Monday, September 23, 2013

Taylor Guitar Factory Tour

    While visiting family in California in August I finally had a chance to visit the deceptively elusive Taylor Guitar Factory in El Cajon (north San Diego County).  On several previous trips I happened to visit during Christmas and the 4th of July, which happen to be the two times of the year when the factory is shut down.  Not this time!

     Marisa and I had toured the C.F. Martin Guitar Factory in Nazareth, PA years ago, but since I play a Taylor this place had a special meaning for me.  In this post I just want to give you an overview tour in pictures to give you an idea of the process (not necessarily in the correct production order, but in the order of appearance on the tour).

Taylor rounds up loads of exotic wood from all over the world.  They condition it in this covered area just outside of the factory until it's of the desired humidity, etc. 

When the wood is ready, they take large sheets of it and trim it down into more user friendly pieces.

Once thin panels are cut out, they are matched together, glued, and clamped.  One day they'll make a lovely top or bottom piece. 

Notice the symmetry on these pieces that've been glued.  They use cuts from the same board in order for the grain to match.

I couldn't get a great shot of the laser-cutting machines that cut out small pieces for bracing as well as the soundholes and grooves for inlay. 

By hand, these workers can carve out more intricate designs and inlay the tops with mother of pearl and abalone shell.
The assembled bodies are buffed evenly using a robotic arm and buffing wheel in this booth. 

In an adjacent section these workers are doing some additional buffing using hand tools.

Here's a glimpse at the diversity of the guitars that are cranked out in this place on a daily basis. 

In the electronics section, workers install pick-ups and test out the tuners.

 One of the special features of Taylor guitars is the joint where the neck meets the body.  Traditionally, many instrument makers accomplish this with a dove-tail joint.  Here they have an assembly that allows the neck to be bolted.  See the picture below for the neck fitting.

In a separate building workers shape and finish the necks.  Again, notice the diversity of different styles here. 

Apparently the neck is the most difficult part to make, requiring the most labor.

This lady hammers in the frets along the neck. 

Besides the body/soundhole, the neck is also a great place to include custom designs and inlay.

 Back in the main building the technical details of bracing are explained.  These patterns allow the tension on the guitar from the strings to be dissipated and not rip the body apart.
Lastly, we have the machines that bend the thin strips for the sides of the guitar into place.
The shaping machines are assisted by these heating elements that help to dry the wood into position. 

Post-tour pose in the showroom.

     We had a really great time visiting Taylor.  Compared with CF Martin, I'd say that the tour is similar but Martin has a more elaborate museum/showroom with a lot of their signature guitars made for different famous musicians.  The people at Taylor are very down-to-earth and friendly, and it was nice to see all of the hard work behind the guitar that I've been playing for the last twelve years or so.


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