"Russian Camo" Guitar 2004-2005

I've been a always been a big fan of Warmoth Guitar Products.   Located in Puyallup, Washington, Warmoth has the largest online selection of guitar bodies and necks, either made to order, or manufactured in advance--i.e., the "Warmoth Showcase." An interesting footnote in guitar lore, in the late 1970s, Ken Warmoth and Lynn Elsworth were original partners in the "Boogie Bodies" guitar company. In turn, Boogie Bodies supplied bodies and necks to the legendary Wayne Charvel shop, before Wayne had the machinery and templates to produce his own bodies--and start the proper San Dimas Charvel company.

I had been eying the Warmoth Showcase for one-pickup bodies, routed for a Floyd Rose bridge. Some time in early 2004, I saw a very nice two-piece alder body and picked it up.

I thought the grain looked really nice and was considering going the natural route or painting a "racing stripe" design.

In October 2004, I located a nice Jackson-style neck in the Warmoth showcase, and decided to move forward with the project.

Here are the basic specs:
Body: alder and lightweight; Original Floyd Rose; EMG-81
Neck: ebony board; Wolfgang profile; quilted maple headstock laminate; R3 Floyd Rose nut

The neck is 1 11/16" wide at the nut, a bit wider than the 1 5/8" R2 spacing I am used to. However, 1 11/16" has its benefits, because you can install two alternate Floyd Rose nuts: either an R4, which has wide string spacing, or an R3 nut, which has standard/R-2 spacing, with the exception of E strings having greater clearance from the fretboard. Normally, the R-3 nut is used on bound necks. However, as I am notorious for accidentally pulling strings off the fretboard, I decided to try an R-3 nut here. It worked very nicely. The Wolfgang neck/back profile is asymmetrical, copied from Ernie Ball and Peavey Wolfgang guitars. In the early 1980s, Eddie Van Halen either modified, or just played the hell out of his Kramer "Frankenstein" guitar, to the point where the neck became asymmetrical, creating for a more comfortable-feeling neck. For reference, here is a drawing of the Warmoth Wolfgang neck profile, as it compares to the standard Warmoth "standard thin" neck. Subtle differences in the neck's construction have a tremendous impact on neck feel and playability!

One challenge I experienced was that I wanted to use regular-size Schaller tuners. In a lefty/reverse headstock, these are close to impossible to find. Remy Baegen (KramerAmsterdam) really helped out here--contacted Schaller in Germany, and sent me a box of new reverse Schallers. Unfortunately this was a one-off for Schaller; normally they don't sell in small quantities.

I had finished the headstock with polyurethane, and the back of the neck with Birchwood-Casey's gunstock oil and wax, same as Ernie Ball guitars. (Thanks to Mike Wolverton of VintageKramer for the tip!)

I knew I wanted to go with a military theme. I always admired camouflage guitars, and decided to go with a Russian military theme. Specifically, I knew I was looking to do a camo pattern with the red star and numbers "77" representing a military vehicle number, double sevens for good luck, and digits in the year of my birth.

I created a crude design in Paint; I used some photographs of Russian tanks and military vehicles for reference, and used the same camo colors in my paint palette.

I knew I wanted to use BeyondCustomGuitars to airbrush the design. I had heard that their rates were reasonable, and was intrigued by the great work they display in their gallery. I had also sold a Charvel Model 2 with a San Dimas neck to BCGuitars a few years prior, so I knew they were good people to deal with.  

After the body was painted and before it was cleared, Shadoe and Ian from BC Guitars sent me proofs of how the work was turning out. I  couldn't wait to get the body back for assembly.

A long weekend later, I had assembled the guitar and soldered in the EMG-81. The original wiring was with a standard 9V battery; by 2007 I had switched to the amazing-sounding 18 volt mod.
Here's the finished project!

I am extremely happy how this one turned out, and she plays great!

Update - January 2006: installed Bill Edwards "Finger-Tite" Locking Nut. (Thanks Dave N. of VintageKramer!)

by 2014, I had gone back to using a Floyd Rose R3 nut.

Update - December 2013: Installed Gotoh tremolo for a modern, streamlined look and lower mass. I also installed a custom pickup ring by Germany's Snakebite Custom Guitardesign. This guitar continues to kick ass.

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