Giving my old axe the warmoth makeover (long winded rant - beware)

elgravos

Senior member
Messages
331
I posted a while back about wanting to swap out the neck on one of my early shred axes and put a W wizard on instead.  The feeling was that after an extensive measuring session, that I could probably get away with it on the basis that my guitar shared the same basic fender specs at the neck pocket level.  Reason for this was that the neck was painted glossy black and the frets had 20 years of hard playing wear on them.  The guitar itself is a pretty good quality "Rockoon" (cheesy name I know - I bought it in Japan in ’89, back when I was only a couple of years older than some of the guys on the forum today!).  It’s a brand that belongs(ed?) to Kawaii (the piano guys) back when they were thinking of branching out into guitars.  Anyway, it was made by one of the Japanese contract manufacturers.  Top notch shredder, worth about a grand new back in 1988.

I then had some second thoughts about swapping out what I thought was a pretty good neck for a Warmoth one.  The radius issue was a big “if” as well as I didn’t want to screw things up more than I had to.  So in the end, I figured, rather that turn it into a W, why not bring the W treatment to the guitar.  By that, I mean figuring out what I like about the W options and fixing the guitar to match.

I hated the paint and the frets were gone, so instead of changing the neck, I figured I could get it stripped and refinished in clear satin and get some 6105 stainless steel frets and swap out the Schaller floyd for a new one and completely redo the electronics.  Really wanted to go for the OFR but given that the rockoon came with a Schaller FR when I got it, I figured the safest path was to stick to what worked and get one of those instead – this decision driven by the difference in radius between the ORF and the Schaller – didn’t want to shim the thing (and the guitar is actually branded as a “Schaller Rockoon” which makes the idea of having an OFR on it a little weird).  So I did a little looking around and there’s a guy right near my place who does nice finishing so I asked him to strip the neck and refinish it for me.

He was surprised enough by the challenge that he even posted about it on his blog:

http://guitargarage.blogspot.com/2008/11/chemically-stripping-guitar-body-some.html

Apparently that was some seriously thick poly it had on it and if nothing else works, then you've got to go for "Aircraft Remover".

Once that was done, I took it to Jim and Jon Mouradians' shop to get the SS frets put on.  To my surprise they were fine with the request.  The neck is bound which I thought they would not be too happy working on it.  They’d never actually had the chance to work with SS before and quoted me $350 for the job however it turned out easier than they expected (food for thought) so in the end it came out at $280 including swapping out the Floyd, doing a bit of re-wiring and a full set up.  Jim Mouradian even called me to have a chat about it half way through as it was the first time he’d worked with Stainless.  He was pleasantly surprised by how easy it turned out to be and commented on how good the guitar was (and the parts).  He was also really impressed by the fret profile of the 6105s – “nice sophisticated fret profile, far more interesting than your regular jumbos”.  The gist being that they were happy to get the opportunity to work with SS and will not have any beef working with it in the future… and my neck is bound which was no issue at all.  In other words, I was expecting them to be unhappy with the request when in fact they were curious to check it out.  Did a fantastic job as well.  So maybe all those luthiers who are moaning about stainless are really using it as an excuse to charge people some extra cash??

I also had the peg head re-drilled so I could throw on some planet waves auto trimming tuners.  I love locking tuners even with a floyd bridge as it makes changing strings so much easier.  In other words, I threw in all the options I would want on a W neck and got them built onto my old school axe which has a weird but quite unique neck profile.  Not quite a standard thin and a straight radius that goes right into a Schaller Floyd.

I also threw on a big block for the Floyd.  For the time being it limits the movement of the trem a little but it’s ok for me – though I still might take some wood out to get the full range of movement.  The big block is worth it IMO.  Also included some titanium string lock blocks.  I’m always crushing those things so hopefully this will help a lot.

The guitar was absolutely amazing when it came out of the shop with the most perfect setup I’ve ever seen.  That was in January though and 8 weeks later it had gone to hell with a huge bow to the neck and I figured that was the end of it for the foreseeable future.  Back to plan A of buying a W wizard neck instead…. Combination of New England weather and the fact that the neck had been under a crazy thick coat of poly for 20 years…  Anyway, I figured that rather than try and set it up, I should let it sit for a while and get used to its new station in life.  The humidity has balanced itself out now.  Couple of tweaks to the truss rod and I’m back in business.  Setup is absolutely perfect once again – very lucky the intonation recovered and is absolutely spot on.

Threw in an Evo HB in the bridge for good measure and I’m really impressed by how this thing plays.  Though I do have a bum CTS pot in the volume which I need to swap out…  still not convinced the open back pot design is the greatest idea as I definitely managed to get some solder crap stuck in there and now I’m paying for it.  Also not impressed by the push-push cts pots – I’m using one to split the HB.  A little too flimsy IMO.  Will probably swap that out for a regular pot and put in a separate switch.

So anyway, I guess the moral of the story is that even if you’re worried that your axe might require too much major surgery on the body / neck to be worthwhile, the good people at Warmoth can still supply you with a bunch of options to make life more interesting.  Provided of course that the guitar is worth it.  I could definitely have gotten a W neck for cheaper – but it might have ended up on ebay pretty quick if it didn’t end up fitting with a guitar body that wasn’t built to W spec.  And then there’s the sentimental value of course.  It’s still the same instrument.  Just far better.

Another cool little anecdote about this project is that the guitar was originally branded as a “Schaller Rockoon” and all the hardware – pickups Floyd etc was from Schaller (except the tuners which were Gotoh – go figure).  Anyway other than the wood, the only component I still have is the neck single coil which is absolutely awesome and possibly the best single coil I’ve ever owned.  Unfortunately, once I ripped out the wiring I had no idea which wire was the negative/positive so I had to write to Schaller and ask them if they recognized the pickup.  They figured it was probably not actually one of theirs – but I sent them a picture, which included an old “made in West Germany” sticker and they were good enough to dig out a copy of the old installation instructions (the also identified it as an ST6).  Very cool.  Kudos to Dr. Lars Bünning (the CEO of Schaller) for personally hooking me up with the right docs.

Damn, that's a long rant for a project that doesn't include any Warmoth wooden parts...  hope I didn't bore you to death.  I'm now seriously thinking about giving my Gibson LP a similar makeover... there's a lot there that can be improved as well.

 

dbw

Senior member
Messages
4,531
Hey, sounds cool!  But wee need PICS!!  I totally agree about the CTS push-push pots... they feel junky.  Push-pull pots available everywhere EXCEPT Warmoth :)() have a much nicer feel.
 

nathan a

Senior member
Messages
1,836
That's really exciting, always feels good to really take care of an old favorite. I am in the process of doing this with my old (though much less old) fender strat. Also cool to hear you have such flexible and eager techs! Not everyone I've visited is happy about the prospect of learning new techniques.

+1 about push-push pots feeling a little lousy. They do make for a quick switch, but I am always worried I'm gonna break the damn thing. Pot turns to easily - no resistance at all - and I know that if I accidentally pull up on that knob just once, that's it. I personally support the mini switch idea, you always look + feel cool hitting a mini switch!
 
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