21 January 2015

Visit to Fender

Mold for making Stratocaster pick guards
I spent the day at Fender in Corona, California.  While Fender has factories abroad, including one about four hours away in Mexico, a lot of the manufacturing of flagship Fenders are made in the Corona location.  Yes, you get to tour the factory.

Your first stop is the Visitor Center, where you check in and pay for the tour.  Or, if you, like me, happen to know someone who works there, you can get the tour for free.  The visitor center is nicely laid out with historic prototypes by Leo Fender. You know, like a mini museum.  There is also a 'gift shop' with everything from cutting boards to t-shirts.  Of course, you can also purchase a guitar, fresh from the factory.

Out of focus picture of the machine shop
On to the tour.  The first station was the machine shop, where the hardware is made. Everything not made of wood is made in this room.  This includes pick guards, back plates, bridge brackets, saddles, etc.

Top: Back Plates, Saddles.  Bottom: Bridge Brackets
They also assemble pre-assemble the bridges so they will be ready for installation.

Stack of pick guards for the Stratocaster.
The edges of the pick guard are hand finished, using a small router to give it a nice bevel.

Next station is the Mill, or wood area.  Wow, this place is amazing.  They have humidity and temperature control.  Periodically, there would be water misted to maintain proper moisture in the room.

Top: Wood blanks being cut, finished blanks.  Bottom: Finished necks
In here, you can see a piece of wood blank transform into the neck of a guitar.  A variety of CNC machines are used to cut and shape the pieces, it was a amazing to see the process.  Final sanding is done by hand by skilled technicians.

Stratocaster trimmings
The bodies are done in the same way.  First with computer controlled mills, then finished by hand.

Finished Stratocaster body on top a stack of Telocaster bodies.
The tour does not include the paint shop, but we were shown a video of their work.  That famous three colour sunburst is all painted by hand.

So, on to final assembly.  All the parts come together, right now, over me.  Hey, someone should write a song with those words.  The instruments are hand assembled.  Once in a while, you can hear someone tuning the strings and sneak in a short jam.

Finished guitars
Sign hanging above assembly area
I need to mention that there was a Wild Stallions sign hanging above the assembly/tuning area.  Although not spelled the same as Wyld Stallyns, as seen in the Bill & Ted series, it did bring a smile to my face when I heard the all familiar guitar rift from the area.

Be excellent to each other.
If you wish to take a tour of the Fender factory, next time you are in Southern California, head over to Corona and rock on!  Factory tour lasts about an hour and are given Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays (closed Wednesdays).  More information can be found at their website, click here.