Washburn Extended Cutaway

Washburn Extended Cutaway

Lick Of The Week with Adam Gray

It’s more than a lick, it’s an insightful lesson on James Taylor’s style and this iconic song.

Thank you Adam for sharing your time and talent!

Before there was the Nuno Bettencourt N4, Washburn produced some small batch extended cutaway (EC) guitars beginning in 1988.

For “show off and tell” day at school Washburn went all out to display the extra access to the highest frets by producing three models: an EC26, EC29, and EC36.  The numbers represent the number of frets. Among the hair spray, fluorescent Oakley sunglasses and spandex, Washburn attempted to differentiate themselves from other super strats of the late 80s. Arguably, the EC series were gimmick guitars, but Washburn took it seriously.

The flagship guitar was a 36-fretter behemoth called the Challenger (or Spitfire).  Rightfully so, as it must be a challenge to fret the last octave unless you have four pinkies. Only about 500 EC36 models were produced between 1988 and 1990 including a few with Steve Vai’s monkey grip. 

The Extended Cutaway was developed by Stephen Davies, a guitar builder in Seattle Washington who started tinkering with this idea in the early 80’s. It’s a patented design that gives much greater access to the neck by changing the position of the neck heel. 

In the simplest form, the heel configuration is not below the neck but the structural elements extend outwards to the bass side of the guitar  For bolt-on neck configurations there are five bolts that arc in a quarter circle to join the neck pocket.  

The construction method can also be used for neck-through and set necks, and on acoustics, but bolt-on necks are the most common. The downside, a neck reset is nearly impossible or too impractical. 

And if you wanted anything more than a single humbucker on the EC36, too bad, there’s not enough room even with thinner fret wire above the 24th fret. Washburn held the scale length to 25.5” and that was a fatal flaw if it ever had a chance beyond a MTV video.


Washburn EC36 specs:

Alder body, Maple neck through, Rosewood fretboard, Washburn humbucker, Washburn 600T licensed Floyd Rose trem, Volume control with coil split, Active midrange boost

1 comment

Fascinating story. When physics try to defy the “laws of nature”, it poses a few challenges. Single humbucker….

JP Pierre Moatti

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