My Gear Through The Years and The Beast:

Around 1980, i started out on an 18 fret, 1959 Sears Silvertone that my parents gave to me. I painted it a wild, two-tone green striped color scheme and hand painted some characters on it that I got off a Chinese menu. I stuffed a Duncan Quarter Pounder in it and saved up for a used JTM30 combo. I bought a piece of leather from a local boot shop and made my own strap. This was my main guitar/amp from 1980 until 1983. At that time, I was playing 5 nights a week in a bar band earning $125/week.

In late 1982, I bought a pre-release Ibanez Destroyer DT555 and that served as my #1 guitar, until it was stolen one night from my car parked outside The Rainbow in 1988.

I played a few different guitars over the years, but the longest run I had was with a 1987 MIK Squire Stratocaster that bandmates chipped in and bought for me in 1988. I played that guitar for 28 years.

In 2019, a friend of mine offered me a brand new Schecter Hellraiser C1FR in trade for it and the Squirecaster now lives in a private collection.

I built a few guitars over the years, from parts I bought from the now defunct B.Hefner & Company in Whittier, California. I even built a few custom, Gibson scale Stratocasters and Telecasters under my stagename ‘Von Herndon.’

I even designed and trademarked my own headstock design.

However, probably my favorite guitar was one that I pieced together quite by accident.

Here’s the backstory…

Last year, I was contracted to come up with a guitar that could be played in a music video while on fire. A music colleague had a 1982 Fender MIJ Standard Stratocaster that he sanded down and rejected because the body was made from plies of alder.

Here’s a couple of pics of the 1982 MIJ Standard Stratocaster before he sanded it down:

And how it looked when I received it:

He gave me the body and I quickly primed it and painted it spray can yellow with spray can clear. I threw an old neck on it that I had on my workbench and enough hardware to make it playable.

I taped a wick to the back of the neck with copper tape and soaked the wick with tiki torch fluid. The video was filmed and the guitar just hung on my wall after that.

One day, I just picked it up and started playing around on it. There was something about this guitar - something positive and mysterious - that captivated me. At this point, I decided to turn it into a working guitar.

I started by performing a full copper shielding job on it.

I had Chandler Music in Chico, California build me a custom HSS pickguard in black/yellow/black. I had DiMarzio build me a custom humbucker we called “The Neanderthal,” which is 44AWG, 16.5k AlNico9. I paired this with two Artec, bar magnet, screw pole piece single coils and a custom harness with bridge tone control and 5 way switching.

I built my own brass saddles and brass sustain block at a friend’s shop using his equipment:

Since I have huge hands and most guitar necks feel uncomfortable and cramped, I ordered a custom 1-3/4" roasted maple neck from Warmoth with a thick, 1.00" deep ‘V’ profile.

I eventually made my own nut from brass and swapped in a modified Gibson tuner on the low ‘E’ to improve string angle. All other tuners are short post vintage and no string trees are needed.

This guitar is just phenomenal to play. You can divebomb 11 semitones and it comes back to perfect pitch every time. It’s become my main stage guitar.

Here is a picture of it this morning with the strap that I made in 1980, shown in the first B&W photo I posted above. The Jackson 4x12 cabinet was a gift from Wurzel.

And a photo from a performance last month posing with one of my Les Paul Replicas I built in my garage:

Thought you folks might find this story musically interesting.

Here’s wishing you prosperity and success…


I’m interested to know why you went with the brass nut. I still have my first electric, totally relate to your gear journey, respect man, that’s a lot of years playing live, fantastic!

Thanks for sharing that!

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Thanks, Man…

Ok, about going with the brass nut…it’s a long story actually.

My 1-3/4" Warmoth neck came with a Graph Tech Tusq XL nut. I used it about a month of playing daily in the studio and 4-5 nights a week at performances before I started having problems.

I started developing a buzz on the open ‘G’ string and when I measured it, my string height at the first fret had dropped significantly. I called Graph Tech and sent them some photos.

Now, we all know the ‘G’ string is a dick - as proven by this close-magnification photo of a ‘G’ string - but the problem was actually the soft material of the Graph Tech Tusq XL nut and poor string spacing.


Here’s the Graph Tech Tusq XL as installed by Warmoth:

Note how the ‘D’ and ‘G’ strings are pinched in the nut and the low ‘E’ is running at an angle to its tuning key.

After looking closely at the photos, I noticed that the string spacing in the nut (CNC cut by Warmoth) was causing the low ‘E’ to widen the groove in the nut as it moved sideways during divebombing.

Graph Tech basically told me that their Tusq XL nut was not designed for daily use and they suggested a harder material.

A musical friend told me that “bone is the way to go,” and since I was only good with using semi-finished nuts, I had him make me a custom bone nut to fit the 1-3/4" Warmoth neck, because I doubted my ability to do it.

I had two major problems with the bone nut.

First of all, the strings were still running at an angle to the keys and this caused the guitar to fail to return to pitch. But, if you measured the string spacing, it was on “textbook” 1-1/16th spread.

Secondly, the relatively shallow slots allowed the high ‘e’ to pop out of the nut when i picked an open ‘E’ backwards, such as the phrase on Van Halen’s ‘Pretty Woman.’

So, I began watching Yngwie and I figured why not build my own nut from a brass blank and space the strings in such a way that they all run straight through the nut???

