I always thought that tuning a 12-string must be a pain in the butt, so I used that reasoning to avoid getting one. However, they do sound cool once they're tuned up.
Since my mission of guitar collecting and building seems to have directed me away from my usual projects, I felt it was time to go down the 12-string road in 2005. In 2004, I completed both a baritone and a 7-string, so this seemed like the next logical axe. And since Warmoth played a prominent role in both of those projects, I decided to hit them up again, so to speak, by purchasing one of their maple/rosewood 12-string necks. This way, I could attach their neck on just about any non-tremolo, 25 1/2"-scale body.
In 2004, Fender began making an interesting looking guitar under the Squier name called the 51. The 51 looked like a 1951 Fender Tele Bass, with the oversized pickguard and chrome control plate. And the price for this basswood body guitar was $149! Now, obviously, the neck, hardware, and electronics on a $149 beast are typically second- or third-rate, but since I replace and upgrade that stuff anyway, who cares! The Warmoth neck fit on the sunburst 51 body just fine. I picked up two chrome sets of Sperzel's new Sound Lock tuners and reversed one of the sets for the 6x6 headstock. I also had six black Sperzel buttons laying around from another project, so I alternated the the buttons (black for the drone strings). I chose the Sound Lock model due to its light weight and vintage look. The tuners don't actually "lock" the string, but "catch" the string as you wind it through and turn. I applied a 51 decal from Speedy Signs and a small 12 to the headstock, and screwed in a Floyd Rose string retainer bar to keep all 12 strings tapered down.
For the body hardware, I picked up a Gotoh 12-string bridge and installed it myself. Six of the strings are top-loaded, while the remaining six pass through the body. The stock Squire bridge was a top-loader, so I had to drill six perfect holes through the body for the new bridge - this is never fun. The holes in the bridge are intonated at different lengths, so the holes in the back of the body aren't lined up. Also, the ferrules I used didn't have the lip rim to stop the ferrule from going all the way into the body (when you drill in too far), so - the ferrules are way up in the body. No big deal, it just makes changing strings more of a challenge!
For electronics, I trashed the stock single-coil and humbucker and decided to go with two Kent Armstrong pickups - the Tweedtone (SC) and the Patent Applied For (HB). I used the existing pots and knobs, since the stock wiring was actually pretty cool. If you look at the guitar, you'll notice that even though there are two pickups, there isn't any 3-way switch. The "tone" knob is actually a 3-way rotary switch (neck, both, bridge), while the volume pot doubles as a push-pull to attain a split-coil from the bridge humbucker. I wired everything up myself just fine, but the string spacing on the Armstrong humbucker was too narrow. Duh! It's a 12-string! I should have thought about that. Since Kent Armstrong doesn't offer any "F-spaced, Trembucker-type" spacing, I replaced it with a Golden Age Alnico 5 Classic Bridge humbucker with 2.015" spacing. This is my second experience with Golden Age (Warmoth Baritone) and I continue to be impressed with the quality and value. And the Tweedtone pickup is one of the nicest-sounding "Strat-like" neck pickups I have.
When this thing is tuned up, it gets great sounds. The drones for the low four strings (E A D G) are tuned an octave higher, while the two high drones double the B and E. It's not as hard as I thought it would be to play it (great action is the key) and the available tones are very versatile. My goal was a cool 12-string for not a lot of money. Another successful project.
ESP TEL AVIV
The key to putting this guitar together was tracking down an ESP logo decal. Once I did that, it was a breeze. I've always been a big fan of ESP guitars - especially since George Lynch plays them, but they can be kind of expensive. That's why this is a Warmoth ESP.
In December 2001, I bought a birdseye maple neck from Warmoth's Thrift Shop for $125. The neck features a reverse Kramer (KWS) headstock and I had the guys at Warmoth put stainless steel frets on it - the only guitar I have with these. I bought the neck intending to use it on my Purina Checkerboard project, but during the spring of 2002, my plans changed after discovering a printing company on the Web that produced vinyl decals of any size with hundreds of fonts to choose from. I decided to make an ESP guitar.
I wanted to keep the hardware/electronics simple on this guitar, but I wanted it to have a cool paint job, as well as some things that were unique to my collection. I chose a Warmoth Tele-style body to go with the neck and decided on a single EMG 81 pickup and a Gotoh TOM/stop bridge. I was sick of spray paint, so I went with hand-painted, oil-based scheme. I had been meaning to do a four-color camouflage paint job for a while, so that seemed like a logical choice for a hand-painted guitar.
