History of the Frankenstrat

Since this project is a complete build of Eddie’s Frankenstrat guitar, and everything on the guitar was there for form and not function, it’s important to realize why things happened, and when.  Also, it’s important to pinpoint the time line of the build.  The guitar I will be constructing will be a replica of the Frankenstrat, circa 1982.  But that’s not when this guitar was born.

1978 was the year that the original Frankenstrat was first seen by the world.  Eddie bought a Strat replacement body and a Strat replacement neck from Boogie Bodies, a guitar shop owned and operated by Wayne Charvel.  Eddie paid $50 for the body, and $80 for the neck.  The neck had a CBS-Style Fender Strat headstock, and a Birdseye maple neck, with maple fingerboard.  Eddie only liked the sound that a humbucker could give him, and he quickly determined that the body wasn’t routed large enough to accommodate the Gibson PAF pickup he intended on installing.  Therefore, He took a hammer and chisel and started chunking away at the bridge position rout until it fit the bigger pickup.  It was an ugly solution, but as the guitar was covered by a black, one pickup pickguard, the messy woodwork didn’t show.  Ed removed all the tone controls also, opting to instead wire the pickup directly to one volume pot.  The volume pot was famously topped by a white “Tone” knob.  To finish the project, Ed found Schwinn bicycle paint in spray cans.  He painted the body black, then wrapped masking tape randomly around the body and painted it white.  Once he removed the masking tape, he was left with the famous white and black strat that can be seen on the cover of Van Halen I.

1978 Version of the Frankenstrat

1978 Version of the Frankenstrat

1979 saw a couple of changes to Ed’s trusty Frankenstrat.  Since Van Halen I had taken off into the stratosphere and Ed was quickly becoming the most popular guitarist in the world, copycats began to pop up.  Ed noticed that everyone seemed to be painting their guitars white with black stripes, and even had to issue a cease and desist to a company that made guitars identical to the Frankenstrat and sold them to the unsuspecting populace.  To keep people from copying him and his style, Ed took his Frankenstrat, by this time beat up, worn, with paint scratched off, and wrapped it again in more masking tape.  He then sprayed a few coats of Schwinn red paint, giving us what we now know as the red, white, and black guitar striping.  1979 also saw Ed putting a white pickguard on the guitar, as well as putting a second pickup in the guitar, a Mighty Mite single coil in phenolic red.  Unfortunately, Ed didn’t know how to wire it up, so it ended up being a decorative mod.  Ed also added truck reflectors to the back of the guitar, which shone brightly during live shows.

1979 Version of Frankenstrat

1979 Version of the Frankenstrat

1980 was the year that Ed discovered an inventor from Seattle named Floyd Rose.  Floyd Rose developed a new type of bridge that enabled the style of deep, dive bomb whammys that Ed loved without the guitar getting whacked out of tune every time.  This was from a double-locking system.  The strings were locked down on the neck, at the nut.  The rare, early Floyd Rose bridge that Ed used did not have the fine tuners that we are accustomed to today.  Ed also got rid of the full size white pickguard, opting instead to cover only the control cavity.  He also did not use a pickguard material.  He cut a small pickguard out of a black vinyl record, and covered the back with aluminum foil.  Ed’s pickup in the guitar at this time was still a Gibson PAF, this time with white caps on it.  Ed discovered the pickup was microphonic from the coils rattling around, so he hand-dipped the pickups in pure paraffin wax, a technique that is used today by all the major pickup manufacturers.

1980 Version of the Frankenstrat

1980 Version of the Frankenstrat

1981 saw only minor changes to the Frankenstrat.  The PAF went back to black in color.  The vinyl record was replaced by a proper pickguard, but in true EVH style, it was trimmed down to only cover the control cavity.  A three-way switch was screwed into the middle pickup rout, but just like the neck Mighty Mite single coil, it ended up only being decorative.  Ed just couldn’t find a way to wire them all together, so the bridge PAF pickup remained wired directly to the volume pot.  1981 is also the first time the quarter appeared.  Ed couldn’t get the Floyd to intone correctly after divebombing, as there was a small gap on the bass side.  Ed screwed down a 1971 quarter to the guitar body, which shimmed the gap between the body and the bridge.

1981 Version of the Frankenstrat

1981 Version of the Frankenstrat

1982 is the year that we’ll be focusing on.  Ed swapped the Floyd Rose for a newer model that intoned correctly and had fine tuners.  This eliminated the need for the quarter, however Ed kept it on the body.  The guitar has now seen world tours, and has a substantial bit of road wear and damage.  One of the oval reflectors on the back has now snapped in half, on the Fair Warning tour.  Ed has swapped the neck out for another, with a more modern Strat headstock.  Ed loves placing his lit cigarettes in between the tuners and under the strings on his headstock in concert, and the headstock now has burns from this.  At one point during the tour, Ed placed Frankenstrat against a freshly painted Van Halen banner, resulting in blue paint transfer to the body and reflectors.  This is the Frankenstrat we will be making.

1982 Frankenstrat

1982 Frankenstrat front

1982 Frankenstrat back

1982 Frankenstrat back

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