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Mar 17

Cole-Clark

The Music Zoo is proud to announce we are an Authorized Dealer for Cole Clark Guitars!  This Australian company is known for building stronger, lighter-weight guitars with a naturally amplified sound.  Currently endorsed by an impressive roster of artists including Jack Johnson, Johnny Marr and Ben Harper, these guitars feature both traditional and Australian tone woods, a patented pickup system, and a unique integral neck joint making them ideal for studio and live performance.  They even offer a couple variations on the Lap Steel which are popping up on stages all-around the world.  The exude tone, quality and reliability!  Check out our current inventory here and be sure to contact our sales team for more information on model availability!

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Jan 28

brushfire

A gorgeous new burst is now available from Taylor on select 600 Series and Maple Custom guitars called “Brushfire”.  It’s a 3-step process and adds $1,500 retail to the build, but if you want one of the most stunning looking new Taylors on the block it’s a great choice.  We can’t wait to see it in person.  Want to order one?  Contact sales@themusiczoo.com today.

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Jan 27

Tucked away inside the Larrivee factory in Oxnard, California is a small workshop that is the home of Frank Falbo’s namesake new acoustic guitars.  We visited Frank for a demonstration of these instruments and came away with resolve that we had to have them at The Music Zoo.  Frank understands not just how to build an acoustic guitar, but exactly how an acoustic guitar makes sound, and he’s incorporated some very unique and modern features into these instruments that really do make a difference.  Watch the video to learn all about it, and then check out the Falbo guitars we have in stock right now!

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Dec 20

Get used to seeing Liam “Skin” Tyson on your screen and hearing his psychedelic and pastoral acoustic guitar work fill your ears, for he is now the guitarist for Robert Plant. This wacky Englishman can play the pants off of any guitar, and here he’s showing us what the new Gibson J-35 is capable of. Good stuff. Interested in our large selection of brand new Gibson acoustics? Click here.

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Oct 24

Fender Custom Shop Acoustic

Factory Tour: Part One  Part Two  Part Three

In parts one and two of our factory tour of the Fender Acoustic Custom shop in New Hartford, CT, we saw how they pick tonewoods and construct all the parts required to build the guitar.  Now it’s time to get down to business and we start with body construction.

 

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These CNC side benders were designed and built in house.  The 2 axis design allows for the waist bender (shown) to push the shoe into the waist, while mechanical arms wraps a sealed shim on the upper and lower bouts.   The process including shutting down the heat is automated, allowing a worker to focus on other things during the process.

 

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Here are some bent sides cooling in a rack.

 

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Workers will use this fixture to join the two completed guitar sides by adding the head block and tail block.  The white plastic parts are clamp calls, that assist with locating the parts.

 

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Here’s the rim assembly process after getting removed from the fixture.  The head and tail blocks are clamped onto the calls.

 

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Here are some completely assembled rims with kerfing installed.  These bodies are an OM style with Gibson/Martin inspired wood sides stays (the brown lines inside the rim).   The sides stays add strength.  The collars used to shape these rims can be seen in the background.

 

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Fender uses basswood kerfing in the guitars.  It’s lightweight, easy to work with, and bonds well.

 

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Here’s an individual maple side stay getting sanded.  These have to fit between the kerf on the top and bottom of the rim.

 

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Colin is bonding in the side stays using clamps.

 

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This shot shows the clamps in action, and also gives us a look at the truss rod access in the neck block.

 

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If you look closely at the near edge of the rim, there is a bit of wood that protrudes past the kerfing.  This “stand off” is lasered in when the side is cut.  In the next step, the stand off is used to locate the specific position of the assembly once it is placed inside inside the collar.

 

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The position of the rim inside this collar is important, as you’ll see when the part gets sanded.

