Well, OK - it's only half of a real Baretta. But it is the first Kramer I have ever owned and I'll always hold on to it. Anyway, let me explain how a Focus becomes a Baretta.

I purchased this guitar, a white 1985 Japanese Kramer Focus 1000, from the Guitar Center in San Diego back in early 1986, as a backup for my Red Devil II. I guess you could say that this is where my collection got its start. For $299, these Focus guitars with real Floyds were a steal.

The first mod I made was to replace the stock Schaller humbucker. I went to Guitar Trader and Dan Astor turned me on to the new (at the time) Seymour Duncan JB pickup. One great pickup! I added some Schaller straplocks (which came stock on the USA Barettas) and I was ready to go!

The next major mod occurred later that year when I picked up another Kramer Focus 1000, this one in black. Around the same time, I was hanging out at Zolla's Guitars and I picked up a maple neck with a Baretta-type headstock. I decided to put this neck on my black Focus 1000, and I took the rosewood neck from that guitar and installed it on my white Focus 1000. I then sold the rosewood Focus 1000 neck from my white Focus to my bud, Mike Petersen, who ended up building a cool natural-looking axe with it. Whew! Since we're talking about that black Focus 1000, I ended up putting in a Seymour Duncan Distortion and calling it a Baretta. I parted it out and sold in on eBay in 2000.

Kramer Focus 1000s and my Kramer Pacer (1987)
Kramer Focus 1000s and my Kramer Ferrington (1987)

Back to the white Focus 1000. This guitar remained virtually unchanged then from late 1986 to the summer of 1995 when I decided to paint the headstock. Less than five years later, in April 2000, I was surfing eBay and saw an off-white Kramer Baretta USA neck for sale. A perfect match for this Focus 1000, as it had yellowed over the years. This neck had minimal fret wear and and 1 3/4" nut, which I thought was cool. The install was painless and I ended up selling the Focus 1000 neck - the neck which originally came from my 1986 black Kramer Focus 1000 - on eBay.

I didn't like the look of the all-black JB pickup, so I went out and bought a new zebra JB. Like an idiot, though, I sold the 15-year-old black JB on eBay; I definitely should have held on to that one. (I also sold the original Floyd from my black Focus 1000 like a moron.) It's as if I was selling everything on eBay around this time!

So now you know - it's not really a Baretta, but with a real Baretta neck and a Duncan JB in there, it's basically the same thing. And it reminds me of the first EVH signed guitar I ever saw - a white Baretta at the Guitar Center in Hollywood in the spring of 1986. (I also saw EVH's hand prints at the GC Rock Walk outside the store.) Like a Baretta with chrome hardware instead of black. And the JB has to be one of the best, if not THE best-sounding humbucker of all time. Check it out on Cyan off of 11 expressions of me.

June 2002

I know that Kramer Carreras are supposed to be all black, but that's the name on the truss rod cover, so what else should I call it?

This guitar's history starts in July 1999 when I picked up a 1984 Kramer Floyd Rose from the Guitar Center in Towson, MD. The Floyd Rose body is kinda odd, but the classic maple neck was definitely a keeper. All's I needed was a body for it.

I purchased a cream (yellowed white) 1985 Kramer Focus 3000 body off of eBay in November 2001. I added a black Chandler pickguard and Seymour Duncan pickups - a pair of Classic Stacks (I purchased one of them in 1998 for my Duo-Sonic) and a zebra George Lynch Screamin' Demon. I kept the chrome Floyd from the Floyd Rose guitar and the rest of the hardware was chrome, too. I called the guitar a Floyd Rose, and it looked and played great! Which is why I started to tinker again.

Kramer Floyd Rose (2000)

I got the itch to begin another Kramer project and in January 2001, I bought another guitar for the neck - a wide rosewood 1986 Kramer American. All's I needed was a body, but I went a different route. I decided to swap this 1986 rosewood neck with the 1984 maple neck on my Floyd Rose guitar. I eventually built a killer guitar (again!) around this maple neck (check out the Kramer EVH Frankenstein II guitar page for more fun facts).

I soon realized, however, that swapping necks made two things stand out. First, I couldn't call this guitar Floyd Rose anymore, since that neck was taken off. Secondly, the new neck is a dark rosewood, so the hardware needed to be changed to black. I dug up an old black Floyd Rose off of eBay and totally cleaned it up - that was the hardest part. I also added black Schaller tuners and straplocks. I was able to track down two black Kramer neck plates, as well, the other going on my Ripley. All of the guts stayed put.

