Posted on by ZooKeeper

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The late ’70s and early ’80s were an exciting time to be a guitar builder. The new breed of guitar heroes didn’t want tradition anymore, they wanted innovation, looks, and performance. A handful of electric guitar builders like Charvel, Valley Arts, and Schecter were heeding that call with new, wild guitars and pickups. A lot of those guitars were built one at a time – true custom orders – helping to create the handmade mystique of the southern California hot rod guitar.

Unfortunately, many “custom shops” in the guitar industry today are just as much glorified production lines as they are a home for innovation and one-offs. But we recently got to visit a shop that took us right back to those glory days. The opening of the brand new Schecter USA Custom Shop in Sun Valley, CA in 2013 marks the return to the passion and handmade mystique of those early days of southern California rock and roll, and with it brings some very modern guitars and production techniques only dreamed of in the ’70s. Join us as we get an exclusive inside look at Schecters exciting new 14,000 square foot USA Custom Shop.

 

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John, master woodworker – gives advice for joining, sets up jigs for CNC, started with Jackson, San Dimas, Grover Jackson.

 

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Christina came from across the street, the setup area, to apprentice for custom shop, shadowing John”/><br> Christina came from across the street, the setup area, to apprentice for custom shop, shadowing John

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Stacks of wood from a local vendor which also supplies for Fender and Tom Andersen. Woods like 2-piece mahogany, alder swamp ash, and more all come in pre-weighed.

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This spalted maple has to sit for four to five years before it is ready to be used for guitar construction

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John sets up the CNC machines, a secondary machine to do parts. Lemmy’s fretboard came off of this machine

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An arm contour gets kerfed with a CNC.

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Here are some rough-cut bodies after the tops were attached. You can see the arm contour early here.

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Masterworks necks awaiting bodies.

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Whil a lot of the processes are the same between production models and custom shop guitars, Tetsu hates CNC machines, and prefers to shape all of the parts by hand. Some of Tetsu’s ideas become Custom Shop production.

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Custom Shop Masterpainter Rafael Barrajas sanding down a body.

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Rafael spraying on a clear-coat.

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Bodies drying for a few days before they can be sanded.

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Jose sanding down a painted body. Jose and Rafael do everything after CNC, and before assembly: sanding, prepping, sealer, buffering, painting, logos.

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7 string classic in trans black awaits a neck.

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Schecter was one of the first companies to design two dedicated seven string guitars, was serious about 7 strings before anyone else.

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Two models designed for Robin Finke of Nine Inch Nails. These signature models are produced overseas and finished in the custom shop.

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Operations, purchasing, production manager, William Dunavant holds a Koa Burst body that may be on it’s way to The Zoo shortly after completion.

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Kevin Hair is a 10-year veteran at Schecter.He’s the woodworking tech and production manager, ane we found him winding pickups this day.

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Mike Cirovolo, President of Schecter Guitars since 1997, used to work at Sunset Custom, one of Schecter’s earliest retailers.

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Schecter stopped making pickups for some time, but have begun production again. The current Schecter pickups are handwound, reverse engineered versions of the originals. They purchased early Schecter pickups off of eBay and tore them down to replicate them.

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Colin used to be setup manager and now works in design. Learning under the wings of Shigeki. The laboratory is where they test new ideas and concepts to go to production.

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Schecter has stayed in a single factory in South Korea for a long time. They unbox the import guitars, and set them up. A model of inefficiency. This dedication to quality is a big part of Schecter’s name.

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Frets get rounded and leveled.

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Everybody in the room has the same skillset. The owner of Shecter owns MI/Craft Academy, and most guys have had a lot of experience before coming to Schecter.

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The setup guys take a lot of pride in the playability of each guitar, regardless of the price point. They don’t take their sticker lightly. Ready to go on tour.

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We have taken a lot of factory tours at The Music Zoo, and honestly we were pleasantly surprised by the good honest guitars that are being made by Schecter at their new USA Custom Shop. Even their Diamond Series setup facility next door speaks to the same level of craftmanship, an ethos that puts good playing instruments before anything else. That’s the part of Schecter that ties it firmly to the mythical So-Cal hot-rod guitars of the past, and we’re excited to watch them puch it to the future.
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