1985 Kramer Focus 3000
The Long and Insane History of my First Electric Guitar
look, I had to download a pic, I don't have any of the Kramer as it originally existed So the picture to the left is not the actual guitar, but it's very close. See, Kramer, in the 1980's, was THE Guitar to have, and in 1983, they released a line called the "Focus by Kramer" series, which were built for Kramer by ESP in Japan. The Focus 1000 was based on the Eddie Van-Halen 5150 inspired "Baretta" guitar, the Focus 2000 was based on the Pacer HH guitar, and the Focus 3000 was based on the "Fat Strat" style "Pacer Deluxe". Some early examples were made by Matsamoku before ESP took over. These early ones had the output jack on the pickguard and a beak headstock. Later ESP made them with the beak neck and the traditional strat oputput jack. Then came the "fat banana" variant with the GIbson Explorer style "Banana Headstock" (1984-1985), and then came this (1985-1986) - the "Thin banana" headstock, cut down and a little more pointy. Then after that came the "pointy" banana, then the tilt-headstocks painted black with block or pyramid logos.

The standard Focus 3000 pedigree is a polar or alder body, canadian maple neck, rosewood fretboard, flat 10" radius, 22 medium tall frets, pearl dot inlays, flat "D" back shape, non-tilt headstock, Schaller sealed gear machine heads, ORiginal German Floyd Rose through-neck mount Locking Nut, original German Floyd Rose locking tremelo with screw in bar, wood-screen type pivot posts. THe pickguard was a lighter haircell texture material, with 3 Schaller pickups - 2 6.4K Ohm Alnico pickups in the neck and middle positions, and a 12.5K Ceramic Van-Halen-esque Humbucker in the bridge with a coil split. The wiring was traditional strat style, and the most common finishes are Black, Metallic Blue, Metallic Teal, CAndy Apple Red, Vintage White, Sonic Blue (yep, like my Jag-Stang), and there's also a Focus 3000D and Focus 3000 that came with 3 single coils and a strat trem apparently marketed as the "Focus Classic". The earliest guitars say "Focus 3000 by Kramer" while the later ones say "KRAMER focus 3000" on the headstock.

The Kramer Focus series was said to be made between 1983 and 1989, giving way to Kramer's last ditch efforts before closing their doors sometime in the early 1990's. Crazy enough, Kramer stopped making their own guitars in Neptune New Jersey by the mid 1980's, and ESP was the company that won out over Canadian luthier company Larrivee (who got THEIR tie to Kramer I surmise because of their production of the early Paul Dean models).
My Guitar's History & Heavy Metal guitars in the 1990's
I surmise my Kramer Focus 3000 appeared at the Auburn Guitar Shoppe in late 1994. I remember seeing it there the first time I went in the store and was trying not to drool over a 1994 Fender STratocaster Standard, and I thought it looked cool.

See, in the 1990's, the quintessential "Hair Metal" guitar was DEAD! Nobody wanted a "superstrat" anymore. Sure, guitar companies sold Floyded out Superstrats, but they were disguised under vintage colors (usually sunburst, black, red, and white), with more traditional looking headstocks, and often, less wiring options, and more pickups.

This relegated hundreds of thousands of pointy, wild colored, high output, locking-tremolo equipped shred machines to the "bargain racks" - just like the surf and classic rock also-rans like the Mosrite, Jaguar, Jazzmaster, Mustang, and so on were in the eighties - while those guitars, shot up in price overnight because Grunge guitarists were using them. Suddenly the same racks filled with bursty and pastel guitars of the 60's, now were filled with wild colored, graphical paintjobbed, pointy shred machines. Ranging all the way from a mere $50 for a plywood plank with a single humbucker and a strat trem, all the way to a full blown USA Kramer for low blowout prices like $550-640, prices just barely edging into the "mid priced Japanese Fender" territory dominated by Cobain-style axes.

So what was hilarious to me as I got more astute to guitar technology and trends, is how these Shred Machines did not fall THAT far from the guitars the 90's guys were using. A guitar like this Kramer Focus 3000, was just a blocked-Floyd-Rose away from being a literal Kurt Cobain style Strat to saw away on, but with the output of his Jaguar with a 12K monster humbucker in the bridge. Heck, even Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains was using a G&L Commanche - a Kahlered single humbucker superstrat - but nobody batted an eye because it did not have a pointy headstock and a rounded body!

The Kramer lived at the Auburn Guitar Shoppe for at least a year before I got it for Christmas of 1995 - just as I was leaving guitar lessons. AS I got it, it was stock, with a Kramer branded vinyl faux-leather gig bag - which I wore out in high school. DUring that time, I Should have known the red flags because the guitar had 2 broken High E Strings in it's time at the "Shoppe". But nobody was buying it. I liked it, it was a Strat, it had a humbucker and a coil split, and that Floyd Rose thing was kinda' interesting to play with.

So that was my first "rig" - this Kramer, and a brand new Peavey Transtube Rage 158 amplifier (which I ran into the ground in the first few years - seriously, I put more miles on that thing in 3 years than some touring musicians do their amps in 10).
How I got into Modding - 1997-1999
I got into modding my own guitars through Curtis, the guitar shoppe technician, who had been getting a lot of work from my Kramer. This thing was breaking strings all the time and I started breaking parts on it as well - probably just because I was playing it a lot, practicing for 6+ hours every day on it. So one day I needed a new locking nut and he just handed me this catalog for Stewart MacDonald Guitar Shop Supply - aka. "Stew Mac" as most people know of them as today. Pair with it that I was getting into Loverboy, and finding out Paul Dean built his own guitars as well, and getting into Van-Halen as well and reading up on Eddie's DIY as well...and as I was getting back into the 80's anyway...what was stopping me. Shortly later, I found out COBAIN was building his own guitars too (Olympia workshop with him and Krist churning out pickguard-less Mustangs).

So my first mods to the Kramer were a new R2 Locking nut, a humbucker pickup ring, and a incorrectly spaced pickup cover that broke one of the coils. This resulted in me getting a Floyd Rose Sustainer humbucker put in the bridge, which I used for the rest of high school.

I tried to rebuild the original Schaller Humbucker on my own, using some test-tube jars from my mom's work to store it in. I never got it working as I had not learned how pickups work yet - at least not properly.

Because of all the string breakage, inspired by Kurt Cobain's claimed use of "piano wire" (and having a piano that I was fixing up that we bought for $80 at a pawn shop), Paul Dean's usage of .013, .013, .016, .022, .034, and .046 gauge strings on his "Dean MAchines" IIRC, and Stevie Ray Vaughn being said to use .013s, I bought into the hype that "Bigger strings mean better tone". So I made my own .014 gauge sets of .014, .016, .024w, .034, .044, and .056/.060. Back then you could buy single strings at a guitar store in envelopes in a little wooden box hidden behind the counter. That's how I made my own sets. By now, since I was into Loverboy, Journey, and Night Ranger, I was playing high speed hard rock from the 80's, on a friggin guitar strung up like a modern Metal guitar tuned down 3 whole steps - except one thing, I was in A440 standard tuning (EADGBE), escept Drop D sometimes.

This put a lot of stress on the Floyd Rose locking tremolo and caused it to cave into the bridge pickup cavity by the time I was taking Robert Orr's guitar class at OHS in high school. So I would get up sometimes at 2 in the morning to check my glue job from 2 in the afternoon, and then bring the guitar in to school and it would go for shit again. So later it went through some more changes, getting a Gibson branded Kahler installed in place, with 2 Briggs & STratton lawn mower engine cylinder head bolts holding it in. The Kahler had a vintage strat bar installed in it. AT the same time, EMG Select pickups were put in - an SES in the middle (later neck when I replaced my home-wound 1.5K single coil that sounded like shit with a Harmony H804 pickup - ie Samick X13), and a EMG Select SEHG Bridge humbucker pickup installed in the bridge. This all kind-of coincided with a massive rebuild that resulted in a new wiring job that had a kill switch (long before everybody knoew about those), 1 volume, 1 tone, individual toggles for all three pickups (with coil split for the bridge) copied off of Paul Dean's KRamer model, a strangle switch like a Fender Jaguar (a bit overdone though), and a switch with a capacitor to simulate a Rhythm circuit from a Jaguar/Jazzmaster as well. All in all, it was a very unique wiring. However, when I got in Mr. Orr's class, his first thing when seeing the guitar was "Do you have a pilot's license to operate that thing?". AS a result, the guitar's first nickname was "The Airplane" from a classmate named Jeff - whose Peavey Telecaster I used to borrow on occasion (yeah, I've always liked Teles).