Victor Litz Music, the same place I got the black Kramer neck plates from, also sold old Kramer truss rod covers. Apparently, this store purchased a bunch of Kramer's New Old Stock (NOS) when it went under and they sold the stuff pretty cheap. I already had a Baretta, Ripley, and Pacer, so I went with Carrera. Who cares that it's not all black! I call it a Carrera Deluxe since it has an HSS pickup setup, just like the Pacer Deluxe. And no, there never was an HSS Kramer Carrera Deluxe - they always were all black with the double humbucker (Pacer Imperial). A lot of Kramer history there!

Bottom line - this guitar smokes. Excellent action and tone. Changing the necks didn't change the sound too much, although it may have gotten a bit darker. Check out the leads Tim Randolph played on it on Bravo off of bikini.

June 2002

Christmas in July.

My daughter gave me the idea to paint an EVH-inspired guitar in a red, green, and white Christmas theme, so here we go. It began in March 2008 when I purchased an old (1987) blue Kramer Focus 3000 guitar off of eBay. I've done this several times, and this is really the way to go. For around $200, you get an alder body routed for a Floyd, a Kramer neck plate, a Kramer (old ESP) neck routed for a Floyd nut, chrome tuners, a real 1980s, German-made Floyd Rose, and sometimes there's an upgraded pickup in there (like a DiMarzio with this one). Anyway, I used the body for my D4 guitar project, so I had the blue neck for another project. I sanded off the pointy end of it and got it ready for a new paint job. I just needed a body for it.

I decided to go for another Kramer off of eBay - a 1987 red Kramer Focus 6000. This one was pretty banged up and I had to throw the neck in the dumpster. But I had a cool body (never had a 6000 before) and a Floyd Rose (ended up using it on another project), so all was well. I prepped the body by sanding it down and filling some holes, so the body and neck from two different Focus guitars were ready for painting.

After priming and spraying both white, I then taped them off and sprayed them green. After taping them off some more, I sprayed them red. I gave the body some typical EVH stripes, while I gave the headstock a Christmas wrapping paper pattern. So far, so good, but it wasn't Christmas-y enough.

I went to a local art/craft shop and picked up a bunch of Christmas holiday stickers - silver reflective snowflakes, metallic ornaments, etc. - and placed them strategically all over the body. I even added a large "Ho, Ho, Ho" on the back of headstock. I also got a nice silver metallic "Joy To The World" for the side and added a mistletoe holiday flag for the tremolo spring cavity. And I ordered a large silver, reflective 1225 (December 25 - Christmas Day) sticker for the body face (instead of a 5150), to keep with the EVH theme. And I really went to town on the electronics cavity, adding stickers, 12 real sleigh bells, and a "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" wind-up music box. 1 2 3 4 That was fun.

And did I mention this is an actual functioning guitar? It has a chrome Floyd Rose Special tremolo (upgraded screws, block inserts, and arm) and a real Floyd Rose R2 locking nut, chrome Kramer tuners, chrome Schaller straplocks, and a chrome Carvin mini knob. And instead of using a 1976 quarter for the Floyd, I tracked down a 2005 Isle of Man Christmas 50-pence coin, which features a partridge in a pear tree (from the "Twelve Days of Christmas" holiday song) - how cool is that? I chose a nickel GFS Vintage Extra Hot humbucker (GFS' EVH model) and the chrome Tele neck pickup is just a dummy. Even the jack wiring has a holiday theme. So there we have it - an EVH Christmas guitar. I had to make it in the summer time, as it gets too cold in the winter to spray outside. It looks totally over-the-top, and it really sounds great. And it's fun to play along with "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas". Maybe I'll do an EVH Halloween guitar next... 1031.

July 2009

This one's called a Kramer Kaoss - not only because it has an on-board Korg Mini Kaoss Pad, but also because putting it together was, well, chaotic.

The idea for this guitar started off with a relatively simple design: I had an extra red Kramer decal and an old Floyd Rose model (pre-fine tuners) laying around. I picked up a one-pickup, Charvel-type Tele body off of eBay for less than $100 during the summer of 2008 and figured I would do some sort of red/white paint job. I picked up a white GFS Power Rails humbucker, and a matching white pickup ring off of eBay. So far, so easy.