 

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Fender has three of these disc sanders, they are used to sand a specific radius onto the rim’s edge.  This is what helps the top and back of the guitar have a very subtle shape.  This one has a 30 foot dish radius and is used to sand the edge for the top of the guitar.  For backs, they use one with a 16 foot radius, and there is a flat one too for guitars like carved top jazz guitars, where the top or back is naturally arched.

 

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Remember the stand offs we saw on the rim’s edge that help locate it in the collar?  Here’s where they get sanded off, as the collar is placed on the aluminum blocks to rest at the exact right height.

 

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Here’s the interior of the guitar during fitting, complete with the laser Fender logo.

 

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Here’s Marty applying some glue to radiused braces for the interior of the guitar.

 

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This white locator is used to show where to attach the braces to the top.  It has holes in it that the braces fit in precisely.  Not all the braces are bonded at once, about half of them in one pass then the other half.

 

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This vacuum membrane bonder will lower over the braces and suck the parts down tightly together.

 

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Not only does the membrane apply very even pressure to the braces during bonding, it helps with the time required as well.  In a conventional clamp these would need an hour of clamp time.  In the membrane the vacuum action shortens that to 15 minutes.

 

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Here’s an Englemann spruce top, complete with bracing.  Note the tabs on the ends, these will be used for more locating and then removed.

 

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Next, the top and back are joined.  This phenolic plate has the arch of the top carved into it, and uses vacuum pressure to hold the top in shape while the rim is joined.

 

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Darren is showing us that suble arch to the back of this guitar body, thanks to the 30 foot radius sanding disc.  Fender makes a lot of effort to build the final shape of the guitar into every part, so there is as little stress as possible within the wood.

 

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Here’s a nice look at a beautiful FSR built with claro walnut and a carpathian spruce top.  Very elaborate purfling and rosette.

 

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Dave the fitter is working on the neck fit.  The tolerances are carved so tightly that he’ll end up using a clamp to drive the neck all the way home once it is in position.

 

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Fender uses traditional hand fit dovetail joints for the neck fit.  Dave is using a unique chamfered sanding block to get the shape just right.

 

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Now we’re in final assembly.  Here’s Andy McDonald touching up the shape of a saddle.  The saddle is what sits inside the bridge and supports the strings.

 

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This is Mike Shear, the body department supervisor.  He’s worked with Fender/Guild for years and has done bindings on thousands of guitars.

 

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The binding process is hard, precise work.  This is a Doyle Dykes Guild model with an intricate multi-laminate binding.

 

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Due to the porous nature of a wood like mahogany, vinyl sealer is shot onto the neck then paste-wood filler is applied.  A builder will apply the filler by wiping it on with the grain, then wiping it off against the grain.  That way, he won’t strip out the filler he just applied.

 

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Here’s Drew spraying color onto the walnut FSR run of guitars we’ve been seeing a lot of today.

 

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Some of these FSRs are getting a sunburst finish, while some (like the one in the back there) are staying natural.

 

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The sapwood part of the walnut is the lightly colored area next to the darker hardwood.  It’s bookmatched to great effect here.

 

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After the guitars have been painted, the paint that has covered the logo, binding, and other decorative elements need to be scraped off.  It takes a lot of concentration and a steady hand to do this job, and Leon has both.

 

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Scraping the Fender logo on this sunburst painted headstock.

 

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This FSR has been scraped, and will now go to get clearcoat.

 

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The painted guitars are left to cure for at least 2 weeks before they can be worked on.  Jason here has been with the group for years also and is seen here sanding the clear.  He’ll use gradually finer sandpapers to prepare the body for buffing.

 

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This guitar is being buffed by Todd, a long-time Guild guy who has been building guitars since the Westerly era.

 

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Lead buffer Chris is working the wheel on this headstock.

 

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Some of these areas have been reconfigured since our visit; this area is now used for neck fitting.  As we mentioned in part one, this antique building is huge and complex and it is easy as pie to get lost.

 

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Final setup time.  Chris Jarvis is shown here working on a Fender koa auditorium limited run.

