin chrome Floyd Rose and white DiMarzio Super Distortion humbucker
interesting volume knob placement
wood grain visible in the golden sunset

Under construction...

EVH played the Les Paul during And The Cradle Will Rock... live 1980
(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
Les Paul 1959? 'Burst (circa 1979), (also circa 1979), (circa 1993)
Epiphone Les Paul Standard PlusTop PRO
aged Giovanni GVH-59 nickel humbucker
removed neck pickup like EVH did
3-way toggle switch acts as a kill switch (on/on/off)
nickel Sperzel locking tuners
looks great with flame maple veneer

Most guitar-playing, Van Halen fans have some replicas of their hero's famous guitars. But this one is as abstract as it gets.

When it comes time to recreate a Van Halen guitar (not purchase a striped EVH/Fender version), most fans/players go for the usual ones - the Frankenstein, the 5150, the black/white Frankenstein, and the Bumblebee. The more daring take it to a different level with their own versions of the Star, Circles, and the purple Kramer with electrical tape. Or the '81 "Rude", Rasta, and Shark (you literally have to saw up an Explorer to do this one right). I even made a cheap copy of the black Strat EVH played in 1976-77. But the project defines the term abstract, although it was super easy to do. This was essentially EVH's first real guitar - a modified Goldtop Les Paul.

EVH's father, Jan, purchased the guitar on August 15, 1969, and the receipt shows a 1969 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop (serial number 539381). EVH replaced the bridge P-90 pickup with a black humbucker - pictured first in 1972, and then in late 1973 and early 1974 (1 2 3 4 5 6), and bragged that guitar players in those early audiences couldn't figure out how he was getting that full, thick tone with a single-coil P-90. As seen in the pictures, EVH seems to have simply took off the cream P-90 cover on the neck pickup and installed a black humbucker in the bridge, which would have required making the pickup cavity a touch wider, as well as modification to the pickguard. (The pickguard is pictured on and off in the previously linked pictures.) The P-90/HB combination seems to have been a popular trend in the mid-1970s, as Tom Scholz of Boston fame made the same mods on his 1968 worn Goldtop (signature model).

The story from EVH:
I saved the money from delivering papers for two and a half to three years, and bought my first real guitar, which was a '68 Goldtop Les Paul with single-coil P-90 pickups. So what do I do? I take the chisel to it right away! Because I wanted a humbucking pickup! But in Pasadena, there were no Les Pauls with a humbucker in them. There was one store in northern Pasadena - a Les Paul came in and they called me right away 'Hey, we’ve got a Les Paul!' I walk in and I go, 'Ah, sh!t! It ain't the kind Clapton plays!' It didn't have humbuckers. So, of course, I hunted down a humbucker, took a chisel and made the hole bigger and crammed it in there. I was lucky enough to solder it back properly, then I painted it black and added binding.

I did all kinds of crazy sh!t to it. The funny thing is, I only changed the bridge pickup and left the P-90 neck pickup. Since my right hand was covering the bridge pickup, when I played people were going, 'How the f#&k's he getting that sound out of a P-90?!' Because that's all they could see. Little did they know that I'd stuck a humbucker in there!

For being known as a Strat/tremolo guy throughout his career, EVH has used quite a few Gibson Les Pauls: black Custom (circa 1975), first album cover shoot - tobacco burst Junior (circa 1977), white Custom (circa 1978), honey burst Standard with rhythm pickup removed (1980 WACF tour), David Petschulat mini LPs (1984 tour), and rare EVH Les Pauls with a Floyd (left) and Trans Trem (striped, right).

So anyway, I didn't want to spend $1500-plus on a real USA Gibson, so I found a screaming deal on a Epiphone Les Paul '56 Goldtop. Although the guitar looked and played amazing on day one (the stock P-90s sound great!), I still had to make some minor modifications to my New Old Stock (NOS) 2014 Epiphone. First, I had to remove the bridge P-90 and I used a Dremel to open the cavity up a bit. I purchased a Nico's USA 1959 Special bridge pickup and quickly wired it into the harness. I then had to manually file down the pickguard and make sure it fit around the humbucker ring. I also swapped out the stock tuners for Sperzel locking tuners, added a set of Schaller strap buttons, and removed the cream P-90 cover from the neck pickup. And that was it - no aging or anything and everything else on this Epiphone was quality. Again, I was really impressed with this guitar right out of the box.

I can see why players from the 1970s swapped out the bridge P-90, as adding a humbucker really gives a more versatile selection of tones. My first Nico's USA pickup sounds really good - a nice vintage sound as advertised - and I'm really happy with the way this axe plays. I wonder what happened to EVH's original Goldtop, although it probably died the same way a lot of Gibsons die. A broken headstock.

July 2016

Under construction...

Van Halen's 1964 (or 1958?) L Series Fender Stratocaster
front of EVH's Fender Stratocaster
Fender Stratocaster face close-up with 5150 etched close-up back
Hagar and EVH (with Strat) playing "Finish What Ya Started" circa 1988

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photographed in the 1990s
EVH playing the "1957 Stratocaster" with the Tele neck at 5150 in early 2007 before the Roth reunion (Andrew Bennett) 1 2 3

This one has to be one of the least expensive projects I've ever put together.

