Well, this past week I was lucky enough to be given a complete tour of the workshop floors of the new Guild manufacturing facility in New Hartford, CT, hosted by Guild with a group of fellow Guild aficionados who congregate online at Let's Talk Guild. It is a bright and clean facility occupying a historic pre-civil war manufacturing plant that years ago housed a cotton mill and a sewing machine manufacturer, among others. It is retro-fitted with sophisticated temperature, humidity, and dust controls to maintain an ideal guitar-making environment. It was fascinating to watch programmed routing machines cut out various guitar parts with lazer-like accuracy while individual shop workers sculpted guitar necks, assembled guitar bodies, and applied sunburst finishes by hand. Huge computer-controlled lathes operate next to industrial-era hand presses. We were able to view every aspect of guitar building from the wood supply room to the final set up of a finished instrument.
What was striking was the obvious enthusiasm and pride every employee had, from shop-floor artisans to top management, for the production of beautifully crafted instruments. Most employees there have been making guitars for years, if not decades. They share responsibilities for multiple stages of the guitar-building process and each is empowered to reject work that does not meet the shop's high quality standards. Master Luthier Ren Ferguson, overseeing acoustic engineering for Fender as of this year after decades at Gibson, summed it up best for us: "Why build a guitar out of something that doesn't already have music in it?" That Fender was able to lure Ren away from settling into a tranquil retirement in the Midwest to instead participate in research and development at Guild speaks volumes about a renewed commitment to produce the highest quality Guilds yet.
|Picture courtesy of Brad4d8|
|Picture courtesy of Alive@RandyWalters.com|
The take-away is that Guild is back up to speed making its Standard and Traditional Series lines of guitars in quantities that should meet demand, along with some exciting custom projects, while maintaining its tradition of hand-crafted instruments. Guild is back baby!
P.S. We were under strict orders to leave our cameras at the door, but here is an article with great shop-floor pictures of the Guild guitar-making process at the New Hartford, CT facility. Additional pictures are posted on Guild's Facebook page.