I first sprayed the body with primer and then put on two coats of brown. I used foam brushes and put it on pretty thick. I then put several tan patches on the top; two days later on the bottom. Oil-based paint takes a while to dry, so each color (top and bottom) took about a week. I then put green patches and finished it off with a bunch of black patches. I totally made up the pattern as I went along, so I had to touch up several areas toward the end. I even added a Tel Aviv decal to the body near the neck heel. I then clear-coated the body with two coats of satin spray. The whole paint job took about 4-5 weeks, but it was worth it - it looks cool! I went with the name Tel Aviv for two reasons - it's a Tel-e body, and the camouflage paint job looks like something you'd see in war-torn Israel today. (I gave this guitar the serial number 1948 for Israel's year of independence.)
I applied the ESP decal and a smaller Tel Aviv decal to the headstock and clear-coated it (the headstock face only) with two coats of satin spray; I oiled the rest of the neck. I had to use Graph Tech string trees on the E and A strings AND the E and B strings, as a banana headstock is not a great neck for a non-locking nut setup. The low E and high E kept popping out of their respective nut grooves due to the harsh angles. Oh well - live and learn!
To make things even more interesting, I added two things to the control cavity - a Star of David pendant and a real Tel Aviv, Israel Hard Rock Cafe guitar pin. I screwed both items down tight, so nothing moves.
I used black hardware on this guitar to go with the paint job - Schaller locking tuners and straplocks, Carvin knobs, neck plate and jack plate. The black EMG pickup and the black bridge really blend in well with the camouflage paint job. I guess that's the point!
I actually got the idea for building a Fender Esquire from George Lynch, when I saw a picture of him playing a gig with a natural old Fender Esquire.
The difference between the Esquire and a Telecaster is fairly simple. The Tele has a bridge AND neck pickup (the famous chrome covered pickup), while the Esquire has only the bridge pickup. But what makes the Esquire cool is that it STILL has a 3-way switch! With the switch in the "neck" position, the tone control is bypassed and a capacitor is used to dramatically shape the tone, giving the guitar a real bassy sound. In the "middle" position, the tone control is activated and the guitar sounds just like a Tele with the bridge pickup on. The "bridge" position bypasses the tone control again, but this is only done so the high-end frequencies are retained - no capacitors. Subtle tone differences, but cool all the same. I went with a StewMac 3-way switch and 250K pots.
I could have gone out and purchased a real Fender Esquire, but I thought it would be more fun to put one together. I ordered a fat "baseball bat" birdseye maple neck from Warmoth and applied the vintage Fender Esquire decal. I called Warmoth in April 2005 and had them send me the heaviest swamp ash Tele body they had - and it has a beautiful grain. I then used major amounts of Tung Oil on both the neck and body.
For hardware, I went with a genuine chrome Fender ash tray Tele bridge (with three brass compensated saddles) allowing the strings to go through the body. The bridge does have a minor modification, as part of the ash tray flange has been notched off and removed. I also tracked down a chrome Fender neck plate. I used the new Sperzel Sound Lock tuners and a set of Schaller straplocks. I also picked up the appropriate chrome control plate and black Esquire pickguard from Warmoth, along with a pair of chrome dome knobs.
For the pickup, I wanted to go with a different manufacturer than the usual DiMarzio or Seymour Duncan. I was looking for something more "boutique". I found a company in Australia, Kinman, and ordered their AVn-48b bridge Tele/Esquire pickup for $160 - definitely a very expensive pickup. And I was not disappointed! Zero noise with the classic Tele bridge tone. I cannot say enough good things about this pickup. Lastly, I had Mike at The Guitar Shop in DC do all the complicated wiring.
This guitar is not made for playing blazing leads. It's heavy and it has a fat neck. But it definitely gets that early 1950s Fender Esquire tone (this project is modeled after a '54 Esquire) and I play differently when I pick up this guitar. Thanks George for the idea!
UPDATE: February 2013
The original electronics included two Alpha 250K split-shaft pots, and a StewMac 3-way switch. One of the split pots broke off, so I replaced the pots with real CTS 250K solid-shaft pots. I then replaced the push-on knobs with chrome Fender Telecaster dome knobs (with set screws). No big deal (easy wiring) and it didn't warrant new pictures or anything, but it goes to show that saving a buck or two on electronics on a really cool project just isn't worth it.