 

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This builder is filing the nut slots.  All the nuts used on Fender Custom Shop guitars are made of bone.

 

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Bob is using a gauge to check the height of the string at the nut.  This action at the nut is important for the playability of the guitar.

 

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Dialing in the action.

 

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Here’s Phil putting a Guild archtop through its paces.  All three of the guys in here can full setup and finish any of the guitars.

 

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We liked this neatly organized, decidedly not digital ledger book.  This book has literally every detail about every guitar built written into it, and as Darren Wallace said, it’s like “seeing your life pass before your eyes” flipping through it.  The Music Zoo has been to a lot of guitar factories and we are genuinely impressed with the craftsmanship and attention to detail that the Fender Custom Shop is putting into this current breed of acoustic instruments.  These are truly great sounding and authentically constructed guitars that we’re proud to carry at the shop.  Thank you to Darren Wallace, Tim Shaw, Ren Ferguson, Gary Waugh, Sean Morrissey and all the other good Fender folks who hosted us for the tour.  Want to see some Fender Custom Shop acoustic guitars that you could own now?  Check out our current inventory. 

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Oct 11

If you’ve ever picked up a classical guitar and found yourself at odds with the traditional string spacing and unforgiving neck feel but loved the sound and touch of the nylon strings, we would like to introduce you to the Taylor 412ce-n. This fantastic guitar gives the best of both worlds: and easy to play nylon string model that has that legendary Taylor quality, not to mention a built in pickup that is specially voiced for the nylon sound.   The Music Zoo’s Tim Reynolds and our friend Dennis Delgaudio (Billy Joel, The Turtles) give you an overview of this useful line of Taylor guitars.

Want to explore the world of Taylor nylon string guitars for yourself?  Check out our current inventory!

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Sep 25

We just love parlor sized Martin guitars.  The smaller body means a bit less volume than a jumbo or dreadnought would deliver, but the tradeoff is the incredibly sweet, balanced, and pure tone.  Our good friends Ross Martin (Matt Flinner, Ron Miles) and Dennis Delgaudio (Billy Joel, The Turtles) sat down and jammed together in front of our cameras recently to show us what these nice little guitars can do.  Ross is playing a Martin 00-42 Custom, and Dennis has got an 0-28 Custom, and you can check out all the great Martin guitars we have in stock right here.

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Aug 21

Taylor BTO tonewoods

UPDATE: these particular pieces of wood have all been spoken for, but you can still build the guitar of your dreams through the Taylor Build To Order program.  Get in touch with our sales staff and they’ll get you started!

For most of us, owning any Taylor guitar is a dream come true.  But for those who need something truly special, Taylor offers an incredible amount of personal expression and customization through their Build To Order (BTO) program.  Ordering a BTO isn’t just choosing some inlays or hardware (although you can do this), it starts with picking out the actual pieces of wood they’ll use to build your dream guitar.  Taylor just sent us over some pictures of some of the amazing matched pieces of tonewoods that are available right now to get your build started.  This could be the start of your beautiful instrument.  Some of these wood combinations aren’t even published on Taylor’s BTO woods list, and are first come, first served.  Get in touch with our sales team today to get a quote started on your Taylor BTO.

 

Koa Set #70

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 Cocobolo Set #65

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Cocobolo Set #67

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Grafted Walnut Set #77

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Grafted Walnut Set #75

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Grafted Walnut Set #78

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Cocobolo Set #66

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Koa Set #68

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taylor bto woods

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Koa Set #69

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taylor bto woods

taylor bto woods

East Indian Rosewood

taylor bto woods

taylor bto woods

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Jul 31

find your fit taylor

If you love acoustic guitars as much as we do, you’ll really enjoy the Taylor Find Your Fit event happening on August 13th at The Music Zoo.  It’s not just a sales event, although there will be some killer discounts available on our vast Taylor inventory, it’s a chance to learn things about acoustic guitar construction, wood, body sizes, and what really shapes that amazing tone you hear coming from a Taylor guitar.  You’ll walk away knowing more about the instrument than you ever thought you would!  Best part is, it’s free and open to the public.  Plus, you’ll get to hang out in the premier Taylor Room on the East Coast.  In Taylor’s words:

