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Because Randy wanted a Gibson sound, the two-piece body was constructed out of mahogany. But unlike a traditional Gibson-made Flying V, this body had to be much thicker to accommodate the depth needed for the Fender tremolo bridge sustain block.
“I had to tell him that it’s going to be thick because 1 3/4" is the size of the block on the bridge,” says Sandoval. “A Strat body is anywhere from 1 5/8" to 1 3/4". An original Gibson Flying V isn’t that thick.” Control cavities would be placed on the upper wing for the pickup selector switch and on the outside edge of the upper wing for the output jack. Having cut the body out, the next procedure was attaching the Danelectro neck to it.
Sandoval hit upon a unique way to position the neck and glue it to the body that incorporated the surrounding support: “I came up with a very simple neck pocket glue-in system. I have an extension of the neck underneath the existing neck where the neck pocket is and you shape the body around the neck. There’s actually more wood that extends out and supports the neck. It’s a square neck going into a square neck pocket, but you’ve got a lot of surface area when you clamp it with wood glue. It will never break.”
Routing for the pickups presented a minor problem because the string spacing of the Gibson-style bridge position pickup was narrower than the width of the Fender tremolo bridge. As Sandoval states, “It’s a good thing that you have a flux circle magnetic field underneath the strings.” The pickups used on this guitar were a DiMarzio Super Distortion in the bridge position, and a PAF in the neck position. The electronics were similar to Gibson specs: two volume and two tone controls located on the bottom wing of the guitar.
When Randy and Karl drew up the design of this guitar, they also came up with a headstock design that was shaped like a harpoon or an arrowhead. Using the existing Danelectro headstock, Sandoval attached wood to either side, creating a paddle that the new shape could be drawn onto.
“I left the existing headstock on and doweled the sides to graft on pieces of wood,” explains Sandoval. “Then the correct shape was cut out.”
Rhoads with his Sandoval V (photo: David Plastik)
“He was devastated,” Sandoval remarks. “I remember that call.” As Randy described it, he was standing with the guitar when the strap came loose. The guitar fell and crashed to the floor, neck first. When Randy brought the guitar back to Sandoval, it wasn’t as bad as it looked, but it was still a major wreck. “When the neck broke,” he remembers, “it shattered down the middle. It blew out ... I saw multiple fibers of the wood sticking out on the neck part.”
Sandoval continues: “He was more concerned about my work and what I had done, and he felt like he ruined my work. But I took it in and charged him another $75. I repaired it and it came out as good as new.” The damage proved a testament to the strength of the neck pocket and of the neck itself, because the guitar did not break at the area where the neck joins the body. Guitars that take a similar fall will normally break somewhere in the middle or at the neck joint. Randy’s guitar was repaired and little could be seen of the damage.
Randy Rhoads’s Sandoval V guitar, a hybrid of a Gibson and a Fender, was completed in September 1979. Soon after that, Randy would leave his band Quiet Riot, having been tapped to play in Ozzy Osbourne’s new band. Sandoval’s creation headed overseas to England and a tour through Europe in 1980, and scores of Europress photographers snapped shots of it. In December of that year, Randy flew home to the states for Christmas. It was on that flight that he came up with an idea for a new guitar. He couldn’t wait to get it built.
A Second V Takes Shape
Around the same time, Wayne Charvel sold the San Dimas, California workshop to a prospective new business partner, Grover Jackson. With Wayne gone, Karl Sandoval left to continue developing his company, Sandoval Engineering. This is what led Randy to call Grover Jackson about making his new guitar.
On December 23, 1980, Randy went to the San Dimas production facility to meet with Grover Jackson, the new head of the Charvel Manufacturing at that time. The Charvel factory was empty, since all of the employees had gone for the week of the Christmas holidays. Jackson sat in his office awaiting Randy’s arrival. He recalls, “We sat there from noon until midnight and just talked about everything in the world. He brought a little scrap of paper that had four to five line drawings, saying, ‘This is kinda what I want this guitar to look like.’ We scribbled and made more drawings and he left.”
Grover Jackson circa 1980
According to Jackson, Ozzy and Sharon (then Arden) had bought him a ticket on the Concorde to come home to the United States, and that’s where he came up with the name. From a marketing point of view, Jackson was concerned about the general look of the guitar and how the company’s name should be presented.
“Charvel, at the time, was producing bolt-on, Fender-style guitars. Well, here’s this crazy batwing thing, and I was afraid that might dampen the sales of the Charvels,” Jackson reveals, “so I asked Randy if he would mind if we put a different name on this instrument, because we were going to create this new thing that was not like the other stuff. So it was also out of fear that I didn’t want to piss on what we already had going on.”
The final detail to be sketched out was the headstock shape. In time, that shape would become the company’s trademark.
“Randy had that body shape drawing and it needed something that sort of matched it in radical-ness,” Jackson explains. “So I came up with the head. I had been a vintage guitar guy and was always a Gibson Explorer fan. I wondered what I could do to an Explorer head to make it more modern and aggressive looking. Randy and I sketched around that idea and came up with the head, which later became a trademark.” Charvel began making the guitar a few days after Christmas and Randy went back to England after the holidays.
The line drawings turned into reality when Jackson transferred them to a piece of Baltic birch.
“We bandsawed it to shape and then sanded it as best we could to use that as a template on a pin router to cut out the body,” recalls Jackson. “It was real Cro-Magnon stuff.” That template went through quite a few edits so they’d only have to cut the body once. Jackson remembers the sculpting of the guitar as being prehistoric in technique when compared to today’s production standards: “The body was screwed to the template and then run around the pin router. This was pre-vacuum fixtures and pre-toggle clamps. And then it was sanded and sent to the paint shop.”
Jackson says he added the beveled edges while carving the body: “I was making some BC Rich Bich’s right about that time for my friend Bernie Rico. Those had beveled edges and I added the beveled edges to the Rhoads body. I ripped off my buddy! I’m being honest, okay?”
Jackson continued work on this guitar with Charvel’s woodshop foreman, Tim Wilson, who did all the woodworking at the factory. As Wilson remembers, this was going to be a big guitar.