For the neck, I ordered a Carvin 3x3 with a birdseye maple fretboard a very nice neck. When applying the red vinyl Kramer decal, it didn't want to stick to the recently sprayed headstock, so I applied each letter one at a time and gave an intentional "chaotic" look to it, although I had not idea at the time that I would invest in a Korg Mini Kaoss Pad. I thought the logo looked okay, so I clear-coated it and that was that. As far as the hardware, I had some chrome 3x3 tuners laying around from my Brownsville Impala that did the trick. Remember, locking tuners only go on non-Floyd Rose guitars, as those guitars have the ball end of the string in the machine head. And since this was for a non-fine tuners version Floyd Rose, no locking nut was required. Of course, I added chrome Schaller straplocks, a chrome neck plate, a chrome football jack plate, and a mini chrome Carvin knob.

The paint job was pretty easy. I first sprayed it lightly with some white primer, and then brushed on two coats of white. After applying a bunch of masking tape shapes, I then brushed on two coats of red. Real simple. Since the guitar body did not come with a rear control cover, I ordered a white Esquire pickguard (no neck pickup route) and cut a custom cover to match the color scheme of the guitar.

When piecing everything together, I mad a dumb mistake. I drilled one of the neck pocket screw holes too deep and the hole went through the top of the fretboard. I filled and patched it as best as I could, and because it's birdseye maple, it's really hard to tell where this error occurred. No big deal. But I had the feeling that something was still missing.

While looking through a music catalog, I saw in an advertisement the Korg Mini Kaoss Pad and soon looked into how possible it would be to mount one on a guitar. Hmmm. (And having a Korg Kaoss mounted on this guitar aligns with the chaotic Kramer decal.) Realizing it was physically possible, I ordered one (it's red so it matches my guitar!) and then routed out a rough (emphasis on 'rough') outline of the Korg Kaoss on the body face. Because the input/output jacks are stereo RCA, I had to order a couple of special Hosa cables (mono 1/4" to dual RCA [guitar output to Korg Kaoss] and dual RCA to dual or mono 1/4" [Korg Kaoss output to _ _ _ _ ]). Now its a specialized beast!

The Korg Mini Kaoss Pad (requires four AA batteries) makes this a very unique recording instrument, and having it installed on the guitar opens up possibilities that would not be there if the effects were added post-track recording. And credit again to GFS they make a very nice pickup!

September 2008

Project Neptune was not about creating a whole new guitar, but it turned out that way. I purchased the swamp ash Warmoth body (killer grain) in January 2002 and the plan was to use the Kramer maple neck from my black 1983 Kramer Pacer that I was upgrading (see Kramer Pacer story below). That wasn't meant to be.

After it was determined that the '83 Pacer neck was unsalvageable, I needed to come up with a new plan for the body - as well as a new neck. I decided to put together a guitar based on a 1981-circa Kramer. Pre-Floyd Rose with the Strat headstock. Instead of getting a Warmoth Strat neck, I thought I'd give another manufacturer a shot and bought a WD Music Products maple Strat neck in April 2002. More on that later.

I decided to go with blue/cream color scheme and instead of spraying the body blue, I had Home Depot mix a can of Minwax stain into a flavor called Ocean Blue. Since DiMarzio has a lock on cream pickups, I went with an Air Classic in the bridge and a Virtual Vintage Heavy Blues in the neck. Both pickups sound terrific. I topped off the electronics by having a blend pot wired up with an on/off switch. The blend pot works just like a fader on your car stereo. It blends the output between each pickup, which means you can get a 80/20 mix (example) instead of the typical one-or-the-other switching with the middle being both. The result allows for endless tonal possibilities. I'd definitely use another blend pot.

I rounded out the guitar with chrome hardware: Fender/Schaller locking tuners, Schaller straplocks, a Kramer neck plate from a 1985 Focus 3000 (my Carrera body), and a Gotoh Roller-Saddle trem. I placed a 1981 dime under the trem plate, so it rests on metal - not wood. I looked forever for a 1981 dime and finally had to buy one off the internet for $3 - that's why it's so shiny. Whatever. I had a little trouble installing the trem and centering it. You can't tell now, but it was a headache at the time.

