Home Page                               150109                              Contact


Body Style
Body Wood
Neck Wood
Fbd. Wood
Wiring Neck Joint


Santos Mahogany???


*Dual Size

Compound Radius


A5 15.6K

C 17.5K

3-way Selector
Coil Switch

9.7 lb


Another negative story full of anger and rage.      The motivation behind this guitar, the new Zachary R480.

It was 1981 and I had a shiny nickel plated trumpet, which I received as a present just a few months before. I was not using the trumpet any more for school band. I was never good at the trumpet. It didn't come naturally to me. I thought it was goofy for anyone to play the trumpet. I wanted to ROCK! All the testosterone driven heavy metal of the 80s was just starting. I began playing the trumpet and the guitar at around the same time but unlike the trumpet the guitar just felt totally natural from day one, while the trumpet was kind of gross to me. Spitting inside of a brass tube was not my idea of making music. I was too much centered around working with my hands and my touch. The piano also involves touch, so I could always relate to that as well. Anything to do with hands was right for me.

Regardless, I should have kept that trumpet, it was a brand new Olds Special, one of the last trumpets made by that American company before it went out of business in the late 70s. Also that trumpet was a present to me from my grandmother. Mistakes are always made.

As you may have noticed years ago every city had at least one music store owned by some cheesy guy. You know the type, with a tacky suit and the phony smile to go with it, with unnaturally white teeth and the gold fillings? Perfectly combed hair all greased up. The guy looked like he would have been perfect selling you a casket at a funeral parlor, insisting that you try it on for size and pressuring you to buy it now to get his special discount or lose the opportunity for ever. These characters just give me the creeps.

Somehow you felt like a victim in such a music store, the experience nothing short of being molested. You left the store feeling you did something dirty, like walking into some extreme hard-core sex shop or similar moral shortcoming. Somehow you regretted, almost in shame, even walking into such a place and promise yourself you will never go back there again, all the while hoping that nobody discovers you were ever there. A sense of shame comes over you after the experience. However, just as with the sex shop, you ended up back there again for no explainable reason, other than human weakness. The store owner was always smiling, but his salesmen were slick, street-smart, young thugs who would watch their boss for every sign, surreptitiously working together in supported of the "hunt", taking their cues and carrying out the dirty work in closing the sale. While the owner was smiling and padding you on the back, these bully sales guys gave you the chills with their threatening looks, with the implication of what would happen had you decided to leave the store without making a purchase. As a kid you feel 2 inches tall in such a situation. Every city had one or more of these music stores. Some more traumatic than others. My city actually had two of these cheesy music stores, with a very similar vibe. Both were scary places for a kid, not unlike dungeons of cheese and horror. There was no such thing as chain stores back then. No big corporate, sterile Guitar Center. ... Come to think of it, I will take those cheesy dungeons instead.

So, I had a trumpet but had no electric guitar. I needed and wanted an electric to compliment my cheap acoustic. I walked into this cheesy music store and among all the generic boring late 70s "crappier than crap" (pre CNC) Fender guitars hanging up, I spotted something different. I liked it instantly because it was different from anything I was tired of seeing in every music store. What was it? I knew what it was. Being technically gifted from birth, I knew all my guitar brands and models. It was a Rickenbacker bass... but wait a minute... with a guitar neck on it. How cool was that? It was brand new but sitting in this cheesy store for years I bet, because nobody wanted it. It was "new old stock" even then, made sometime in the late 70s and the cheesy guy could not sell it to anyone. You can understand his smile when he noticed my interest. I guess others did not see the cool factor I did. Without any further consideration I knew I wanted it and determined to get it. A Rickenbacker guitar with a bass body. I thought it was a great concept actually. Very novel.

I always loved that body shape on the Rick bass. With the matching headstock, the perfect curves of the body and head, I thought it was nothing short of beautiful art. I will give credit where its due and whoever drew the shape of this guitar was artistically endowed. Being young and stupid and knowing a bit less about guitars than I do now, I never considered anything other than its looks. I did not even consider that it mattered how it felt, played and sounded. I figured that if a guitar looked good to me, it was sure to also feel, play and sound great automatically. Looks determines how good a guitar is, right? ... LOL.
I just described a modern day PRS owner. I was very much like a PRS shopper back then. In fact, had PRS been around at that time, I would have surely bought one, without even thinking what matters about a guitar. That is how stupid I was as a kid. The sad part is, many get old never advancing from that high level of ignorance.