Our friendly factory experts will visit dealers across the U.S. for the sole purpose of helping you find the Taylor guitar that’s right for you. They’ll identify your player profile and tell you which body shape and wood pairings best match your playing style. They’ll answer any questions you have. And if you’re not sure where to begin, they’ll help you understand the basics. Come see us and find your fit. 

We look forward to hosting you as our guests on August 13th from 12pm to 6pm at The Music Zoo.   Need directions?  Click here.

 

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Mar 06

Fender Custom Shop Acoustic

Factory Tour: Part One  Part Two  Part Three

We saw in part one of our tour of the Fender Custom Shop Acoustic factory how religious the New Hartford, Connecticut builders are about acquiring and selecting the best tonewoods.  Next we’ll see them put the wood to work.

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Although the facility lives inside a 160-year-old maze of industrial brick, the factory floor is logically laid out in a loop of stations.

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Here we see Deb matching booksets that will become the tops and backs of the guitars.

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These are bonded together with glue and put into this fixture until they’re dry.

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The wood is strongly bonded together now, but it’s far too thick.  They’ll run the wood through this thickness sander and take it down to about .140 for now.  The wood will be thinned further down the line.  Then the part goes to the “supermarket” where all the tops and backs are kept.

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Next, the tops are put through a milling machine that has instantly transformed it into something that looks like a guitar.  Aside from the specific shape profile for that model, locating pin holes and precise routing for either a rosette (if it’s a top) or a back strip have been performed.

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A worker is creating the rosette she’ll inlay purfling into the route on this top.  It’s precise, and beautiful work.

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One of the cool things Fender does is use very subtle variations in their purfling.  It’s hard to even notice in this photograph, but that’s the difference between grained ivoroid cross-cut versus non-cross-cut.  The devil is in the details.

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A finished rosette.  The area with the gap will be hidden by the end fretboard later.

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Here are some different types of rosettes, made from some really interesting purfling.  You’ll find the one of the right on Guild Orpheum models, and that slick blue one on the left on the new Fender Custom Shop Ren Ferguson guitars.

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Here’s the same purfling, but as back strips.

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The same type of thing happens with the wood used for the fingerboards.  These boards are routed and profiled, and then sanded…

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…in this “time saver”.  We can only imagine how sore everyone’s arms must of been back before they invented stuff like this.

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But that machine is grade school math compared to this one.  Darren’s holding a billet of spruce that has been rough cut to fit the length of one of the pods inside this custom machine that will create the inside bracing of the guitar.

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These pods already have the curved radius of both the eventual top and the back built into their shape.  Then the automated cutting arm descends and cuts each billet down into many braces, to be separated later.  The customized tooling used here is made in-house.

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The customized form cutters give the bracing a “V” shape.  It’s perfect for both strength and lightness.

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The braces are trimmed, and flap sanded.

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Finally the finished braces are notched so they fit together perfectly.  Boom.

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 These braces are organized into a “bucket system” that is shared in the body assembly area.  The builders there have all these same buckets, and when they run out of parts they simply come over here and pick up a new one.  Likewise, workers can see when they should run some more parts if their buckets are getting low.

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This press is the oldest machine in the joint.  It’s a heated 30 ton press that came from the old ’60s era Guild factory in Rhode Island.  It’s still here pressing the backs for certain Guild guitars, but we included it because one, it’s cool…

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…and two, we noticed this shim under one corner of this beastly press looked an awful lot like a guitar neck.  Apparently all over this little town of New Hartford, you can randomly find these doorstops that were made here over the years from scrap Ovation necks.  Darren has even noticed them holding open the doors at his daughter’s elementary school.

