Washburn N2 Electric Guitar

Washburn N2 Customised Electric Guitar

Ollie Manson’s Washburn N2 started life as the entry-level Nuno Bettencourt signature guitar around 1992 but it has come a very long way since then. A previous owner had replaced the neck a long time ago with a 2002 version but the electric guitar was otherwise in a fairly stripped-down and sorry state when Ollie first saw it at a friend’s house less than six months ago. Ollie loved the cool looks and immediately saw the potential to create a fully personalised guitar – and there and then they shook on a deal that saw the guitar change hands for £120. I managed to get a chance to see Ollie play the Washburn N2 and hear its amazing story after a recent gig in Mapledurham near Reading.

Close-up image of Ollie's Washburn N2 showing the Bill Lawrence L500XL and Entwistle X3 humbucker pickups, Floyd Rose® Whammy Bar, pickup toggle switch and 'kill switch'.

Ollie’s Washbourn N2 Guitar

Ollie explained that it was the look of the Washburn’s ‘Natural Matte’ finish body made of straight-grained Agathise that first attracted him but it was the feel and playability of the flat ‘speed neck’ that really sold him on the guitar. He likens the feel to that of the renowned Ibanez ‘Wizard’ necks but the Washburn is slightly wider. The Washburn neck is made of maple with a rosewood fingerboard with 22 jumbo frets and standard ‘dot’ markers and is attached to the body with four bolts. Scale length is 25.5″ and the width of the neck is 43mm at the nut. The neck joins the body at the 16th fret and high-end fret access on this guitar is superb and the action is ultra low with no choking even high up the neck.

Despite the good looks, the guitar needed a lot of work when Ollie bought it and it was being readied by the previous owner for a strip-down and re-fit. The guitar had no strings, the bridge saddles were badly worn, there were no springs on the Floyd Rose® licensed whammy bar and the bolts on the locking nut and whammy bar were stripped of their threads. To top it all, the electrics were crackling badly so the guitar needed a complete overall.

Image of The Handsome Devils Club Logo

The Handsome Devils Club

Ollie immediately set about sorting the Washburn and customising it to suit his playing style and the range of sounds he needs for his band: ‘The Handsome Devils’ Club’ that plays a style of classic rock music with a hint of blues.

First to get sorted were the two pick-ups. Ollie replaced them with an Entwistle X3 humbucker at the neck and a Bill Lawrence® L500XL (as per the original Dimebag Darrell’s Dean guitars) at the bridge. He also replaced the pots and the wiring to solve the crackling problems. The guitar now has a stock 3-way pickup toggle switch, a push-pull volume control that switches both pickups from HH (humbucker) to SS (single coil) mode and a kill switch to the right of the volume control that cuts all sounds – for creating those classic Tom Morello ‘intermittent’ effects.

Image of Ollie's Washburn N2 Guitar Showing Pickups & Switches

Ollie’s Washburn N2 Guitar Showing Pickups & Switches

Machine heads are stock chrome Grover® 18:1 models and the bridge has Graph Tech saddles and tuners. Ollie has also made and fitted a trem stop / lock that allows the whammy to go down for ‘dives’ but no pull-ups. He has also fitted an EVH ‘De-Tuna’ on the low E-string that gives him more tuning flexibility that the band features in several of their songs.

Ollie is really pleased with the modified Washburn and says it  is his “perfect guitar”.  He particularly loves the playability and versatile range of tones that he describes as spanning from: “warm and fat to bright, chunky metal”. He is also pleased with the durability of the guitar. Despite being twenty years old the Washburn N2 is in great condition with no noticeable marks or dings on the body, neck or head and Ollie tries to keep it looking good by using a top of the range ‘Armadillo’ gig-bag.

Ollie uses D’Addario 009″ – 0042″ strings and ‘Alice’ Smooth Nylon 0.71mm picks. When I saw the band, he was playing through his Marshall MA50 amp fitted with Electro Harmonix 12AX7 preamp tubes and Tung Sol EL34 power amp tubes and a Marshall MG412CH 120-watt, 8 ohm speaker cab fitted with Celestion Vintage 30 speakers. He also uses a Vox AC15 Custom combo fitted with a Vintage 30 Celestion speaker and Electro Harmonix EL84 power tubes and Tung Sol 12AX7 pre amp tubes, as an alternative amp for smaller venues.

Ollie  uses a wireless transmitter system because the band feature a lot of on and off-stage theatrics in their act and this connects  into an impressive pedal board featuring, in sequence from the guitar: a Dunlop Crybaby Wah-Wah, MXR Phase 90, Digitech Bad Monkey tube overdrive, Electro-Harmonix Big Muff distortion, Joyo Extreme Metal gain pedal, Electro-Harmonix LPB-1 power booster preamp, Marshall ED-1 Compressor, TC Electronic Flashback x4 delay, Behringer Noise Suppressor, Korg Pitch Black tuner and Bright Onion AB switching pedal that are all connected using Fender Custom shop patch leads.

When I asked Ollie if there is anything he would change or improve on his guitar he said that the licensed Floyd Rose® whammy bar can go a little out of tune under extreme use so he may consider upgrading to an original Floyd Rose® model at some stage in the future. There certainly was no evidence of any tuning instability during the ten or so songs that I heard – despite some pretty strenuous whammy bar dives!

Ollie says that he has spent a little over £100 pounds on parts for the guitar and has done all of the work himself, including the set-up. With an initial (used) purchase price of £120 this makes the guitar one of the most playable, great sounding, value-for-money guitars you can probably get!