The cheesy music store owner gave me a $300 trade value for my trumpet, which was worth $500 and then I paid the difference of $500 for the Rickenbacker 480. It was a lot of money back then for a kid. It was a done deal and he had a huge smile on his face, his white teeth blinded me and I could not take my eyes of his gold fillings. He padded me on the back and shook my hand. What had I done? I somehow knew I would never be the same again. Somehow I felt I just took part in some immoral act.

I learned quickly from my mistake. Even with my limited guitar knowledge at the time, I soon realized after making the purchase that this guitar was the worse piece of shit in the history of the guitar. I still liked the look of it though, which made the whole experience with the guitar even more bitter. The artistic shape of the thin body and matching headstock, with all the chrome and the fancy cast metal tailpiece with the "R" logo - it was about as practical, high performance and as usable as a 50s car with those large fins, thin whitewall tires and the huge chrome bumpers. What I found out is that this thing was virtually unplayable. The neck was so narrow I could not fit my fingers on the strings, they were so cramped. A Fender would be considered "wide" compared to this thing. It must have been made specifically for toddlers or maybe Tom Petty. Despite having a Rosewood fretboard, it was still covered over with thick gloss paint. I don't even think the finish was traditional lacquer. It felt all plastic to me. The combination of thick paint on a very narrow fingerboard with super tiny frets, does not exactly inspire great playing for anyone. Nothing but a struggle and frustration. It also had binding on the neck, which made the effective use of the narrow fingerboard even more narrow. The headstock did not have enough of a break angle for proper string vibration. The neck moved sideways in the neck pocket, no matter how hard I tightened the neck screws. The pickups were nonadjustable for height and were terribly weak and wimpy. The sound of the guitar was totally lame, with no sustain, it sounded like a tin can. That bridge was hideous, sitting on 4 screws and I believe it was even mounted in the wrong position, making it impossible to get proper intonation from it. To top it all off, this thing would just not stay in tune no matter what I did. It was obviously not made to be played but to look like a guitar wall ornament. What company would do this, I wondered? Already my anger was brewing and I was heading to do what I was borne to do.

I tried everything. After paying to have it professionally set up a few times, I realized it was pointless and no improvement resulted. I even got so desperate as to glue the neck in myself, even though it was a bolt-on neck. I made this thing into both a bolt-on and a set neck, all at the same time. I just wanted it to stop moving in the neck cavity. Each time the neck moved the Rickenbacker lost its tuning completely. I then took it to the best repair tech in town and had him replace the bridge pickup with a super powerful Schaller pickup and he also added a mini-switch as a coil selector. All this housed in a brand new black pickguard. He did a nice job I remember. If I remembered his name, I would credit him here.

Well, I still did not like it. It now had this powerful pickup but the guitar itself was not functional. It was not producing a healthy sound to begin with, so the pickup was just picking up a junky tone. Now the junky tone was just a lot louder. By this time I was so frustrated and had wasted so much money on it, that I just wanted to get rid of it. I did not want to ever see it again. It was making me hate playing the guitar. I then went around to every music store seeing what I could trade it in for. Do all you eBay rats even remember a day before eBay? Probably not. I was ready to take anything for it before I threw it in the garbage somewhere. Had there been eBay at that time, idiots around the world would have gladly paid a lot of money for it. Idiots tend to do that.

The first thing which was available for a trade was a really low end Ibanez, with very poor balance, totally neck heavy. However, at least the neck of the Ibanez was playable and it stayed in tune much better, so I basically grabbed it and straight-traded the music store sales guy for it. I was desperate to get rid of that Rickenbacker any way I could before throwing it into the river in anger. The Ibanez was only worth $300, so the sales guy thought he really ripped me off but I knew who really got ripped off in the end... whoever ended up with that Rickenbacker.