FENDER EVH WOLFGANG F
Man, was I tempted!
Crusing eBay one day in early 2009, I saw a guy (Stan Shields @ the Inventing Shed) who made Wolfgang-style bodies with spalted maple caps. I emailed him him and asked if he could make one with a single bridge humbucker, and he said to check eBay in a week or two and sure enough - one appeared with a really cool F-hole and I scooped it up. My first plan was to put a Bigsby on it, but after receiving the body, I realized that there wasn't enough room on the Wolfgang, so I ended up using the Bigsby on my Vox Phantom II project. I then began searching eBay for a non-Floyd Peavey Wolfgang neck, but those are kinda rare, so I got the idea to use a neck that I already had for another project (Taxicaster). Ironically, I then picked up a Fender Starcaster neck with an arrow headstock for the Taxicaster and ended up using that for the Vox project, so whatever neck I eventually go with for the Taxicaster will be idea #3. But that will be another story down the road.
The neck I originally had in mind for the Taxicaster project was a Warmoth birdseye maple Strat neck with a graphite nut. What makes the neck special is that it is a conversion-scale neck, meaning it is built to be put on a 25 1/2"-scale body and it will make the guitar 24 3/4" scale - very clever. I had Trey from eBay make me up a custom Fender EVH Wolfgang waterslide for the headstock, and I eventually got a hold of an Edward Van Halen signature vinyl decal from Best-Decals to further identify it.
And now for the hardware. I wanted it all to be black. Because the Wolfgang body wasn't made for a tremolo, I wanted to put a cool bridge on there - something I hadn't used before (not just another Tune-O-Matic). I went with a Hipshot Baby Grand bridge (pain to install correctly). I also added Schaller locking tuners with ebony buttons, and Schaller straplocks, as well as an MXR volume knob. I ordered a smaller Carvin neck plate, as the rounded edges of the body prevented me from using a standard size plate.
And then there was the matter of selecting a pickup. In early 2009, EVH released two versions of the EVH Frankenstein humbucker - an aged one for $400 and a regular one for $140. I went with the latter and it's a great pickup indeed. A simple wiring job which I did myself.
As for the finish, since the body was made of basswood with a spalted maple cap, I decided to spray the sides and back black, and just rub lemon oil on the top, which turned out really nice.
Of course, with the Frankenstein pickup, the guitar sounds great plugged in. But with the resonant basswood and chambered body with the F-hole, it sounds great unplugged, as well. And the Warmoth neck - wow - these things are always perfect & consistent out of the box.
It's about time I get one these! I can't believe that I've been playing guitar since I was 15 and never got a hold of a baritone guitar. Hopefully, I can make up for lost time now!
In my never-ending quest to own every guitar ever made, I came across Warmoth's baritone conversion neck on the Internet. I thought for a while about which current guitar I would modify, but then I had an even better idea - build a whole new guitar around this neck. I mean, what's the big deal with one more guitar, right?
I found and purchased a shoreline gold Fender Strat body off of eBay in April 2004 and decided that a white pickguard with cream plastic would look really cool (cream pickup covers, 5-way switch knob, and trem knob). I originally was going to go with Fender Custom Shop pickups, but they wouldn't fit into the cream plastic pickup covers I had, so I got fed up (after ruining a few) and went with StewMac's Golden Age vintage single coils, with a reverse-wound middle pickup for hum-canceling in the 2 and 4 positions. And they sound great and they fit, so whatever. I did literally lose sleep after ruining a couple of $50 pickups, though!
The bridge also gave me a headache. At first, I was going to go with a chrome Hipshot tremolo, but it didn't fit right, and didn't look right either. I then slapped on the original OLP trem I had laying around from my Ernie Ball Music Man 316 and that worked just fine. I wasn't able to use the 1st- and 6th-string trem base screws, as the two pivots from the Hipshot trem are permanently embedded in there - oh well. It rocks back and forth fine on the four remaining screws. Oh yeah, I swapped out the stock OLP saddles for a set of Graph Tech String Saver saddles. And the chrome neck plate reads Gambler and has four aces on it.
