How to Make Your Own EVH Wolfgang…

March 3, 2010 | By | 15 Replies More

…and Save a Bundle

Here's the real deal, the EVH Wolfgang.

Here's the real deal, the EVH Wolfgang.

This cool post was submitted by WoodyTone reader and avid EVH tone-chaser Trev Morson. More about him and his band is at

How many of you want to own a new EVH Wolfgang but can’t afford the $3K asking price?

I saw a guitar in Guitar Center a few weeks ago that in looks, and for all intent and purposes, was an EVH Wolfgang – but the asking price brand new was only $540. It was the Music Man Sterling AX40. These are low-priced guitars made in Indonesia, and I knew instantly that it had potential.

By default, the Sterling AX40 does have some issues, but to be fair, you would expect that for such a low asking price. But still….

The Issues

You may remember the debacle with Fender Stratocasters made in Japan in the early ’80s: Fender’s concern was that they were actually manufactured with a higher quality in Japan than they were in USA at the time. (I happen to know because I own a 1983 ’62 Strat reissue made in Japan.) You’ll find a somewhat similar situation with the Sterling AX40 in that the basswood body [it only has a maple veneer top] and maple neck are very well made in Indonesia. But there are some issues:

> The wiring is sub-standard and should be replaced. When I got mine, I found the toggle switch loose, and upon tightening it, it snapped off the neck pickup wire from the switch pot.

> The frets are medium-jumbo, but are not sanded very well. The high E can get stuck under the frets at the side of the neck.

> The Floyd Rose licensed trem is not set up correctly (even though these are quality-checked in the U.S.). The strings by default are tuned concert pitched with Ernie Ball 10-gauge strings, and I was not convinced the intonation was set exactly as it should.

It does not by default have a D-Tuna installed on the low E, but I have heard that for gigging musicians, the D-Tuna may not be a good idea: I heard that once these are installed, you can no longer fine-tune the low E string on the Floyd Rose.

One other thing I noticed is that the default pickups are not only screwed directly to the body, but are glued as well. By default they are hot and kind of okay, but a replacement bridge pickup is a good idea. However, replacing the pickups is tricky: I found that the routing was not as deep as it should be for a replacement.

The Potential

Don’t let all of the negatives put you off, though. Again, the asking price is $540, so you would expect some issues. The key is recognizing this guitar’s potential.  I have noticed that many reviews on the web are given by bedroom guitarists, and I find myself always asking the same question: Is the gear being reviewed ‘gig tested?’

I decided to upgrade my Sterling AX40 so I can use it with my band for gigs. Having the $3K Fender EVH Wolfgang in mind, I made the following upgrades and I was astonished on how much money I saved.

Custom work I had done:

> Completely rewired.

> New pickup toggle switch.

> New pickup selector, added tone pot.

> New linear 500K volume pot.

> Replaced volume knob with MXR volume knob, added MXR tone knob.

> Installed Seymour Duncan SH12 Screamin’ Demon bridge pickup, pole pieces adjusted.

> OEM neck pickup and pole pieces adjusted.

> All frets filed and sanded, top and sides.

> Floyd Rose trem-stopper installed, another spring added, Floyd set flat and level.

> Floyd Rose sustain block installed.

> EVH Wolfgang decals applied (original 5150 decal coming soon).

> Intonation set for Elixir NanoWeb 9- to 42-gauge strings tuned to Eb.

> Swapped out strap nuts for EVH loop types.

> String/fret, nut and bridge oil applied.

The Result

The cost of the new AX40 was $540. The cost for upgrades was $250. Total = $790, still a bargain at today’s prices, and it plays, sounds and feels like a real $3,000 new EVH Wolfgang. Total Savings = a whopping $2,200.

Note the ENORMOUS cost-savings. I just knew this guitar had a lot of potential.

On the left is the Music Man Sterling AX40 when I got it new. On the right is the same guitar after I customized it – it is now my EVH custom.

On the left is the Music Man Sterling AX40 when I got it new. On the right is the same guitar after I customized it – it is now my EVH custom.

Category: Edward Van Halen, Ernie Ball/Music Man

Comments (15)

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  1. Guitar.M106.COM | March 9, 2010
  1. gomez1856 says:

    Great post.

  2. johnny beane says:

    I tried a Sterling AX40 at guitar center.
    It's not a bad guitar & id try one again, beats the OLP.

    Ive played a EVH ernie ball since 1992 so maybe im spoiled.

    Johnny Beane

  3. @GeeHalen says:

    I'd definitely lose the Wolfgang decal. Otherwise it's perfect!

  4. Matt B says:

    Very cool. I think the Yamaha Pacificas have real potential for upgrades as well, and some of the PRS SE series are awesome as well! Good luck with the axe!

  5. Trev Morson says:

    Thanks for the comments guys. I've played this guitar "live" many times on our gigs, palm muting is way better on this than my frankenstart, and overall I am very pleased!

    Trev Morson.

  6. Mark F says:

    Or do yourself even one cheaper and pick up a used OLP MM1Floyd. Fantastic guitars for the money. Near same specs as the AX and can be had for $200 or less used.

  7. Pete says:

    I actually did this a couple of years ago with the MM OLP1 the guitar was only $125 NEW at GC. It was the predecessor of the the AX I had to go thru 10 of them to find a good one. But it was well worth it I own 4 actual Wolfgangs (Top Shelf Peavy) on of them is even a custom shop. I use my MM OLP the most. It rocks If you can find one BUY IT they are a great deal.

  8. Guest says:

    Did you replace the veneer top too? The tops on those two guitars are NOT the same! I think you might have gotten your pics mixed up?

  9. nick says:

    i've tried a OLP and the AX40 and the OLP was a much better bargain and better built

  10. Trev Morson says:

    No I never replaced the veneer, thats just the color between the two pictures. But now I may sell this and go get the Fender EVH wolfgang "special" made in Japan, same as US one except it isnt contoured and that is the only difference.

    • Abel says:

      you siad you replaced the sustain block, was it a direct replacement? Sterling makes its own licensed version of floyd rose…I was under the impression that the floyd rose blocks were made to fit only real floyd roses.

  11. Vik says:

    As opposite to yours mine came with perfectly crafted neck. In fact the fret work is as good as on $3000 custom guitars. No issues with the neck.
    However… the guitar body is made with several blemishes (binding, not so well hidden chips, etc.) and I don’t even want to upgrade it because all these blems make it look very cheap. Of course they don’t jump at you but I know they are there and I know the ‘American QC’ didn’t work out in this case.
    This is really disappointing.

  12. Glo says:

    I just bought a EVH Wolfgang Special aT guitar Center during the guitar a thon For $559 with case they had 2 a antique white and tobacco burst I bought the white now granted these had minor blemishes and I do mean minor one of the fine tuners on the hard tail was stripped which GC fixed for me at no charge I know this article is old but look into the real deal now here in 2013they can be had for less than$900 In some places I was just in the right place at the right time and it is a really awesome guitar

  13. Colm says:

    Good article, though why not just buy the Wolfgang special?

    There is a considerable difference that has not been mentioned – the fretboard radius. It is, in this case, key to the Wolfgang’s amazing playability. The Axis has a 9 or 10 inch radius, which is a little counterintuitive, considering the style of playing: the string height cannot be lowered to anywhere near the point of the Wolfgang, which has the much more shred-friendly 12-16 inch radius.

    I recently bought a Wolfie Special, and though it is more expensive than an Axis, it is considerably less than a USA Wolfgang and uses the SAME hardware, not cheaper hardware like the Sterling Axis. For me, the guitar is even worth buying just for the compound radius neck!

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