My Soloist build specs...thanks Ed!

ChrisMC

Senior member
Messages
150
This guitar is Edward Van Halen’s doing. Had he not passed away, I would have remained more than content with the guitars I currently own. When we lost him last year, had the relic’d Frankenstrats been readily available, I probably would have bought one, which would have scratched that itch, and that would have been that. Alas, they sold out everywhere practically overnight (literally), along with every other EVH signature model, amplifier, and EVH effect pedal. So began the search for what I was going to do. It started with wanting something like Ed played...and morphed into...wanting something that was inspired by Ed, but made for me. 

There are a few stamps from Edward on this build, most notably the non recessed Floyd. I’ve owned plenty of double locking trem guitars, in fact I very much prefer them, but every last one of them was recessed, never a top mount; this will be my first, but that’s how Ed did it. The direct mount pickups are another nod, as is the angled humbucker. The ebony fretboard is what his last (and currently available, of course) signature model had, on the US made Wolfgang’s. And of course the D-Tuna, which I’ve had on a couple recessed Floyd guitars before, with a Tremol-No installed, and they work well (the D-Tuna, that is, although so does the Tremol-No).

Thanks, Edward, for the music, the changing of the game, helping to design our double locking trems, and for the inspiration. Thanks for helping us all to realize that it’s not only “okay” to break the rules with how our guitars are designed...but also encouraged.

My Soloist build:

Body:

Model: Soloist
Orientation: Right handed
F-Holes: None
Scale: 25-1/2"
Wood: Flame Maple on Swamp Ash
Rout: Rear Rout
Pickup Rout: Humbucker (Wood Mount) (N), None (Middle), Humbucker (Wood Mount) (Angled)
Controls: X-X-X-5 (Strat®)***
Bridge: Floyd with Angled Pocket
Stud Install: No Stud Install
Jack Rout: 1/2" (13mm) Side Jack Hole****
Neck Pocket: Strat® Shape
Mounting Holes: Standard 4 Bolt
Contours: Contoured Heel / Tummy Cut / Forearm Contour
Binding: Natural Masked Accent
Top Finish: Purple Dye
Back Finish: Transparent Purple
Finish Type: Gloss Finish

***I’ll need to put the potentiometer holes where I want them.

****Flush mount barrel jack

Neck:

Style: Warhead
Construction: Modern Construction
Orientation: Right Handed
Neck Wood: Roasted Flame Maple
Fingerboard Wood: Ebony
Nut Width: 1-11/16"
Back Shape: 59 roundback
Fret Size: SS6150 (Stainless)
Tuner Ream: Planet Waves(13/32")
Radius: 10-16" Compound
Scale: 25-1/2"
Fret #: 22
Mounting Holes: Standard 4 Bolt
Pre-Cut Installed String Nut: R3 Floyd Prep w/ Mounting Holes
Inlays: Arizona Turquoise Stone Dots
Side Dots: Mother Of Pearl Side Dots

Bridge:

Modified Original Floyd Rose (black) with fat brass block, brass fine tuners, D-Tuna, titanium string blocks, and push in tremolo arm...with R3 locking nut of course, brass trem claw and screws, and Xotic Raw Vintage trem springs (you need to try those!).

Pickups:

Suhr Thornbuckers, with Thornbucker+ 50mm size in the bridge. Zebra bobbins. Angled bridge pickup.

Machine heads:

Gotoh Magnum locking tuners in cosmo black

Electronics:

MojoTone 500K pots. 1 master volume, 1 master tone, Emerson Custom .047 cap, treble bleed mod, Freeway 5B5-01 10 position switch (or the 5 way Megaswitch...but I’ll probably use the Freeway).

Strap buttons:

Schaller S-Locks (black chrome)

I’m pretty sure the last of my bits and pieces (ie screws, etc) have been acquired. Now I’ll continue to stare at the pile of parts and supplies for a couple more months until I can build this sweet axe.