Anyway, the centerpiece of this guitar is the Warmoth baritone neck. An absolutely beautiful neck. I had them make me one in birdseye maple with abalone dots. Stunning! I used Planet Waves trim-locking tuners for the first time, and they're pretty cool. I sighed with relief when the low B string, a .062 gauge string, fit through the eye of the first tuner - whew! By the way, the guitar is tuned B E A D F# B (low to high).
And then there's the sound. Totally cool. The first time I played it, I had so many ideas for new songs. It's like a whole new instrument. I have a feeling that this baritone guitar will get A LOT of use.
UPDATE: May 2010
While playing around with the baritone, I felt that the super-cheap trem I put on there was not only affecting the tone, but wasn't set up to return to a "zero point". So I decided to purchase the same trem I used on my Fender EVH 77 Black Strat guitar - a GFS vintage trem with 2 1/16" (Made in Mexico) spacing. The block on the cheapo trem was almost weightless, while the block on the GFS trem is solid brass and has a lot of mass to it. And yes, I swapped the stock steel saddles for the Graph Tech String Saver saddles.
WARMOTH LOWELL 7
In my attempt to have a diverse collection, I decided in early 2004 to put together a 7-string guitar. Admittedly, I don't know how to fully take advantage of all seven strings, but this will be a cool guitar to learn on.
Early on, I decided to put together a Warmoth 7-string, instead of buying a Schecter or Ibanez. I ordered a birdseye maple/ebony fretboard Warmoth 7-string neck in February 2004. I used black Schaller locking tuners with ebony buttons to keep the weight down, and I tracked down a graphite 7-string nut from Carvin.
For the body hardware, I found a black 7-string Tune-O-Matic/Stop Tail at WD Music Products. I chose some expensive ($140/each!) pickups, going with a set of Benedetto B-7 humbuckers, which feature real ebony covers (these are made now by Seymour Duncan). These pickups are very clear and make this guitar prime for jazz playing. For electronics, I went with two duo-concentric pots (volume/tone) for each pickup and there's also a coil-splitting switch for each pickup. Mike from The Guitar Shop in DC wired it up for me.
All of the above was the easy part. In September 2004, I custom ordered a very expensive Warmoth 7-string body (koa with flamed maple top with black binding). Since I had a special 7-string TOM, Warmoth did not drill for the bridge holes. Also, the humbucker routes did not match up with the speciality pickups I had, so I was forced to take out some more wood. After all of this, I hand-stained the body with a Minwax "golden pecan" stain, which turned out very nice as it accentuates the flamed maple top.
Another headache was the pickup rings that came with the Benedetto pickups. They were both too tall! The rings are made to look like real wood, but they're actually made out of some type of resin composite, so I had to manually sand them down to the right height - this took a while. After I attached the neck and began to set up the guitar, it became apparent that the TOM sat way too high, so I had to lower the TOM so it literally touches the body top. By the way, I purposely put the stop tail farther back behind the TOM - in fact, I wish I had put it even farther back. I think it looks cool and it helps with the string angle on the bridge.
The guitar is named Lowell after my father and the guitar's serial number is 1938 - the year he was born. The back of the headstock has the serial number and a fun face.
This is a very beautiful guitar. The flamed maple top over koa looks killer and the Benedetto pickups sound truly amazing. The 1 7/8" nut size takes a while to get used - as does the low B 7th string (the guitar is tuned B E A D G B E - low to high), but I guess that's the point of a diverse collection!
Warmoth bodies and necks were also harmed during the making of these fine Smithtone products:
Blendasaurus Rex (body & neck)
Charvel EVH Custom (neck)
Charvel EVH Frankenstein (body & neck)
Charvel Model 96 (body)
Charvel Telehawk (neck)
Charvel VH II (neck)
EVH 80 Star (neck)
EVH 81 -Rude- (neck)
EVH 81 -Bye Later See Ya- (neck)
EVH 82 Rasta (neck)
Fender EVH Frankenstein Baritone (neck)
Fender EVH Wolfgang F (neck)
Fender Stratocaster (90s) (neck)
Jackson '49 Pinecaster (neck)
Kramer 5150 Tele (neck)
Kramer EVH 81 Pacer Special (neck)
Kramer EVH Frankenstein II (body)
Kramer EVH Pacer Sustainer (body & neck)
Kramer Neptune (body)
Peavey EVH Plus (body)
Purina Checkerboard (body & neck)
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