on Display At Fender Factory in Corona, CA
Story and photographs by Greg Aragon
or those who think that great things aren't still
being made in the USA, I say check out the Fender Guitar Factory Tour
and Visitor Center in Corona, California. A must-see for any guitarist,
bassist or music-lover, this place gives guests a chance to go behind
the scenes and see how legendary Fender guitars are made from a start
The Fender Visitor Center showcases rare guitars
and offers a fascinating factory tour
The complex also boasts a world-class collection of
rare instruments on display, as well as hundreds of new ones for purchase
in the 8,600-sq-ft Visitor Center.
My recent getaway to the Fender factory and museum began
when a friend and I booked an 11:30 am tour and drove about 50 miles
southeast from Los Angeles to Corona. At the Visitor Center, we checked-in,
put on a headset and safety goggles and followed our guide outside to
the Fender Factory across the parking lot.
The huge factory, which produces more than 300 Fender
guitars and basses per-day, is arranged in sections, where various experts
work on the instrument's metal, wood, painting and electronic components,
before testing begins and the musical masterpieces are ready to shipped
around the world to their new owners.
The factory tour shows visitors how Fender guitars
are made from start to finish
Our tour began in the metal shop, where actual, real
people use large lathes to shape and cut metal pieces and bars to go
on the guitars. We then strolled over to the wood working section, where
giant computerized machines precisely cut giant chunks of ash or alder
wood into beautiful curved guitar bodies. Near here, machines also cut
strong rosewood and maple into those gorgeous guitar necks that Fender
is so famous for.
After the wood is cut, it moves to the sanding area,
where expert craftsmen sand the bodies and necks to perfection. Our
guide told us that the sanders must train more than a year before they
master the delicate and precise process.
Expert craftsmen sand and shape chunks of maple
and rosewood into classic guitars
Once the guitars are sanded, they are sent to the paint
department, where they get treated to signature Fender paint jobs, such
as Butterscotch blond, Sunburst, Candy Cola, Sea Foam Green, and many
more. With the wood painted and polished, the bodies and necks are put
together and the instruments are hung high above on a conveyor belt
near the ceiling where they dry.
After drying, the guitars are ready to be thoroughly
tested by Fender technicians. And once they pass inspection, the instruments
ready to be sold to the public.
At the end of the tour, our guide showed us the "Dream
Factory" the world-famous Fender Custom Shop, where some of the
best guitars in the world are built for some of the biggest names in
music. Guitars in the custom shop are built by hand by the best of the
best guitar builders in the industry and when complete, they fetch roughly
between $4,500 and $12,000.
The Fender factory produces over 300 American-made
guitars per day
During the tour, our guide let me touch a new, 1952
Reissue Telecaster right off the assembly line and it was love at first
sight. With a beautiful butterscotch blond paint job, a fat baseball
bat type neck, and a classic, curved body that screamed "rock and
roll," the guitar sent musical lightning bolts through my fingers
and into my soul. This is the type of guitar used by the likes of Merle
Haggard, Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, Mike Campbell from Tom
Petty and The Hearbreakers, and countless other famous and not-so-famous
rockers. I knew I had to have one.
After taking the tour and seeing what goes into making
these musical works of art, I have a better appreciation for the value
of these classic instruments and I can see why they are not cheap to
purchase. This is American craftsmanship at its finest and there is
a lot of love, history and hard work that go into every American made
Fender that comes out of the Corona factory.
Leo Fender started his electric guitar company in
the 1940s and changed
When the tour was over we went back to the 8,000 sq-ft
Visitor Center and explored the showroom, which boasts hundreds of instruments,
amplifiers, photos, historical artifacts, and interactive displays related
to the Fender brand, which began in 1946 and literally changed music.
Some of the instruments on display at the Visitor Center
include Fender Stratocaster guitars owned by Jimi Hendix, Eric Clapton
and Stevie Ray Vaughan, as well as other instruments played by Merle
Haggard, Buck Owens and Kurt Cobain. There is also a hand-crafted guitar
covered in jewels that is worth an estimated $1 million!
The Fender Visitor Center is full of rare guitars
including, one worth an
estimated $1 million
The center also offers shopping for apparel, accessories,
collectibles and other items in the retail shop, and walls full of instruments
for purchase. There is even a big room where new instruments can be
played. It was in this room that I got to actually play the aforementioned
1952 Reissue Telecaster. It felt like warm butter in my hands and played
like magic. I knew I was holding my early Christmas present.
The Visitor Center is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday
and Friday and is free admission. Tours begin at 10am and 11:30 am and
cost $10 for adults. For more information, call 951.898.4040 or visit: