Widman Set Neck
John Widman is a custom guitar builder whose artistic leanings began while he worked as a graphic designer and photographer. After building bolt-neck instruments using off-the-shelf parts, he began crafting instruments from scratch, and recently introduced the Set Neck.
A chambered single-cut, the Set Neck is built from a single piece of Honduran mahogany, while the top is carved from Bastonge walnut, which is bound with ivoroid and given a player-friendly tummy contour. The neck is quarter-sawn Honduran mahogany, and the bound-ebony fingerboard has a compound radius (7.25″ to 9.5″) with mother-of-pearl dot inlays. Its scale length is 25.5″, while the neck measures .84″ deep at the first fret and at 13/4″ wide at the bone nut. Its 24 frets are of the medium-tall variety. Hardware includes a Schaller roller bridge, Schaller tuners, and a Bigsby B7 vibrato. Pickups are Lindy Fralin Pure PAF and measure 8k at the neck, 8.5k at the bridge. To dial in sounds, it uses a three-way pickup selector, two Tone pots, and a master Volume; knobs are large, nickel-plated Schaller speed-type.
The guitar can be ordered with various colors, top woods, pickups, hardware, and nut widths, and from the box, our tester boasted smooth fretwork that played very clean even through step-and-a-half bends on every string.
Fit and finish was top notch. Details such as binding, headstock veneer, and body shaping were all done with a critical eye for detail. Yes, the guitar has a nitro lacquer finish, and although it is glossy, it is thin and hard. We were also glad to see a well-cured finish, as there was no area of the guitar that felt sticky, even while played in the middle of a humid summer day in Nashville, Tennessee.
To put the Widman through its paces, we used a boutique 30-watt/1×12 tube combo and ’71 Fender Bassman head with a 2×12 running a Vintage 30/G12H-30 combination. Starting with a clean tone from the Bassman, the guitar offered a Kalamazoo solidbody flavor; its scale length focused low-end response and gave the instrument a tighter feel. The neck pickup exhibited thick tones with no woofiness, while the bridge pickup was clear and refined. Running both gave an exceptional fingerstyle tone. The Volume and Tone controls worked with an even taper and solid feel, and the Bigsby gave the melodious waver craved by so many players. Widman did some particularly nice work in the nut, and roller bridge kept the guitar in tune, even under heavy use of the Bigsby.
Plugged into the new amp (which is based on a Marshall plexi), the guitar’s tones became a bit more saturated. Perhaps most attractive was the bridge pickup running with the amp gradually turned up until it reached a nice level of grind. The guitar produced fat, sustained tones with plenty of cut in every position.
The Widman is a classic in terms of function, with refreshing styling an era of reissues and copies; fit, finish, components, and playability are top-notch, and the longer scale and walnut top are nice twists. There are many vintage-styled instruments, but painfully few offer this level of execution.
This article originally appeared in VG January 2012 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.