OHS Guitar Concert 1999 - Running with a Kahler, EMG Select SEHG, SES, and H804 pickups, and my own custom wiring - have a malfunction in part of the video making it sound like a 60's guitar for some reason.

During that time, the guitar endured long walks home, initially because I had detention and no ride home, later just because I preferred walking home - in the original Kramer GIg Bag. The strap button wore a hole through the bottom of the gig bag and it started to unravel from there. So in the spring of 1999, an Alverez Hardshell case became the Kramer's forever travel vessel from that point forward. With it's first gig being the OHS Guitar Concert in 1999.

The guitar remained my MAIN guitar until 2000 when I bought Nikki. on Layaway. At that point, it became my backup.

The guitar roughly remained the same though in Lithium we had this weird thing going on with our guitars where we were going to CiCi's Pizza for lunch and buying these Dykom stickers form the vending machine - Hawk called them "Slut Fairy" stickers - I don't like that much, Butterfly Gals is a bit nicer name. So Nikki and the Kramer had one, to tell which were the mains in my collection, though I was building and buying so many guitars at this time, I was often seen with something different. The Kramers was a blue haired anime chick with a bob. At the handful of gigs Lithium did, the Kramer was usually in back waiting for "Empyre" or "Freezing" - or just as a backup for Nikki (which I never needed TBH). By then I'd dropped back to using .009 gauge strings and got the Kahler worked out to stay in tune and sustain reliably.

The Kramer's last performance at OHS was on May 8th 2000 playing "Sad But True" which kinda' set it up as the Drop-D guitar most of the time. That was a scandalous show to say the least. By the time Lithium was over, I had other Strats so I was not playing hte Kramer so much anymore. Having a second, stock, white one (that I bought with OHSC for $150 at a pawn shop - a total STEAL!) also did not help that much either.
Post Lithium and Retirement
The last mod to the Kramer for a very long time, was in 2005 right before moving to Seattle. I had a leftover EMG Select from another project, and the bridge pickup in the Kramer had broken the tabs off. So that was put in the neck quasi P-90 style using the neck humbucker trim ring - now chrome - to hold it in via friction, while the bridge, now also with a chrome ring, was screwed in like normal. At this point, I'd done so much modification to the Kramer with the wood being cut out, I decided it did not hurt to take a router to the neck position (a change that in the future would turn out to be of great benefit). I started my YouTube Channel in 2006, and between 2006-2010, it'd turn up once in awhile, but it was largely considered semi-retired at this point.

So from this point forward, the Kramer was semi-retired. I changed knobs on occasion, but that's about it. It showed up a little bit on YouTube, but I was using other guitars a lot more often at this point, usually my Jag-Stang, Jaguar, and other offsets.

By about 2010, the Kramer had been returned to a Floyd Rose - kind of like how Bigfoot #1 returned to a smaller engine, because I did not need it to be functional, it's keeping was more of a sentimental thing at that point. IT lived on a wall in my "Man Cave" during that time period next to a poster of The Cars. The Floyd was a Floyd Rose II from another guitar.
The D-Tuna (2014-2015ish)
I bought a D-Tuna from J.R. while in Zombie Jihad and installed that on the KRamer with intents to use it live, and experiment with a Floyd "floating" with the D-Tuna...I think I' kinda' got it down too, I just need to explore the science behind how I got that to work. The picture is from after straightening the bridge out in the next section.

