What We Know About EVH’s Shark, Part 1

June 29, 2011 | By | 3 Replies More
(Guitar World photo via vhnd.com)

(Guitar World photo via vhnd.com)

The most recent issue of Guitar World mag included the pic at left, one of several images recently unearthed of the 1977 Van Halen. Props to GW for devoting some space to it, but the accompanying text doesn’t accurately reflect Ed’s Ibanez Destroyer, later to be known as the Shark.

So here’s what “we” – mostly meaning the guys at the metroamp.com EVH forum – know about Ed’s Ibanez Destroyer, aka “the Shark” after Ed cut a chunk out of it.


At this point it should be common knowledge that Destroyers were NOT made out of korina. They were finished to look like the korina Gibson Explorers of that time because at that time Ibanez was in the business of copying existing axes.

Should also be common knowledge that Destroyers of that era were made out of sen, which the GW article calls “sen ash” (the Ibanez catalog at the time said “solid ash”).

Despite decades of fan research into this, doesn’t appear that anyone can say conclusively what sen is – but I think we’ve gotten to the bottom of it.

First here are two explanations from this thread:

Sen is sometimes called sen ash, but is not related to ash at all, but is rather a member of the ivy family. It is an Asian wood which looks a lot like ash, but is tonally similar to poplar and [was] often used for inexpensive Fender-style bodies.


Tokai usually used a Japanese tree of the ash family known as “sen” or “sen ash.” It is not particularly light at all (heavier than alder) but has great tone.

Now this from a woodworking site:

Sen, known botanically as Acanthopanax ricinofolius, goes by a variety of names including harigiri, sen-no- ki, nakada, tse tsin, and in the United States as castor arabia. It is used for carving and joinery, chests, furniture, paneling, buildings, and sports equipment. Sen’s heartwood is yellow to greenish brown in color, with a straight grain and somewhat coarse texture.

And this, which may have to be the final word on the subject, from this site quoting The International Book of Wood:

The small supplies of sen available commercially come from Japan, though the tree also grows in China and Korea. Its wood is easily mistaken for ash. Sen is a large tree, up to 25 m high, yielding good-quality logs up to 1m in diameter.

A combination of pale colour, straight grain and ring-porous structure gives sen its remarkable likeness to ash. The wood is almost white, sometimes with a greyish tint, and is often, like some Japanese ash, rather slowly grown. Some 20 per cent lighter than ash…and appreciably weaker, it especially lacks the outstanding toughness of ash….

Sen is used in Japan for many purposes – for furniture, decorative surfaces, lacquer work, handles, combs, etc. It is commonly made into veneer and plywood – the form in which it is usually seen outside Japan.

Sen also is supposed to have “palmate leaves,” which according to my Google research is not like U.S. ash trees.

(Click to see bigger, note stock pickups.)

(Click to see bigger, note stock pickups.)

So if you’re reading the above like I am, sen is not ash and to call it “sen ash” is wrong, especially when it comes to geetar tone. I am basing that not just on reading but on the fact that I own a stock 1970s Destroyer. Here’s what I can tell you about it:

> It’s not heavy.

> Sen sounds great – oddly, imo like korina, meaning warm-ish, unlike ash.

> The neck is supposed to be maple, according to the old Ibanez catalogs.


The fingerboard is rosewood. Better rosewood was more commonly available back then (e.g., Brazilian), but no word whether that was used on the Destroyers.

Also, the fingerboard is flat – a shredder’s board for sure.

- End of part 1 of 2 -

Category: Edward Van Halen, Ibanez

Comments (3)

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  1. jaysun says:

    if only i could find a 75 for sale

  2. Gee Halen says:

    I love the Shark!

    I even made my own version of it, only with black and white stripes á la VHI Frankie: http://s3.amazonaws.com/twitpic/photos/full/256552486.jpg?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAJF3XCCKACR3QDMOA&Expires=1309517886&Signature=KYSoe6Pu6BGnwOVNtPYyx8RM1SM%3D

    It has a slightly narrower lower “fin” than the original, and I also fitted a “voyager” neckplate on it as an homage to Kramer guitars.

    My main axe for a while, no matter how ridiculously it looks.

    Need to swap pickups, though.

    Oh, and it used to be a Vorson explorer. Shitty brand, slightly related to Jackson guitars.

  3. thewitt says:

    Where’s part 2? Also – What is up with the white explorer/destroyer? I’ve seen Ed with the natural, but never this. Same ax? Refin?

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