Fender Factory Tour
April 16th 2003
- Ten Year Annivesary !
By Ernest H Slade on behalf of Fender
After a short 30-minute drive
from Anaheim we arrived at Corona and after stopping for directions
we found the Fender Factory situated within an industrial
park. At the factory we were greeted by a cheerful receptionist,
who gave us 2 copies of the 2003 Frontline (at the time unavailable
The Corona installation is a purpose
built 177,000 square feet, state of the art facility. Apart
from general and Custom Shop Fender instruments it also encompasses,
Guild acoustic & electric guitars. Finished goods are
not stored here; distribution is taken care of by another
facility nearby. Approximately 700 people are employed in
We were promptly met by David
Maddux the Factories Senior Quality Assurance Technician who,
after handing us some safety goggles, proceeded to show us
around Fenders Corona installation. As we walked around the
factory the first thing to impress us was the amount of workers
and manual labour that goes into making guitars.
In the first area we visited we saw raw
materials such as sheet metal, plastics, etc being shaped
into components like back plates, pick guards etc. Fender
actually manufacturers every single component that goes into
their guitars at their facility from scratch. David mentioned
that this way they can control the quality of every component
Next we saw neck blanks being
prepared and how special machines shape the necks to the different
radiuses for each instrument. Final adjustment of each shape
is by hand and carefully measured. Quality control is very
tight at Fender and in fact as we were walking around a worker
showed Dave two necks; he rejected these samples as the wood
looked too “green”.
the bodies and necks are cut to shape and prepared these go
to special environmentally controlled paint shops. These are
so advanced that in order to comply with the laws of the state
of California the painters wear special suits with their own
air supply in order to avoid inhaling fumes. Also a fountain
of water is kept running behind the paint booth to removing
all harmful residuals for safe processing before they are
released to the environment.
Once the parts are painted they are sent to special drying
rooms were the paint dries in various stages, one of which
applies heat to accelerate the process.
Several days later when they are dry,
and then they are sanded with extremely fine sand paper and
buffed to a high shine using automotive style buffing machines.
Final assembly takes place and
instruments are moved on to quality control (the most wanted
job at Fender!) where each guitar is tested to ensure all
components are in perfect working order. The instruments are
then boxed up and sent to Fenders nearby distribution centre
to be shipping to dealers around the world.
We also visited Fenders legendary custom
shop were we saw guitars that had recently been on display
at NAMM. Many exotic guitars, including rosewood Telecasters,
and one off guitars painted by artists. This is also were
the famous “relic” ageing process takes places which can give
a new guitar a vintage worn in look.
After the tour we met Steve Grom,
(Vice-President) who welcomed us to the factory. We had a
very interesting conversation with Steve about Fender, the
past, present and future of the company. He very rightly pointed
out (this was very apparent after the tour) that making a
guitar does not simply involve inserting a tree at one end
of a machine and receiving a finished instrument at the other!
It is a manual and labour intensive process, which requires
many craftsmen and technical personnel to accomplish. The
new state of the art purpose built facilities at Corona allow
Fender to accomplish a quality range of instruments at reasonable
Steve also mentioned the close knit relationship
that takes place between the Fender Factories in Corona, California
and their Mexican counterpart which is located in Ensenada,
Mexico around 200 miles away. A constant stream of transport
vehicles haul parts back and forth such as necks and bodies
from Corona to Ensenada, and parts like solid-state amplifier
cabinets from Ensenada to Corona.
Many thanks to Mike Charalambous at the
Fender Europe website for helping to arrange the visit, to
all employees at Fender for letting us tour their workplace,
and to Steve Grom and David Maddux for taking the time to
meet us and show us around the factory.