I also figured the brass would last longer, but this involved a lot of trial and error work by hand.

Ultimately, I was able to build a decent nut on attempt #3. Each string is a different spacing and all are aligned with their respective tuning keys.

The slots are deep enough that the strings are not knocked out of the slot when backpacking.

I’m using .046" x .009" Ernie Balls and my slots are .004" over the string diameter and micropolished by hand

Next, I shifted my focus to the way too steep angle of the low ‘E’ string. While the short post, vintage tuners (Gotoh SD-91) gave me a good down angle on the other strings, the low ‘E’ angle was too steep.

Ar first, I experimented with reverse-wrapping the low ‘E’ on the tuning post, which we know EVH was doing back in 1978-79, but even that wasn’t enough to bring it back to.pitch reliably during heavy divebombs, like this one:

Listen to Perfect Strangers - Tremolo Dive - Isolated Tracks by Von Herndon on #SoundCloud

After some brainstorming, I decided to modify a Gibson/Kluson tuning key to fit the Low ‘E,’ which greatly improved the angle through the nut and brought the guitar back to pitch every time.

I also have a habit of pushing down on the strings behind the nut while wrangling the tremolo, so I filed notches in the edge of the fretboard to allow me to raise the pitch higher.

Thus far, I cannot say the brass nut has changed my tone, but it is keeping me reliably in tune, despite some very extreme playing…

P.S. I now have a set of Grover 136G6 gold tuners on order. I will replace the low ‘E’ tuner with one from that set.

It’s the same style knob as the Gotoh SD-91’s but the long post height like the Gibson/Kluson, but won’t be such an eyesore…


Here’s my YelloStrat and my first guitar - the 1959 Sears Silvertone 1450 - (actually a Danelectro U1) After the 2011 restoration.

The silk embroidered strap came with the Silvertone guitar…

When I’m supporting ‘Evel Empyre,’ I play in disguise…

It’s actually a bit of fun to see the look on people’s faces when they walk into an audition with us…LOL

On the subject of gear, I wanted to share some pics of these Gibson Scale Tele-style guitars. I thought that building a Tele, with Gibson style maple/mahogany/maple construction, a 1958 Les Paul profile set neck and twin humbuckers would be a great idea…LOL

It wasn’t well received. The Fender and Gibson purists shunned the idea.

All in all, I built 27 of these, including my custom double neck. The guitar shown on the right is in the collection of Rockabilly Star Marty Stuart.

So, after seeing Don Felder and Jimmy Page with EDS-1275’s, I really wanted one of these monsters, but the price tag kept it out of reach.

I had been using B.Hefner & Company in Whittier, California, to cut out the bodies and necks for my previous builds, so we sat down one afternoon in 2016 to work out the plans for “The Beast.”

Based on a EDS-1275, this build would feature unique ‘tongue and groove’ neck joints that were superior in strength to the conventional Gibson tenon.

Two separate circuits were used - similar to what I saw on Don Felder’s EDS-1275 - so for live performances, the necks are switched with a custom footswitch between two amplifiers, with each amp EQ’d for that particular neck.

Custom headstock veneers - featuring my stagename - were drafted and ordered up. The veneers were glued down and fitted in my garage.

A friend of mine produced the unique mother of pearl truss rod covers.

Once I had both necks fitted, the body/necks was taken to B.Hefner in Whittier, California and they CNC’d the bridge post holes, fret slots and nut shelfs in a single operation.

After binding, I painted the guitar with flat black spray can lacquer. After allowing a few days to dry, the guitar was sprayed with “U-Pol” (orange can) and hung in the garage for two weeks before color sanding and buffing.

I copper shielded the entire guitar. Switchcraft jacks and Emerson Pro pots were used. Bridge value is 1mg with 0.01uf tone capacitors. In the 12 string neck, I used a pair of Thro-Bak SLE-101’s and in the 6 string next, a Gibson 498T and 496R combination.

I performed a hand level and crown on this guitar and ended up going with aluminum Nashville bridges after collapsing several zinc bridges on the 12 string side at standard tuning.

A good friend of mine - Kevin Paul - a session guitarist extraordinaire - passed away in October of 2018. Before he passed, he gave me a set of Gibson “Green Keys” from one of his Les Paul’s and I installed Kevin’s tuners on the 6 string side.

The guitar debuted at Mojave Wasteland Weekend 2018 and has been used on numerous recording projects since that time.

It was a very daunting project, but I learned a lot on this build.

Here’s wishing you all the best…


I’m a real nerd about my gear and tone in general.
Forgive work outdoors, I use my Marshall Origin 50 and a 1984 Jackson 4x12 (200 watt) cabinet.

In the studio or indoors, I use a custom 2x12 cabinet with (1) Jensen Neodymium Stealth 80watt and (1) WGS Reaper 55Hz speaker.

The rig is very stable and quiet, despite very high gain settings. The amp MV is always on 7-8 and the volume is controlled with a Boss FV30L through the FX loop.

Recently, we ran the Origin 50H like a pre-amp into a JCM800 2204 and I really liked what we got out of that on a recording.

We are currently in the process of performing Jason Tong’s ‘Headfirst Amplification’ mod on the Origin 50H, which is similar to the Tim Caswell #39 S.I.R. modification, in that it adds an extra gain stage.

All the best…