The problem was, it was missing the spring, and later, the adjustment screw fell out - so I modified the D-Tuna a little bit. The spring came from a computer floppy drive (fitting given the Kramer has used Tandy parts in the past, lol), and a regular screw installed for fine tuning the D-Tuna - which lead to it having a "trigger-action" sort of thing I really like. So yeah, it's the "Creeping Net Signature D-Tuna with Trigger-Action" - it made it EASIER to change tunings on the fly.

Floyd Rose Straightening (2015-2017)
In 2015, we took a trip to Reno NV, where Murderock's singer, Freddie Ferox, gave me his busted 1993 Washburn MG-45 to fix up. While repairing the Washburn over the course of the next few years, I replaced the bridge pickup with a humbucker, and did a reinforcement trick to the Floyd Rose using a piece of "L" Shaped Aluminum. Freddie's guitrar was easier to fix, mine was the prototype though, and the job on the KRamer was a LOT harder.

The Kramer had to have the L-shaped reinforcement bracket recessed UNDER 1/8" of the guitar's wood on top, so I used a Dremel and a cut-off bit to cut the slot to size, then ground down the bracket to fit the rounded recess I'd built. The pivot post holes were drilled/ground in FORCE the posts back into factory position. 2 Screws hold it in the middle. This aluminum bar had some real tonal benefits as well, including better coupling of the guitar's trem to it's body, and straightening the bridge out so that it intonated properly, and no longer broke any strings, even if I was whammying on it hardcore! So the same was applied to Freddie's guitar, which I used with the band early on.

The Kramer was still semi-retired, with me using it a bit more, but still mostly using my Memphis 302HB strat for most "Stratty" things by this point.
2021 Kill Switch Upgrade
In 2021, the original Kill Switch was put back in, however, this being a dirt cheap momentary off push button of such dbious quality as the originals I could buy 4 per pack in the late 90's meant it was just as shitty, and made the guitar intermittant and unreliable.

2022 Humbucker Upgrade
For a awhile I'd had a Seymour Duncan Performer Detonator humbucker (basically, the budget version of a SH8 Invader) kicking around and living in various guitars. In 2022, I decided it'd be a great idea to install this in the Kramer and make it more useful again. Included in this upgrade was a Treble Bypass cap for the master volume, 2 new 500K Audio pots (instead of 250Ks), and the adjustable EMG Select would be moved to the neck position for awhile. THis humbucker - model HB108B - comes in at a whooping 17.5K - hotter than even Nikki's EMG 81 (14.5K), or even the 16K Floyd Sustainer monster that I had in high school (around 16K).

2023 Sustainer Installation
In late 2023, I ordered a "iSUSTAINER TB-60" from some company in Indonesia for $79.99, to try out having a sustainer system in one of my guitars. This was probably the biggest limit-push to the Kramer since the original wiring revisions in 1998! Somehow I managed to jam a circuit board, and 2 more switches ON circuit boards, into the KRamer, removing the kill button, and drilling a new hole near the strangle switch for the phase switch that changes between fundimental and harmonic mode - not to mention the 9 volt battery to drive it all. Since I got it, the Kramer has gotten BACK into frequent use again, because now it has a specialized use to go with the new killer humbucker. I did a whole video of the process below -

Plus I took some photos of the TB60 while being installed in the Kramer, including some closeups of the board. I just cranked the Gain Pot all the way up, it does what I want it to do that way and sounds awesome. The toggle by the slide switch is for the mode (Fundimental is back, Harmonic is toward the neck), and the toggle right where the kill button was, is the on/off for the sustainer. Unlike my Vester rebuild, this one does not have any built-in protections, as this guitar is mine, and not going to someone who might not be familiar with this technology and it's limitation/issues with neck/middle pickups.

The other modifications was putting the pickups from a Harmony 2813 and a Harmony H804 in there again. The neck is the H804 (6.4K), the 2813 (8.4K) is in the middle - to balance out to the monster humbucker in the back. The sustainer mounts to two plastic tabs with wood screws and then two wood screws lift the sustainer up with the pickup to adjust the height.