Since I’m pretty sure all my parts have been acquired...the retailers I used for this build are:

Warmoth
Sweetwater
StewMac
Humbucker Music
Reverb

It’s about an $1800 or so build, which, I’m pretty sure that if a large manufacturers name was on the headstock, it would be about double that.  I believe it’s going to be a gorgeous sounding, gorgeous playing, and gorgeous looking guitar. I’m looking forward to making the pile of parts into an instrument!
 

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NedRyerson

Senior member
Messages
453
Soon after EVH died, my buddy asked if I could build a replica Frankenstrat for his older brother (BIIIIG VH fan).  I had to ask if it'd be for playing or if it'd be a keepsake/memento item, to which my friend admitted it'd be more of a show piece.

I had to decline because I wouldn't be able to do that project sufficient justice and couldn't justify charging my friend that much money for a display piece.

I think my friends don't have a good enough idea of how much these endeavors actually cost.  I scared off another friend who wanted a Darth Vader-inspired guitar when I quoted $1,300.
 

ChrisMC

Senior member
Messages
150
NedRyerson said:
I think my friends don't have a good enough idea of how much these endeavors actually cost.  I scared off another friend who wanted a Darth Vader-inspired guitar when I quoted $1,300.

Well, you ‘could’ do a Floyd Rose Special, a cheap pickup, cheap no name tuners, cheap electronics, etc...but then why would someone want to? I understand budget...but that’s where saving comes in. I’m a firm believer in the “buy once, cry once” game plan.
 

ChrisMC

Senior member
Messages
150
I don't have much to "show" yet, but I guess we'll start with what I have on hand.  I upgraded my Original Floyd Rose bridge (that I bought new for this project) with titanium string blocks, D-Tuna, 42mm fat brass block, brass fine tuners, and PUSH IN arm (WHY do they just not make this the stock arm??  I hate the screw on collar on the stock arm!).  Now it's more or less the "1984" model, but with bushings and insert screws rather than the wood screw mounts that the '84 comes with (but yes, you can always just buy the bushings and inserts for the '84, too). 
 

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ChrisMC

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150
42mm big brass block (this is a non recessed Floyd, so the 42 should work).
 

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ChrisMC

Senior member
Messages
150
Suhr Thornbucker pickups, with the + in the bridge, 50mm.  My bridge pickup will have the angled route, and I went back and forth about 50mm vs 53mm bridge pickup size, but after looking at Dimarzio's pickup dimensions (Seymour Duncan doesn't have pole to pole spacing dimensions, and I wasn't near both an SD pickup and a tape measure while I was doing this...), I determined that the 50mm size will be just fine. 

That, and...magnetic fields aren't laser beams, they're a little wider than we give them credit for.  And lastly....think about how often you bend a string while playing; do you notice the volume getting lower as you bend the string out of the sweet spot of the magnetic field?  Me either.  50mm spacing on the angled route will be just fine.
 

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ChrisMC

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150
The mock-up of the body from the Warmoth site. 
 

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stratamania

Senior member
Messages
9,481
Just for reference with a Floyd you would normally pick a 53mm spacing. With Seymour Duncan the spacing is called a Trembucker where not just the pole spacing but also the humbucker is slightly wider. DiMarzio use the term F Spaced.

Of course what you have will still work and as you will have it angled the difference will be negligible.

Aaron did a video a while ago about Trembuckers etc

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2CMYd0oeL6E[/youtube]
 

ChrisMC

Senior member
Messages
150
stratamania said:
Just for reference with a Floyd you would normally pick a 53mm spacing. With Seymour Duncan the spacing is called a Trembucker where not just the pole spacing but also the humbucker is slightly wider. DiMarzio use the term F Spaced.

Of course what you have will still work and as you will have it angled the difference will be negligible.

Aaron did a video a while ago about Trembuckers etc

Yes, I know. That’s good info for those that didn’t know though. All that said, I just went by Dimarzio’s spacing since I was originally going to throw in my 36th Anniversary PAF’s that are currently in a beater guitar I put together, and the pole to pole spacing on that (F spaced) on center is 2.01”, or 50mm, so I just went with that.