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Speaking of necks, this one looks a little hard to play.  This is a very rough cut neck blank (for a Guild, the Fender headstock isn’t so wide that it would need the extra “ears” glued on like this).

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More neck blanks awaiting the next step.  They don’t look scared, but we would definitely be having nightmares if we had to come face to face with this monster…

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This is the terrifying view from the neck’s perspective inside the large multi-axis cutting machine that will take this next blank to the next level.  It can rotate and create complex, precise shapes that previously only could be done by hand.

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The neck will get a final hand-shaping later but it quickly gets its machine-assisted bold new shape.  The heel is cut at this time also.

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The same cutter can take care of the route for the truss rod as well.

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Fender necks have Fender headstocks of course, and the holes for the tuning pegs are drilled first to ensure that the pegs are perfectly positioned relative to where the fingerboard will exist.

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Then, it’s time to carve the headstock shape.  Every model has its own master template.

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The Fender Kingman is a big part of this new Custom Shop revival; the Stratocaster headstock is unmistakeable.  The first and sixth hole they just drilled will act as locating holes for the pins on this template.  Then an operator can just follow the guide with a router and then, like magic, it’s officially a Fender.

fenderEarlier we saw some fingerboards that had been profiled and routed for inlays.  Here’s the ebony used to make them.  Very dark ebony is no longer a viable option for production guitars.  It’s just not available anymore due to global overharvesting.  Fender is doing the right thing by using the more plentiful types of ebony on their high end models.  It sounds just as good, it’s better for the planet, and we think it has a cool look of its own.

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This machine is knocking out the fret channels on four fingerboards at once.  These days, all the channels are cut by the same blade and can be a uniform size.

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But that’s not how it used to be.  Back in the day, each successive fret required a slightly wider fret, and therefore a different blade.  That’s what this was made to do, and it cut one fingerboard at a time.  It’s still hanging around for when they need to do a reproduction piece, or just scare people.

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We’ve mentioned Ren Ferguson.  Here he is (far left) overseeing the construction of some fingerboards for the model he’s designed for Fender.  Ren is the lead builder for the entire Fender Acoustic Custom Shop, and brings decades of experience to the table.  We’re looking forward to working with him in 2013 to create some very special pieces for The Music Zoo.

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This builder is going to install the inlays and binding on the fretboard.

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Yeah, you’re gonna want to keep your hands outta there.  This monster cutter planes down the completed fingerboard to achieve the 10″ radius that Fender uses.  You can see the subtle curve on the blade that will give the fingerboard a gentle roundness from side to side.

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This fingerboard has been planed and glued to a neck.  Now, it’s time for final sanding on the surface.  It’s got to be perfectly flat from end to end.  Builders use a straight edge and backlighting to look for any low spots and hand sand it with progressive grits until a flat, perfect playing surface exists.

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Next stop, frets.  The frets are pressed into the channels by hand with this lever press.  It takes feel to do this right.  After this is done the worker will use powerful pneumatic snips to bite off those protruding fret ends.

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Tools of the trade.  These builders each need to know how to do many of the steps in this area.  It’s not so much an assembly line process as it is a workflow that is managed by many skilled builders.

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Off topic: speed picking Swedish shred-Yoda Yngwie Malmsteen still has an Ovation signature model acoustic guitar made here.  On the right, normal size frets.  On the left, Yngwie size frets.  Holy crap.

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One more key component is required, the nut.  All Fender Custom Shop Acoustics feature a bone nut for maximum tone.  You ever smell bone being cut?  Think burning hair.  Old school.

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They’ll route the slot for the nut after the fingerboard has been radiused.

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These necks are done and now waiting to meet the body of their dreams.  In the 3rd and final installment of the Fender Custom Shop Acoustic factory tour, we’ll check out body assembly and finish.  Part Three

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