My budget Ramone Mosrite

From (cheap) ugly duckling to a white (punk) swan… gabba gabba hey!

I’ve been a bit of a fan of the Ramones since I started playing guitar at 16. I mean, I wasn’t a rabid fan… more that I could play their songs easily enough when I was figuring out barre chords. Over the years I’ve listened to them more and more, and actually really appreciate the art of their music now I understand the mechanics behind it all. 50’s pop music with buzz saw guitars… genius.

Also, I’ve always been a fan of players that had their own signature guitar that they loyally stuck to through their career. Johnny Ramone’s modified Mark II Mosrite just looked the bomb.

One day I was hunting through my local pawn broker with some German buddies who were staying at my place when I saw a sorry looking Onyx guitar hidden in the corner. Onyx was a budget guitar brand in Australia in the 80’s that imported various cheap P.O.S. guitars from Korea and China and put their name on them. This particular Onyx model happened to be their version of a Mosrite that thought is was an Ibanez RG550.

The bridge was an abysmal Floyd Rose tremolo knock off, but it was non locking! No locking nut, no locking saddles… just some crappy micro tuners and half a ton of cast alloy. It also had 2 micro switches which were the pickup selectors for the 2 very 80’s humbuckers. So instead of using the simple 3 way Gibson switch that had been around since the late 40’s, Onyx decided to use the most convoluted pickup switching system ever devised. Then there was the colour. It was like a muddy metallic charcoal. Finally, the neck had more in common with a table leg than a guitar neck. But under all that hair metal was vaguely Mosrite-ish guitar and at $130 I could see some potential.

I took it home and discussed my plans with Simon, one of my German house guests. Simon is a genius with tools… he can build anything. Him and his mates back at home spend their time fixing and painting Vespa’s in their club house. Simon said he’d love to fix up the Onyx as a thank you for letting him and his girlfriend stay at my house.

First thing I did was design the scratchplate. I bought some black scratchplate material from Tym’s and based the design on the Mosrite Mark II. I had to modify it slightly so it covered the routing of the Onyx. I decided I wanted it to be a one pickup guitar (more punk!) and as the Onyx humbuckers didn’t sound too bad and I wanted to spend NO money on this axe… it stayed. I made a template out of cardboard and handed it to Simon. 2 hours later, I had my scratchplate. I found some knobs in my guitar parts bin (everyone has one of those, don’t they?) and for added Johnny Ramone-ness, picked a mismatched pair.

The body was going to be a lot more work. First thing Simon did was sand the body down to wood. When I say wood, I mean pure Onyx plywood. Simon then found a piece of pine I had lying around and cut out a perfect plug for the Strat type tremolo routing on the back. I was fine just leaving the hole there, but he said it’d sound better as a proper solid body. He did a great job!

Over the next few days, he sprayed about 5 coats of white paint onto the prepped body. For a home painted job, it’s fantastic. For the neck, I sanded off the Onyx paint and cut out a truss rod cover from the left over scratchplate material. I wanted it to have a brand or something on there as it was looking pretty plain, and found a ‘punk’ pin in my bedroom that I’d found somewhere.

I thought the badge looked pretty funny on there. This was a punk guitar… look.. it say’s so right THERE!

I found some machine heads in my parts bin that while cheap, were a definite improvement on the Onyx originals (cheap bastards) and brought all the parts to Tym’s for final assembly. Tim added the stop tailpiece, wired up the pickups and bolted it all together. I was pretty happy with the result.

After playing it for a while, I couldn’t handle the tree trunk neck. So I brought it back to Tym’s and he shaved it down to a Mosrite profile. It still needs more tweaking, but it’s a massive improvement on how I got it. For $200 all up, I had a budget Ramone-ish Mosrite.

I’ve still got a few plans for this thing. I’d like to put a better humbucker in there one day and get the action properly sorted. Massive thanks to Simon for his help, and to Tim from Tym Guitars.