The Frankenstrat is the famous guitar created by Eddie Van Halen, guitarist with the band Van Halen.
Overview of the Frankenstrat
The Frankenstrat is Eddie's attempt to combine a Gibson and Fender. It is made from an ash Stratocaster body with a routing that Eddie made to fit in a Gibson PAF humbucking bridge pickup, with a single coil neck pickup. The neck pickup was simply for decoration and was never actually wired with the humbucker, due to Eddie's inability to wire the switch properly. It has a maple neck, chrome hardware, and red, black, and white stripes. It is a six-string guitar with an original Floyd Rose tremolo. The neck's fretboard is maple.
Building the Frankenstrat
Body and Neck
Eddie Van Halen bought the Frankenstrat's ash body and maple neck for a total of $130. Both of these parts were from Wayne Charvel, who sold Boogie Body-made bodies and necks. The body of the guitar was a "second," so called because it was not cosmetically pleasing. In Van Halen's case, the body had a knot in the wood. He bought it for $50 anyway because he believed it would perform fine. The maple neck of the guitar cost him $80.
Eddie got a PAF (Patent Applied For) pickup from his Gibson ES-335. He had the idea to dip the pickup in paraffin wax to reduce microphonic feedback, a technique that has been around since pickups were invented, and the way they were made before machine-winding. He screwed the pickup to the guitar in the bridge position slightly sideways to allow for string spacing differences to the pickup's magnetic pole spacing. The pickup was later replaced with a Seymour Duncan humbucker.
Paint and finish
Eddie painted the guitar black. After it was dry he put strips of masking tape on the body and painted it white. This would be the black and white "classic" version of the Frankenstrat. Due to companies selling guitars with similar finishes he stopped using it. He then started using the famous yellow and black "bumble bee" (pictured on Van Halen II). In 1979, after much disappointment with the performance of yellow and black, Eddie put more tape on the body (original black and white frankenstrat) and painted over that with Red Schwinn Bicycle paint. As Eddie said, "The Schwinn Bicycle paint gives it pop."
Van Halen got rid of both tone control potentiometers (pots) and wired up the pickups in a simple circuit, due largely to his limited knowledge of electrical circuitry. Van Halen famously used a knob reading 'tone' on the volume control spot. He then used a vinyl record he cut up to use as a pickguard to cover the controls. later the pickguard was changed to a real pickguard that had been hacked up. A strip of double-sided masking tape was also add near the pickguard, on which he would place several picks.
Eddie also added a Fender Tremolo System from his '58 Fender Stratocaster. The Floyd Rose was added later.
The Frankenstrat has gone through many necks over the years. It has also housed the '57 Fender tremolo, original Floyd (no fine tuners), and the original Floyd with fine tuners. The 1971 quarter came when he had trouble keeping the Floyd Rose bridge flush on the body. The original PAF has long since been replaced.
Kramer was the first official company that Eddie endorsed. It started in 1983, when they built a Frankenstrat replica for him. He also replaced his original Frankenstrat neck with a Kramer neck. Later, in 1984, Edward was presented with the "Hot for Teacher" guitar (as seen in the video clip for "Hot for Teacher"), and started advertising for Kramer.
The most famous Kramer that Edward had was the "5150", which he built in the Kramer factory. It is widely thought that this guitar was made out of a Kramer Baretta body, but it was actually made out of Prototype Pacer body. This guitar was used from the 1984 tour, through to the OU812 tour, and was last used in the recording for "Judgement Day" for the album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. It is now retired.
A number of other Kramers were also built and used by Eddie during these years, the most notable being the "1984" Kramer, while most were simply striped designs without other markings. These guitars were primarily used as backups for the "5150" guitar on the tours that it was played, and were retired at the same time. Some were simply given away to various people, or in cases such as the "1984" Kramer, in contests.
Charvel Hybrid VH2 a.k.a. Bumblebee
Van Halen had another Frankenstrat, this time black and yellow. It was buried with Dimebag Darrell of Pantera, who had asked for a Charvel Art Series before they were released. Eddie instead gave him the original guitar at his funeral. It is now buried with him.
The Ibanez Destroyer a.k.a. Shark
This was a dual humbucker guitar with a radical design made from an Ibanez Destroyer. Eddie cut a huge chunk of the wood out with a hacksaw, making it look different. The name shark was given to it because the chunk he cut out was serrated and gave the appearance of shark teeth. It was used in the videos for "Runnin' With the Devil" and "You Really Got Me" and included a toggle switch. However, because Eddie removed the chunk of wood, he destroyed the sound of the guitar. He was very upset and tried to obtain another, but unfortunately the guitar was made with a different wood at that time. The sound of this was not satisfactory for Van Halen. So ended the shark.
Fender and Charvel
Charvel made a signature model EVH called the "Charvel EVH Art Series Guitar" that sported one pickup, a Floyd Rose locking tremolo, a custom wound pickup, and could be ordered in either black and white; black, white, and red; or black and yellow. The guitars are not reliced like the original Frankenstrat, but share a similar neck profile.
Fender has recently sold 300 replicas of the original Frankenstrat, scratches and all, for $25,000 and is the parent company to Eddie Van Halen's EVH brand. The Fenders are only the black, red, and white.