This axe is modeled after the black Strat EVH used in 1976-77 right before recording the band's first album and heading off on that first tour (1 2 3 4 5). In fact, there are some EVH guitar fanatics who believe this guitar was used to record some of Van Halen. And there are even some theories out there about this black body eventually being taped up and painted white - with a new maple neck added. Yes, we're talking about the famous white/black VH1 model Frankenstein.

Well, after seeing a few pics of this classic axe (and potentially first edition of the most recognizable rock guitar ever!), I decided to build a tribute model. Around the same time, I had a $50 gift card to Best Buy and while browsing through the store's new music instrument section, I saw that they had black Squier Strats with rosewood necks for $120! Sure, it was a cheap piece of garbage, but I thought I could get it into pretty good playing shape. So for only $70, I bought a black basswood body, a 21-fret rosewood neck, and a white pickguard. Everything else would be replaced.

The first thing I did was to sand the Squier decal off the headstock and add a new Fender waterslide in the same place EVH did. I then had to re-drill the tuner holes to accept some 10mm locking tuners. I lightly sanded down the back of the neck and rounded the edges to give it a broken-in feel. Mission accomplished. Next was the pickguard, I took my Dremel and opened up the bridge single-coil slot for a humbucker with roughly the same pattern EVH had (sloppy!). I gutted the electronics, but left the unwired stock neck and middle position white single-coil pickups in there for looks. I'm not sure if EVH had these two hooked up on his black Strat (the 3-way switch is visible on his, so maybe?), but he sure didn't on his Frankenstein.

Then came some new parts from GFS. I added a set of chrome locking tuners, a new Strat tremolo with a heavy brass block, and one of their zebra VEH humbuckers (I also have one in my Kramer EVH 1225 guitar.) I wired the humbucker to a new 500k pot straight to the output jack, and I even have the pickup screwed straight into the body - not the pickguard. I had to add some wood to the body's bridge pickup cavity to get it at the right height, but it was easy. I also added a chrome Fender neck plate and chrome Schaller straplocks. I wasn't sure what kind of knob he used on his black Strat, but since I used a Carvin mini pot, I went with a chrome Carvin mini knob. (I since saw better pics that seem to show he used a standard white Fender knob - as he did on his Frankenstein... hmmm.) Also, a close-up of the black Strat shows EVH placed the single volume control in the bottom hole on the Strat pickguard (Tone 2), but I'm using the middle (Tone 1) placement.

Last, but not least, I decided to lightly relic the body, tremolo, pickups, tuners, pickguard, and headstock. And that's always a lot of fun! So for some easy coin, I turned a POS into an obscure EVH replica. And believe me - the GFS VEH humbucker smokes!

May 2010

UPDATE: February 2016

A pickup swap! To make a short story long, I needed an F-spaced humbucker for my Charvel EVH Pine Tele-Wolf, so I found someone selling what I thought was an F-spaced DiMarzio FRED. But it was only a regular-spaced humbucker - ugh. So I remembered that this Fender 77 had essentially an F-spaced GFS VEH in a slanted position, so... I swapped out the zebra GFS for the zebra DiMarzio so I can use the GFS VEH in the other axe, which isn't slanted. Whew! I hope that makes sense! I also wired in a new pot and went with a standard white Tone knob, keeping it in the middle (Tone 1) position on the pickguard. The FRED is a really focused-sounding pickup - not as open as the VEH, but it smokes!

This guitar is not even close to the official EVH Frankenstein that Fender makes (, but I had to do something with all the extra parts I had.

For years I was working on my Firebird guitar and I just couldn't get the right action with the neck I was using. I actually ruined a Mighty Mite, Jackson-style neck by taking too much wood off of the heel while trying to get it in the Firebird's body joint. Anyway, I gave up and sold the Firebird body on eBay. So that left me with a chrome Ping Floyd Rose and a pair of Golden Age black humbuckers (neck and bridge). I used the neck humbucker in my Duotone Standard guitar project (great tone from Golden Age, by the way), so now what? I could have sold the Floyd and extra pickup, but one day in September 2009, I came across a Fender Squier Stratocaster body that someone had done a nice EVH paint job on. Even relic'd it, too. So I decided to go down that road.

First off, there was some differences (see below) from the eBay body and the real deal, but that's fine – this one is more like a version of the Frankenstein Fender would put out if they made a $1500 version in Mexico (without the flight case). Thankfully, this body was drilled for the Floyd posts, so it just required a neck and some miscellaneous hardware. In October, I ordered a nice 22-fret, flamed maple Strat neck from Warmoth, and once again, I have to say Warmoth necks are the best. Anyway, in keeping with the Fender theme, I tracked down a chrome Fender neck plate and a set of chrome Fender - made by Schaller - tuners to go with the Fender-used Ping Floyd. (The Frankenstein had a 22-fret, Strat neck on it for most of the 1982 Diver Down tour.)

