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Section 1: Where Does It All Begin?
Section 2: From Tail Wedge to Binding
Section 3: From Side Sanding Through Neck Fit
Section 4: Neck Carving through Neck and Body Sanding
Section 5: The Finishing Department
Section 6: Bull Buffing to Fretting
Section 7: Bridge Gluing to Shipping

Bridge Gluing To Shipping

With the guitar fully fretted, it is almost finished. The guitar travels next to our bridge gluing station which is done under climate control as well. Starting in mid 2005 we altered the process of bridge gluing to increase it's precision. This new method ensures that the bridge is accurately placed each time - which in turn leads to perfect intonation of each instrument. The process is actually quite easy, though took some special tooling to implement. Here's how it works:

1) The bridge is made by CNC and has two 1/8" locating holes in the bottom that are only 0.1" deep. These holes are in the same place every time in relation to the saddle.
2) The fretboard, and the corresponding microdots are also made by CNC machine and are also in the exact same spot every time (+/- 0.005 inches).
3) We've used the CNC to create a jig which has two locator pins that sit into the microdot holes, and the jig then extends over the body. Over the soundboard where the bridge is going to be, we have two drill bushings in this jig which are in the exact spot to locate the bridge on the guitar based on the two holes which are on the bottom of the bridge (see item 1 above).
4) We drill the two holes into the soundboard to locate the bridge
5) We use two 1/8" plastic dowell pins to locate the bridge and voila! - the bridge is in the correct spot both side to side and up and down.

We've estimated our accuracy to be between 0.005" and 0.01"


Bridge positioning jig

With the positioning pins for the top drilled, we then route off a section of the finish so that the bridge is glued directly wood to wood. Standard carpenters yellow glue is used to adhere the bridge. Of course there are other glues which are stronger, but it is actually better to have a weaker glue. We want to use a glue that is not too strong so that if the guitar gets dehydrated, the bridge can shear off easily. If the bridge cannot sheer, it can split the soundboard in multiple locations as the stress of a collapsing soundboard is released - In other words we have a built in "easy to repair" defense mechanism. This is quite common throughout the guitar industry.


A different form of bridge pin

 


Clamping the bridge in place

The bridge is glued into place and left to dry for 24 hours before being unclamped. The guitar is then unclamped and moved on to the next stage. (It should be noted that strings are not added for several more days, so the glue is allowed ample time to fully cure). The guitar is brought into the buffing department where the last three buffs are done to the guitar. If you recall the guitar was coarse buffed earlier, so now it is a process of getting to finer and finer buffing. We start with a hard paste compound, move the a thick liquid compound and finally to a very fine thin polish which gets the guitar to an ultra high sheen.


Final buffing a D-05

The guitar is then brought directly into the nut/saddle department where, obviously, the nut and saddle are created. We make our own bone saddles here in oxnard out of very hard non-porous bleached bone. The radius of the saddle is perfectly matched with the compound radius of the fretboard. Our -05, -09, and -10 series use Graphtech TUSQ nuts, but everything else (-50's, -60's, -11's, -30's, and Special Editions) gets a one-off bone nut made for it.

Because the saddles match the radius of the fretboard, they are very simple to install. All we have to do is adjust the height of the saddle to get the desired string height. The nut is first shaped and rounded, then fit to the guitar and the string slots filed to the correct heights.


Raymond fits the bone nut to an LSV-11

At this point in the cycle, we are trying to move the guitar through expeditiously (because it has already been final buffed) but make no mistake, the guitar is not rushed. Once the nut and saddle are complete, it is immediately handed off to the final assemblers. The final assemblers are responsible for a whole score of jobs including:

  • Stringing up of the instrument
  • Installing the Pick guard
  • Installing electronics (Routing the cavity and installing the P/U)
  • Any touch up buffing required
  • Thoroughly cleaning the inside of the body
  • Oiling the fretboard and bridge
  • Installing tuning machines
  • Installing end pins
  • ... and lastly a primary quality inspection


Adjusting the truss rod


Installing a pick-up


Tuning the guitar

The labor involved is huge. We have four people in this department whose job it is to string up a total of 12 guitars a day. That means that there is three solid hours involved in stringing up each and every guitar. After the guitar goes through its first quality check, it is cases either put in a box and shipped, or place on to an inventory rack. Our office staff works very hard to ensure that our dealers get their guitar on time and that every document we send is correct - They are also a big part of our business so we cannot leave them out of the tour...


Michelle, Jeannette, and Wendy

After a short drive in a FedEx truck, or a long flight overseas by a FedEx Airplane, the guitar arrives in the store and is ready for you to enjoy. We hope you have enjoyed the tour, check back every couple of months because we are always changing our processes and will update this page to reflect that.

The end.

 

 

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