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May 2014
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5 Hot Rodders You Should Meet

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5 Hot Rodders You Should Meet

Ken Warmoth
Warmoth Guitar Products

Warmoth Guitar Products
Puyallup, Washington
Years hot-rodding: 30
Starting at: $160
Typical wait time: 3–4 weeks
Contact:
warmoth.com
253-845-0403
Where did Warmoth get its start?

What did you want to provide to people? I began working with my dad at Boogie Bodies way back in 1978, and ended up running this enterprise up until early in 1980, when we dissolved that partnership and started up Warmoth. Dad was the machinery guy, he built the cool tools used to make necks; his partner was the guitar junkie/salesman. We supplied many parts to Charvel in their early years, but for the most part, we simply sold wholesale to guitar techs around the country. Warmoth supplied many of the early boutique builders, the biggest of which was probably Valley Arts, while they were still a California company.

We began making necks because nobody else was doing it, and there were a lot of Fender guitars with trashed necks. This was in the years prior to the “vintage” market and, hence, putting a new neck on your ‘66 Strat was no big deal—it was even less of a deal on your CBS-era guitar that could well have come from the factory with a crappy neck. Most Fenders of the era had 1-5/8” wide necks with 7.25” radius fingerboards, and there was a buzz for wider necks and flatter fingerboards with Gibson frets; this is the bandwagon we jumped on.

The old Charvel guitars used by Van Halen had necks that we built on them—I know there has been a lot of fame-claiming on this one, but the fact remains that Warmoth built all the necks at Boogie Bodies with 1-3/4” wide nuts and a 10” fingerboard radius!

What should guitar players ask themselves before purchasing a replacement neck?

Guitar players don’t really analyze what it is about the mechanics of a neck that they like or hate. They do with pickups and bridges, but not so much with necks. If they’d simply get out of the idea that one size fits all, they could look at the size of their hand, the diameter of their fingers and ask themselves if a wider or narrower neck might be more accommodating, or if a different neck profile might make their fretting hand more comfortable. There has been more recognition of this in the past decade, however it still gets little coverage in the magazines. I would pose a few questions that might have great interest to your readership:

How does fingerboard radius effect neck playability?
What is the compound radius?
How does neck thickness affect tone and or sustain?
How does nut width effect neck playability?
What are the advantages and disadvantages to the new stainless steel frets? Do they affect tone?
What are the advantages and disadvantages to the different nut materials available?
Locking tuners versus non-locking tuners: how do Sperzels compare to Gotohs or Schallers or Planet Waves?

The list could go on and on in the parts/ custom guitar arena.

What can you provide players that other people or companies can’t?

To the best of my knowledge, nobody else offers a scalloped replacement neck—either a half or full scallop. No other outfit offers as many radius options, fret options, preps for locking nuts, LSRs or compensated nuts. Heck, nobody else offers precut nuts fitted to the individual neck, regardless of fret size or fingerboard radius (and no, there is no generic precut nut, off the shelf, that is going to fit well in any neck). Nobody else offers peghead veneers or custom inlay like we do. If you want much, say, in the way your neck is going to be made, and you want it at a reasonable price, there really aren’t a whole lot of choices out there.

Will you accept completely custom orders from a customer, or are you limited to the options in your catalog (as many as there may be)?

Usually not, although we have done such necks in the past. Unfortunately, the cost for a craftsman to hand-fabricate a neck to very specific requirements takes a lot longer than pre-canned CNC operations with preprogrammed options. Ninety-nine percent of the guys wanting a completely custom neck for some esoteric guitar don’t have a budget to compliment it.

The phrase “parts guitar” is often used by guitarists in a less-than-positive sense. How would you respond to that?

A DIY guy can come up with a “parts guitar” that is like no other. He can appease his own heart’s desire with no regard to whether anyone else in the whole world likes his ideas or not. As long as he’s happy, who cares about the critics? Tons of players have been totally frustrated because they were unable to find a factory guitar that suited them, and they can’t afford to have a boutique guy do the job for them. Where else can they turn but the DIY parts guitar realm? I really feel like we’ve pioneered the DIY guitar parts market, leading the way for others and offering opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t exist. In the years to come, I only see this market growing as more and more players discover what it has to offer them.

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