To make an EVH Frankenstein, there are some other parts required. Luckily, I hand most of these laying around. I had a 1971 quarter that I drilled up and aged (fire works nice). I took a white Tone knob and aged it up. I had a chrome Strat jack plate that I aged by scratching it and burning it. I had a black Strat pickguard that I cut up and scratched up to match EVH’s original partial guard. I had a nice 5-way switch that I broke up and aged for the middle pickup cavity. And I even had an old single-coil pickup and a red cover. I cut the cover top on and super-glued it to the top of the single-coil pickup. I then aged it by scratching it, burning a little bit of it, and rubbing wax on it to dull it.

To age the Ping Floyd Rose, I took it apart and scrated it up – especially the fine tuners. I swapped out the stock Ping trem block, and attached a 42mm brass Big Block from Big difference! And I had a lot of fun aging the Golden Age Overwound humbucker. I scratched it, filed it, burned it, and rubbed wax on it and I think it looks pretty good! I then wired it up to a 500k pot I had laying around and I was in business. Because the pickup cavity on the Strat body was pretty deep, I had to add a bit of wood in the humbucker cavity so the pickup could be screwed into real wood.

I even aged the neck just a bit by sanding down really good and adding some random cigarette burns to the headstock. I aged the Fender tuners by sanding/scratching some of the finish off the buttons, and I lightly sanded the Floyd Rose lock nut screws (clamp and through-neck). The assembly was very easy and the Warmoth neck fit very nicely on the Strat body. I added the appropriate set of eight reflectors to the back of the body, although I didn't age them like the original. The Golden Age Overwound humbucker is a beefy PAF-sounding pickup and is a great value for the money. And seriously, this is what Fender could do to put out a much cheaper version of the $25k EVH Frankenstein! Cheaper alder body, cheaper pickup, Ping Floyd, no Schaller tuners, less time relicing the body to perfection.

October 2009

UPDATE: April 2010

Note that the majority of the above description was based on this guitar having a 22-fret, 25 1/2"-scale neck (1 2) and before I got my Charvel EVH Frankenstein (which is A LOT closer to EVH Frankenstein). My original plan with this in 2009 was to use a Warmoth Tele baritone neck to make it really unique. So in March 2010, I broke down and ordered a Warmoth maple baritone neck with a Tele headstock. A baritone guitar with a Floyd Rose? How cool is that! This baritone guitar is tuned B E A D F# B - low to high - just like my Warmoth Baritone axe. The only issue I had was the low B string was too thick at the ball end with the winding to fit through the tuner hole (I wind all my Floyd guitars ball-end at the tuner down to the bridge), so I had to drill out the one tuner to accomodate the .062 string. And the Warmoth flamed maple neck went toward my Kramer EVH Pacer Sustainer guitar (see below). So add this major modification to the above list of how this is different than the $25k EVH Frankenstein...

In my quest to build an "EVH prototype" Peavey guitar, I first had to track down the right Peavey neck, as my goal was to build something that resembled the Peavey EVH used in VH's 1998 "Without You" video - a transparent red Peavey Wolfgang with a rosewood neck and P-90 pickups. I wanted a Peavey neck that had the same headstock shape and truss rod wheel as the Wolfgang guitar, but some of these Peavey models were 25"-scale guitars. That wouldn't work. I soon discovered that the Peavey Predator Plus guitar has a 25.5" scale, so I began to look for a used one on eBay.

For the body, I saw an Ernie Ball Music Man EVH-style body (VW) on Warmoth's Thrift Shop page in November 2000, so that took care of that. The body is mahogany with a flamed maple top. I paid $275 for the body, but I thought it was a deal, since it was already finished - black back with a red transparent top. I was drawn to this body because it was routed for two P-90s and a hard-tail bridge. I didn't want the typical EVH "two-humbucker, locking-trem" setup on this guitar.

I finally found a used Peavey Predator Plus guitar on eBay in January 2001, from a shop in Madison, WI, for $200. Upon arrival, I took off the 21-fret neck and sold the body with all the guts on eBay, getting back some of my money. I sanded off the Predator part of the headstock logo, and pressed on an EVH in its place, making it an EVH Plus.

As far as the guts, I was a bit limited as to the type of pickup I could use, so I went with a pair of Gibson P-100s. The P-100s differ from P-90s in that they are dual-coil pickups, not single coil. They still have the really dirty P-90 sound, but without the hum. I added one volume pot and a Gibson-style, 3-way switch.

When it came to the bridge, I went with a black Gotoh hard tail, with the strings loading through the back. The installation was a breeze. I replaced the stock saddles with a set of Graph Tech String Saver saddles that I had from a previous project. To stick with the black hardware theme, I went with black Schaller straplocks and locking tuners. I even splurged and got the official Peavey EVH Wolfgang gig bag, complete with red, black, and white stripes.

Overall, this guitar is fun to play and it provides me with a tone that I did not previously have. This guitar is the main guitar in the mix on Over Now (bikini). And yes, the serial number I gave this guitar, 82397, is August 23, 1997 - a day of epiphany frozen in my mind.

April 2002

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