Now back to the neck. I probably would not buy another WD neck ever again. I wasn't overally impressed with the quality. The frets are OK, but the black dot inlays weren't put in with a lot of care. The neck came with a squared butt end, which I rounded myself. You don't appreciate how hard maple is, until you try to work with it! I had some difficulty fitting the neck into the Warmoth body neck pocket (the neck was too small), so that soured me a bit, too. I put in a graphite nut and I got the Kramer logo from the same guy who sold me the Kramer logos for my Kramer Circus and Red Devil II guitars.

Although I had some negative experiences putting this beast together, I am still pleased at the way it turned out. I learned a lot of lessons! I get great tones from the DiMarzio pickups and it sounds fantastic unplugged - go figure. Why Neptune? That's the city in New Jersey where Kramer guitars were made for most of the 1980s.

September 2002

When I took apart my black 1983 Kramer Pacer in late 2000, I had no idea that it would lead to so much work! My plan was to get rid of the original black body (the wood around one of the Floyd pivot studs was giving) and salvage the neck for another Kramer project (see Kramer Neptune story above). Oh well. Instead, the neck was shot (I had used some glue in the neck pocket back in the 1980s) and I had to toss it. Of course, I saved the electronics and the Floyd and just built a guitar around that.

In February 2001, I located on eBay a 1982 rosewood Kramer Pacer neck (Patent Pending!) and picked it up for a nice price. Of course, the frets needed some work, but at least it didn't need to be re-fretted. Instead of getting another black body, I went after a red 1985 Kramer Focus 3000 body on eBay in March. I tossed in the existing DiMarzio pickups (Class of '55, VS-1, FS-1) and the Floyd Rose. I also ordered a new Chandler pickguard, added chrome Schaller tuners with pearl buttons and a new 5-way switch. I was all set.

To assist with the early '80s theme, I took the Kramer neck plate with serial number 001025 off my Smithtone Flintstones guitar (1984 Focus 3000 body). I also clear-coated the headstock after I re-drilled the Floyd Rose string retainer bar mounting holes. It helped give it a "vintage" look.

Now for a little history. I bought the 1983 black version Pacer from Guitar Center in San Diego in 1986 (employee discount) - new! It was pretty ugly back then. It was black with a tortoise shell pickguard and gold hardware. It had been hanging on the wall there for nearly three years! I put in new pickups and a white pickguard, and switched the hardware to chrome and it became a favorite of mine (1987 photo - Pacer on the far right). I swapped the original Floyd nut for a Bill Edwards Finger-Tite locking nut, which I eventually sold. As stated earlier, I did have trouble with the neck pocket, and I made it worse in the long run by gluing the neck in there to prevent it from shifting.

Over the years, the black Pacer had a DiMarzio HS-3 in the bridge, along with an active preamp by DiMarzio called a Shock Wave system (DP144 - no longer in production). I swapped out the HS-3 for a Class of '55 in 1995, but the FS-1 and VS-1 (DP108 - no longer in production) date back to 1986. (I held on to the HS-3 and it's now in my Smithtone Flintstones guitar.) Also, in '95, I installed a hybrid pickup switching system made by Starr Labs, an electronics company in San Diego. It was pretty cool, but not worth paying someone to wire it up in the red Pacer. The real bummer was that maple neck. I was really hoping to salvage it when I took it apart in late 2000, but it wasn't meant to be.

With the single-coil pickups, this guitar gets the classic glassy Strat tone. Because of the single-coils, however, I rarely use this guitar to record (even when it was the black Pacer), since it can get pretty noisy. To date, the only song this guitar has been used on is Bravo off of bikini.

June 2002

Under construction...

added dummy switch and neck pickup, strap buttons, Strat jack plate, Jackson humbucker & partial pickguard
rebuilt (and repainted) right Floyd post hole platform
swapped the ceramic magnet in the Jackson J-90C for an Alnico 5 tp create one of the best humbuckers ever - the Jackson J-90
heavy aging along the trem spring cavity and along the Strat jack plate edge
added striped 5150 decal and it looks great on the body
unplated & aged gold Floyd Rose and a fairly standard Frankenstein top route
Kramer neck plate

See other Kramers:

5150 Kramers
Van Halen Kramers - Inspired By
Van Halen Kramers - Tributes

previous story   back to the BEHIND THE GUITARS page   next story