Ever since this experience I found out the hard way how crappy and what an embarrassment Rickenbacker is. What a total disgrace for anyone to make this level of guitar atrocity and in the USA for that matter. I met the owner of Rickenbacker at a NAMM show and he came across to me like he should be doing something else, not involving anything to do with guitars. Here is a good example of someone being in the guitar business when they shouldn't be. In my experience when someone inherits a company, it really shows. They concentrate on fancy finishes, while the guitars cannot even function as guitars. Usually these people are not players so they cannot really relate to it. I suppose this is what their customers want. Any improvement would mean the end of the company. Its a sad scenario for sure. If there was any improvement to the old crap they had made for decades, the typical Rickenbacker customer would not want it. I couldn't live in that world. The next question is, what kind of an idiot would buy or play this crap? It makes me angry just thinking about it. Its disrespectful on every level to create such crap, even if you can sell it. Its just ethically wrong. I am convinced that had John Lennon been given a real guitar, he would have become a world class shredder instead of "Love, Love me Do" and the rest of that liberal crap.

This experience has left a profound influence on me, negative as it was. The whole bad taste in my mouth just lingered on ever since; the memory of the strange music store where I bought it from and the embarrassing excuse of a Rickenbacker guitar. My goal was to make this situation right! To correct my bad experience. I still had the desire however to own a Rickenbacker 480 because I still loved the shape. It was so unfortunate because this guitar had so much potential if done by the right builder. Rickenbacker should not be building this guitar. It should be made by someone who actually knows and cares about guitars. Years later, after God spoke to me, asked that I climb to the top of the mountain and made me into a guitar builder, it gave me the chance to finally correct my whole disgusting Rickenbacker experience and make it right once and for all. Also to make the Rickenbacker 480 right. The guitar deserved it. I had to save it. Make it into an actual and real guitar for the first time, not just a wall ornament.

It was always in the back of my mind to do this project. So here it is! The shape of a Rickenbacker 480 but that is where the Rick stops. Its of course a Zachary all the way. Those who own a Zachary, can easily imagine what this guitar is like, what it feels and sounds like. Those who have never played a Zachary can just pick up any Rickenbacker and they will know what a Zachary is NOT.

Since the body is so thin, I can get away with using heavier wood, however the wood I chose is exceptionally heavy and very hard, almost like Ebony. This wood was actually used as a stair step in its previous life. In fact, one side of this board was rounded off when I got it, so I am sure it was a stair step. I don't know what type of wood it is but its the same wood which is used for fancy hardwood floors as well. The body wood was the stair step and the hardwood floor boards were what I used for the neck of this guitar: 061008 Its the same type of wood, whatever it is. Even with the thin body of the R480, the guitar still weighs in at 9.7 lbs (Les Paul territory) due to this very heavy wood. The result is tremendous sustain and the whole guitar responds like a harp. Its like the body is made of concrete. The pickups I chose are very powerful and add to the huge sound. The scale is a long 26", adding even more to the huge sound, (the original Rickenbacker 480 is only a 24.75" scale). With 10s on, it sounded like a harp, so I changed to ZOG 9s to tame it a bit and make it sound more like a guitar. I would hate to think what it would be like with ZOG 11s. With its low action, I can see this being perfect as a Stanley Jordan tapping guitar.

Do something Green today ... don't buy anything made in China.
YES WE CAN!     Shame on you America.

Players Wanted !


1981 - with my infamous Rickenbacker 480 guitar

Hi Zach (is this your name?), I stumbled into the expression of your world on the web by way of reminiscing about my old 480 Rickenbacker. My experience with the 480 is very near yours—.
I bought it second hand in 1980 (from a friend, but boy can I relate to your description of how ”slimy” guitar stores make me feel) I was 15 years old, it was way cooler looking than it actually played and sounded—impossible to keep in tune—that crappy neck! And yet, in my middle age, I now understand the kind of nostalgia for “stuff I used to have” of preceding generations. So, this morning I was feeling nostalgic about that guitar (sold it in 1985) and surfing around the net looking at pics and reading descriptions. I got a kick out of your spot-on description of the beast that I’m now remembering with bittersweet clarity. Hats off to you for devotion to quality craftsmanship which appears to be your stock in trade. I have not seen one of your instruments in the flesh, but I’m definitely very interested after a bit of browsing your website. Best, Steve (NC)