Either way, it’ll be fine. It’s cool that most of the bigger pickup companies offer both dimensions for their bridge pickups, but the fact is most people wouldn’t be able to tell any tonal difference either way (including if you put an F-spaced/trembucker in a Gibson, where the poles would be outside the strings).

Magnetic fields aren’t narrow as laser beams. If they were we’d all be getting the stutter effect every time we use vibrato while playing (on the fretboard, not with the wiggle stick).
 

ChrisMC

Senior member
Messages
150
stratamania said:
Indeed, lined up pole pieces can be more aesthetic that said dependent on the viewer.

Yeah...I had one build that had a standard spaced pickup on a Floyd setup, and it was pick guard mounted, so easy-peasy enough to swap...it bothered me just enough to go ahead and swap it out.  But tonally, I don't think it matters all that much.  It didn't seem to hamper Ed's ability to have some of the best rock tone to ever be heard. 
 

ChrisMC

Senior member
Messages
150
Build update: I “think” I ordered the last of my bits and pieces for the build , but I’ve already said that at least eight times LOL.

I just ordered a set of black Floyd Rose Hollow Points, which should be here Monday. In the interim, I kept second guessing my pickup choices, so I also ordered a Suhr SSV+ for the bridge, and a Suhr DSV for the neck. In the end, I do believe it will be the Thornbucker+ in the bridge, and the DSV in the neck. I like how the DSV’s are a little rounder and warmer, I like a woolly, throaty neck pickup tone. Whichever two I don’t use, I’m sure I’ll use on a future build; all four of those pickups are great (TB+, SSV+, TB neck, DSV neck), I just felt torn so I ordered the other two, to stop feeling torn!

A week ago they told me that my body was in the paint department, and my neck was in the fretting department (I called to ask a general build question, and in passing the rep told me that). I’m on week 6 now, so they were there on week 5. Granted, that more than likely means they were simply in the QUEUE in those departments, but still, that was exciting to hear!

So...I actually do think I’m done ordering parts and tools (okay okay, except for my local hardware store run to grab a few drill bits, some wax, etc, which I’ll do this weekend), and now I wait it out the rest of the way.

I MIGHT do a time lapse video of the build - MAYBE, we’ll see, but either way I’ll be documenting with photos.

I’m getting excited!
 

ChrisMC

Senior member
Messages
150
A few pics of the finished build.  This guitar came out EXACTLY like how I envisioned it in my head when I set out to build 'my' guitar, and I couldn't be more pleased with it, especially having done every solder joint, every hole, and every minor mistake myself. I love this thing! :-D

Once the neck and body arrived, I was far too busy getting down to the business of the build to do a time lapse (and it turns out, it wouldn't have been a good time lapse anyway...it would have been a lot of me sifting through my parts boxes of all new parts, and tool boxes for the correct size drill bits, etc. LOL).  I did take a FEW progress photos, and maybe I'll post them, but they're not anything we haven't seen before.

A few notes on the build:

First, a special thanks to DangerousR6 for the AWESOME custom neck plate which truly is the perfect finishing touch to this amazing build.

I already did a pickup swap, about three days after the build was completed (haha!).  I had the Suhr DSV in the neck, and typically I love that pickup, but I must have a 'dark' sounding guitar inherently or something, because in this guitar, that pickup was mud city, just WAY too dark, throaty, woolly, etc., so I took it out and put in the matching Thornbucker neck pickup, which, in every video I'd watched, it was far too bright for my liking, but in this guitar, it just works well.  I didn't swap it because of a volume mismatch or tone mismatch with the bridge, I swapped it because as a stand-alone pickup position (neck position), the DSV just wasn't the right pickup for this one.  I'm glad I bought 5 pickups for this build though....options!

