Design grad shifts from photography to custom guitars

January 3, 2012
By Bill Krueger

piano-top-full-lengthJohn Widman ’84, of Arden, N.C., has put his design skills to an interesting new use — building guitars.

At 50, Widman had worked for years at his commercial photography business, but he was not excited about going digital. “I wanted to do something that I was passionate about and I was ready for a change,” Widman says.

That change came in starting Widman Custom Electrics.

The first guitar Widman produced, a copy of a Fender Telecaster, turned out well. “There is nothing like a little success to fan the flames,” he says.

Widman has  now produced 20 instruments, keeping only his Telecaster remake for himself. He describes the building process as unique for each instrument. “That is what a custom instrument is all about,” he says. “When a client orders an instrument, it is made to their specifications. The neck fits their hand, they choose the colors and the woods.”

Widman has also produced several electric banjos. The first banjo, an anniversary present to his wife, served as a prototype.

drill-pressWidman enjoys the freedom and creativity involved with creating a new instrument. That includes inventing new parts, which allows for a lot of fun in the design process.

Widman’s guitars come in four different models from a variety of woods. One of his most interesting instruments came from an abandoned piano, parts of which he initially intended to use designing a coffee table.

“I wanted to salvage the sounding board,” he says. “It has made a very special guitar.”

— Jeannene Lang


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