Fender Factory Tour

April 16th 2003 - Ten Year Annivesary !

By Ernest H Slade on behalf of Fender Europe

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 in Europe).

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 this location.

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.

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Raw materials been shaped into guitar components.
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 themselves.

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”.


Text Box:  Bodies in the drying process.Once 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.


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Quality Control is very meticulous.
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.



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The Custom Shop - Where dreams come true!
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 prices.



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Fender’s Steve Grom and myself (left)
Note the prototype tremolo equipped bass!
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.

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