A few detail/aesthetic notes.  I did a dry install of the components to be sure everything fit properly, and snapped some photos.  As I stared at the PHOTOS (not even so much the real guitar, but the photos), I noticed that the pickup base plates were just really clashing with the whole aesthetic...with the bare metal color showing.  So I painted them black.  I also went to the hardware store and bought some machine screws for the pickup selector switch, and did in fact end up using the included rubber boot for the kill switch mini toggle, because any chrome/nickel showing was really throwing off the whole vibe (with the very fitting exception being the brass fine tuners and titanium string blocks on the Floyd).  Everything else...just really wanted to be black, and so it is.

I made a few mistakes, nothing major, and nothing that most people would notice but me, but I got 'er done.  It took me some trial and error to figure out how to properly use the side adjust truss adjustment, but once I figured it out, I got it dialed in to where I wanted it.

I ended up going BACK to the much smaller stock Floyd block, after starting out with a 42mm fat brass block (which fits, by the way, on this TOP MOUNT Floyd).  Going back to the 'dark guitar' (tonally) thing...brass adds some fatness, and the tone of this guitar needed to be thinned out a bit, so I went back to the much smaller nickel plated brass block, and that certainly helped tame that too-thick low end.  I think the fat brass block was just too much of a good thing on this one.

I'm completely content and actually overjoyed with how this turned out, especially with it being my first build.  Again, yes, I made a few small errors, but nothing to sound the alarm about.

The wiring was the biggest challenge.  Not the 'doing' of it; I got it all soldered up and working on the first try, but more so the DECIDING on how I was going to wire it.  Man....I spent hours and hours researching and trying to come to a decision as to how I was going to wire this thing.  At FIRST, I was just going to stick with what I knew and liked, what I refer to as 'standard Ibanez wiring', since they do it on so many of their HH equipped RG's and S Series, which is a 5 way blade with positions 2 and 4 giving some nice options...

...but then I figured, if I'm starting from scratch, I can make this thing be anything I want, and thus began the struggle!  I poured over options, switches, push/pulls, circuit bending, diagrams, mini toggles, on and on and on.  What I decided on, is this:

5 way blade:

1.  Full bridge humbucker (series)
2.  Inner (north) coils of both pickups
3.  All four coils, both pickups in series
4.  Both coils of neck pickup, but in parallel
5.  Full neck humbucker (series)

(^ AKA "standard Ibanez wiring)

...but I wanted to take it further, so I wanted coil splitting.  The tone is a push/pull for coil splitting to the SOUTH coils; I didn't want the north coils, because I figured, if I'm going to coil split, I want the ones closest to the bridge and closest to the neck, because that's going to be more pronounced than the north (inner) coils, and it is...in a nice, pleasing way, especially with that angled bridge humbucker, and the Thornbuckers split INCREDIBLY well!

...but I also wanted a blower switch circuit, wired up to the bridge pickup. And so it is.

As a WAY-afterthought, way before the neck and body arrived to me, I got to thinking about how much room I have in the cavity, and "What else can I do that isn't crazy looking, not difficult, but cool?"  A kill switch.  Of course.  Easy to wire in, not expensive, plenty of room for it, and easy to install.  So I ordered a 1/2 inch kill switch, but with a purple LED light ring around it.  There is room in the cavity for a battery, and all is well with the world.  I used a stereo barrel jack for constant battery power whenever a cable is plugged in.  ***After doing some research on the infamous POP that is apparently inherent with kill switches, I ordered a few 10KOhm resistors, and wired one between the hot and the ground of the switch, and for the most part, even on clean settings...no more pop, and the pop that is there, is barely noticeable, so, that's something to try if you're dealing with the POP of your kill switch.

By the way, on the 1/2" barrel jack...at least on this Soloist body, it was NO problem whatsoever; I'm not sure what all the fuss is about that I've read here on the forum about how you MUST use a 7/8" route or you'll have problems.  I had no problems.  None. And this is my first build.  I love the clean look of the 1/2" barrel jack with NO plate.  It looks nice and clean and you don't have this giant piece of hardware screwed to the side of your guitar. 