Alex, hello! long time... still playing Mimi daily, and loving every minute.
The newest guitar - the Ric thing - is ludicrously awesome. There's nothing not awesome about that guitar. anyway, keep up the fight,   Chris

Hi Alex, This one was unexpected, but I should be used to that by now. Looks amazing. I never owned or even played a Ric. the neck joint always looked flimsy to me. On the other hand, I did have an Olds trumpet and I still have it, though its not nickel. My Z2 is still playing great and we're starting to line up more gigs. Everyone always asks what kind of guitar it is.
The piece that I have is called Santos Mahogany, and it may be the same as this guitar. The grain is less pronounced on the board I have but the color is right and its definetly very heavy and very hard. One website says Santos Mahogany is 175% harder than red oak.    Congrats on another incredible guitar.   Bruce

Very cool guitar and a great story. Interesting to see that shape without all of the usual adornment.  Frank

Rickenbacker 480 – I remember when you were talking about this project with the group. You must have found an old Rick to make a tracing from. As usual, it's an awesome guitar. Not only looks good but it's a Z, so it's totally functional and playable. Another crap guitar design resurrected. Eagle

Alex, Great guitar! Glad you were able to reconcile your past with this one. I always hated RICs. Since I was a wee lad of 13yrs and really started looking for something better than what I had...and yes, I remember the old Italian ass hole...his name was Dick...quite appropriate. They called him "Tricky-Dicky" and had the infamous reputation of a guy throwing him through his front store window, through the glass, and onto the hard concrete sidewalk. Nobody liked that guy...but where else were you going to buy a guitar??? Anyway. I recall seeing pictures of the Beatles with these big bulky things and just thought they were ugly as hell. I picked one up at Tricky Dick's tiny guitar store and, even with my limited knowledge, decided it was just not of high quality. Glad I went with the mid-grade midnight purple Ibanez.
The body looks so SMOOOOOOOTH! I bet it balances similar to the Z2. The heavier wood must sustain like crazy. Nice improvement on the lame neck joint.
My friend Nate, the bass player, really loves your strings and appreciates the way you do business. Thanks for all you do! -Zach

That has all the looks of a tone monster....performance all the way. As you may remember I have never played a Rick....and from what I hear I am missing nothing....however THIS Z-Rick is a whole other story. I have no doubt that 9s on a 26" with your current set up is a scary situation.....terrifying performance. With the long scale and hard tail you might even be able to pull off some alternate tunings if you kept a light touch...even with 9s.

You are right that this is a tapping guitar for sure. I hope whoever gets it takes advantage of that. I have this one song in the set where I get to tap on Plink (010703) and I am working on that skill. I also have experienced the type of resonance you get from hard heavy woods with high output pups....this is what I get from Shadow (150304).....MASSIVE tone. It resonates in a way that is different from the lighter wood guitars.

As I am sure you realize there is something that happens when you translate these body shapes from their previous incarnations....it is very strange. All the plastic and extra junk is removed and you are left with these pure contours and expanses of natural wood. It is a very purifying thing. This is yet ANOTHER Z I would love to get a play on. You should fire up the Hussy amp and plug this beast into it. Eli

Hey you did the Rick! What a great story Alex. Great picture too (of the young rocker dude). I can only be thankful that so many bad guitar experiences lead you to become a builder. That guitar is a serious piece of work. I love the reddish orange body wood. The grain reminds me of cheap hotel furniture or my bargain basement office desk. Very cool. I can't (still) say I love the shape...but that's Ricks, eh? They are kind of clunky. The whole thing is a great thin slice of Americana and a lesson that unfortunatly will be lost on Rickenbacker. Maybe they'll issue a public apology ...HA!
I love the perfect quarter sawn maple neck. You passion for necks really shows up here. And that has to be the most ramrod tight neck joint in history. It really is like the neck is growing out of the body, the two look like they are one.You aced that neck joint!! Upper fret access is superb and lots of neck / body contact. This picture (above) dropped my jaw. Everything is so perfect. Gonna (should) be "NFS" eh? Rock machine!! Rock on!!... and congrats, another one out of your system. Tony

Home Page                                                                    Contact











Rickenbacker 480