A review of the Warmoth Neck and Body. TremKing review coming next week.
The Compound Radius
I had no idea what to expect with the compound radius since I’d never played one before, but now, having played this guitar for over a month, I can see no reason in having more guitars made with compound radii. Open chords are comfortable and the high notes aren’t as prone to choking when I bend – but very wide bends can still cause the strings to ‘fret-out’. It would be nice if Warmoth offered a few different compound radius options. I for one would welcome a 12″ to 18″ – particularly if I decided to order a 24 fret neck. Warmoth quote the typical Ibanez radius to be 12″ as a guide, but I know for a fact that many of the Ibanez Wizard necks are actually closer to a 17″ radius. Even these extreme radii are not immune to fretting-out and really, for a 24 fret neck, the neck needs to be as flat as possible at the high end of the neck. But remember, since I’m a classical player, I’m already very accustomed to a flat fingerboard. Also, I think that there would be a market for lower compound radii, maybe 7.25″-9.5″ for Fender fans who would like the best from both the vintage and modern strat necks.
Note that USACG (a competitor to Warmoth) do offer a range of compound radii and they will even let you ask for a custom compound radius, for a price. Because of this I thought I might order my next neck from them. Unfortunately my next guitar will be a 24 fretter, but USACG don’t do 24 fret necks!! I’m stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place.
Frets and Fretwork
Many reviews on the net report that Warmoth do dodgy fretwork. As far as I can tell, the fretwork is as good as can be expected without them knowing your string gauge, neck relief, nut preference and action. The frets are level and smooth, which is all one can ask for. Obviously, if you want the perfect fret job then you’ll need to get a luthier to do a full set up with a properly cut nut and the works (and maybe get it plek’d). Still, the fretwork was as good as I could hope for.
When ordering the neck I wasn’t sure exactly what neck thickness I was after. People on the net talk about the difference of a few millimetres making a huge difference – with many people just wanting the slimmest neck possible. Whereas others want giant baseball bat necks that they could hold with their entire palm. I played safe with a standard thin.
In hindsight, I really don’t think that the neck thickness is as big a deal as some people think. Instead, Warmoth have taken the sensible approach by making the order by shape rather than by thickness (although the actual measurements are available on the site). I’d have to say that this is probably my favourite electric guitar neck, possibly sharing first place with one of the JEM necks (can’t recall which model/year). Overall, I’d say the shape and the compound radius had far more to do with the great feel of this neck than its thickness. This neck can easily fit into your palm for thumb-over-the-top stuff, but is perfectly suited to standard technique as well.
The body was fine – just as it was on the showcase. My only issue is that the neck pocket was too small for the neck. Of course, it’s better if it’s too tight than too large – you can always make a small pocket bigger, but you can’t make a large pocket smaller. I realise that if I had been ordering a replacement body, that it’d be impossible for them to ensure that the neck would fit, since different necks are made to different tolerances. However I would have thought that since I was ordering the neck and body together that they would have ensured a good fit.
In Warmoth’s defence, they do understand that neck pocket size can be hit and miss, and will re-rout the neck pocket free of charge if you send it back to them. The only problem with that is that I live in Australia and there was no way I was sending it all the way back to the U.S. just for that!
As it turned out, I needed my luthier to do some routing anyway for the TremKing bridge, so he was happy to enlarge the neck pocket (free of charge) while he had the guitar in his shop.
Since every little option carries an up charge (a simple battery rout is $15) they are a bit pricey, and their customer service can be terse and unhelpful (at least when emailing with ‘Tony’). But as for the quality of the work, I’m perfectly happy.
2 replies on “Warmoth Parts Review”
I’ve bought quite a few parts from Warmoth over the years. Most of the time, they’re fine – digital machines doing the cutting and routing. BUT…
A while back, I put in an order, tried to use my wife’s credit card, not only did Ken Warmoth turn it down, but he was very nasty about it. There was another time where I asked for abalone inlays, only to get plastic, and when I asked about it, I got a snippy reply something like, “Well, we don’t offer that” – they could have told me that when they saw my order. This was for five necks – so I had five necks that I was not happy with.
Next, I just ordered a Telecaster body – maple with koa top. In their favor, they picked out some very nice pieces. Well, the control cavity was about 3/16″ too short – so the plate would not fit. I didn’t see how this was possible – digital machines that are set to do the cutting and routing – but it was, after all, too short. Also, the matte finish – I could scratch it with my fingernail. When I called them about this stuff, the person on the phone said, “He will call you back in a few minutes”. I never heard back. I also ordered a neck to go with the Tele body – maple with Pau Ferro fingerboard. Warmoth does not offer a bone nut for their necks, saying, “Oh, they ruin our routers” – I figured he meant router BITS. So, I ordered the “Corian” nut. I wanted to take the bone nut off my old neck and put it on the new one, so, when I was removing the Corian one, it just dissintergrated (I’ve replaced hundreds of string nuts with no problem – even cheap plastic ones). Also also, while I was doing so, the Pau Ferro wood chipped – the stuff is brittle beyond belief (again, HUNDREDS of times with no problem).
I have no plans to build any more guitars, so won’t be ordering any more parts from Warmoth, but I wanted people to know that I’ve had numerous problems with this company. I’m most disgusted with their customer service, and Ken Warmoth’s crappy attitude.
I will just take the time, to say not everyone can be completely happy all the time. I however have had nothing but good times with warmoth. multiple neck and body purchases, the staff has been uniformally attentive and helpful. Cary even stayed late one night to help me over the phone, with a very minor issue I was having. personal preferences for neck contours etc., have nothing to do with the sheer quality warmoth offers. and for the record you can talk about expense but talk to fender about a mahogany body with flamed mahogany neck rosewood fretboard with abalone dots, Schaller tuners and quarter pound pups. the one I built with warmoth was around $1100.00 Fender? maybe $4000 so where is the complaint really? top notch quality and sterling customer service over the last 16 months! good luck to all of you.