Also this guitar is incredibly quiet (for an electric guitar), and I'm not 'great' at soldering, I'm just 'passable' at it.  I did three thick coats of conductive shielding paint in the cavity, and covered the back of the cavity cover with copper tape, making sure that the 'lip' where the screws hold the cover on had just as much conductive shielding paint coating as the rest of the cavity, and it's a nice, quiet guitar, like it's supposed to be. 

Locking tuners because string changes suck even on a hard tail (who 'wants' to change strings?!  Not me), and it just makes it so much faster.

The D-tuna is calibrated and works great.  I fiddled a lot with spring tension to get it just so that it kisses the body, but I didn't any more than that (yes my adjacent strings go flat if I do a bend, but....floating bridges do that all...day...long, so, it just is what it is and I like the easy action of the trem like that). 

One little issue I came across, with this being my first TOP MOUNT Floyd (I've owned literally dozens of floating double locking trem guitars), is that because I wanted the easy action of the trem, and the thing about the strings going flat every time I bend (if I were to strike adjacent strings while bending), every time the bridge plate would rest back down on the body, there was a 'thunk'. It didn't translate to the amp, but...it still bothered me.  Well, one thing I do to EVERY guitar that has a trem (which, for me...is every single last electric guitar I've ever bought, except for ONE, which is a hard tail Strat parts caster with an 80's MIJ body and it's AWESOME), is a trick that I learned in a Steve Vai interview YEARS ago, which is to put a piece of gauze or paper towel, or just....SOMETHING, in the trem cavity to silence the springs.  I've done that on every guitar since reading that interview.  Well, I did that to this one too, and I usually just fold up a piece of paper towel, then wrap it in clear packing tape so it doesn't chafe to dust, and it works great, only, on this one...I put it in too thick, which did two things:  1.) It put some resistance on the springs, just a touch, it would be like adding another 1/2 spring to the setup, which bothered me, and all I would have to do to solve that, would be to re-do the paper towel/clear packing tape setup, but I'm not going to, because the other thing it did was 2.) it solved the thunk!  The return to zero is still perfect, but it's juuuuuuust a bit SLOWER in returning to zero than with no paper towel in there at all, and that slightly retarded return to zero, is JUST enough to eliminate the thunk when the bridge plate returns to zero on the body, and D-tuna still calibrates just fine with the paper towel in there, so...happy accident and I'm leaving it just as it is. 

So, that's it, it's a great guitar, the best I've ever owned, the '59 Roundback profile plays like a freakin' dream.  Now when I pick up even my Fender Modern C, it feels REALLY thin, and my Ibanez Wizard feels like a toothpick, but this neck is AMAZING (DO YOU SEE THE NECK THEY BUILT FOR ME???!!!!! HOLY COW....the FLAME on that thing!!!! WOW!!!!!), the pickups are just what I heard in my head, just, everything about it, I know I'm biased in regards to my guitar, but...I seem to have gotten it right with how I spec'd it out, because the thing is absolutely perfect for me.  I can honestly say if anything happened to this one....I would be literally crushed and would have to go out and buy the parts to build her again and hope that it came out as good as the original.
 

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ChrisMC

Senior member
Messages
150
One more....those Arizona Turquoise stone dots....I chose them because I wanted to be different, because I figured "everybody" chooses black, white, or abalone, and I didn't want that because it's too common.  It turns out, that they actually compliment the build quite nicely, and from a distance, you can't really tell what they 'are', but you can tell that something is just....different about them.  I do like them, they look great against the ebony! 
 

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SeaGroomer

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208
Whoa, that is a top-notch build! You're right about the turquoise dots, they are a really nice choice. They look good on the rosewood board I bought and really good on your ebony board.

The purple top looks killer with that natural stripe, it looks super clean. That looks like a real shredder haha.  :headbanging:
 

aarontunes

Administrator
Staff member
Messages
2,590
That is a killer axe!


I am glad you got a nice, straight-on, full body shot. That will make my job much easier. ;)
 
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