So a recent holiday and USA road trip just happened to swing by the Fender visitor centre in Corona, California. I took the tour of the facility that was run by a fantastic guide, David Brown. Fender offer tours a few days a week, there are two tours in the morning, none in the afternoon. If you are thinking about it doing it, arrive early. As you enter the visitor centre there is a clipboard where you have to put your name down for the next tour. From their website I had the impression that tours were for a maximum of 10, but there were 25 on our tour! You also need to make sure you have the correct footwear, as they won’t let you in without closed toe shoes.


At the visitor centre itself there is plenty to see. As you walk in there is a corridor full of replicas of famous players’ Fender models. After this you walk into a large room which includes a shop and then displays that again are our centred around how particular models are linked to certain players eg. Cobain’s Mustang and Springsteen’s Telecaster. Around the wall are examples of Fender guitars which you can have a go on or simply admire.


There are then two rooms off the main hall. One is a small workshop with one man working, I think this is a repair shop. In here one interesting thing is a collection of the main typed of Fender necks and bodies/finishes.



The next room, the ‘Jam Room’ is a collection of guitars and amps to try out. Some players might be disappointed to find that there isn’t one of each model.  There are about 15 guitars and basses, mainly strats and teles. There was only one mustang and then a starcaster. Amp wise they had a good selection, black face, silver face, the hot rod series and bass amps.


Amp wise it was a great chance to compare different models. Here I am trying a candy apple tele through a princeton.

The tour begins with a short walk through the car park over to the main factory. You are provided with an audio headset, make sure yours is fully charged for the tour.  Once in the factory you see the guitar making process from start to finish. The first port of call is the metal work, where jacks, bridges and the like are made. Here some of the machines that are used are date back to 1946. It was pretty cool to think how the same tooling would be used to make these parts, whether they are for a world famous guitar player or a bedroom guitarist. Interestingly, they said the Mexican guitars use USA metal parts as this is a more cost effective way rather than buying new tooling for the other factory.


The next stage was bodies and necks. David showed us some examples of how bodies are often two pieces of wood and how they try and match the grain. Some of these were stunning as you really couldn’t see any kind of join.



Unfortunately we were unable to see guitars getting sprayed, but one thing I never knew was how they dried guitars by hanging them from the ceiling. It is pretty strange glancing up to see hundreds of strats and telecasters above your head! The pickup assembly area is also here where you can see lots of staff carefully winding pickups.


A short walk then takes you into the area where guitars are completed. At this point the guitar has been sprayed the neck is attached to the body, all that is left to do is attach the pick ups, complete the electrics, attache the pick guard and then string up and set up the guitar. I was surprised by that there wasn’t as many staff as I thought there would be, considering that they make around 350 guitars a day. Each staff member is working on one guitar and can be seen adjusting it and then playing it to check. The guitars get played through what looked like a Fender mustang ii amp.



Then comes the best bit, the area where finished guitars await being sent off around the world. You are confronted with a sea of guitars and basses of all kinds of finishes. At this point David said you could come back later in the day to buy what Fender call a ‘freshie’ a guitar straight off the factory floor, more on this later!

The final part of the tour is the hallowed custom shop. The custom shop is a very small area, sadly you aren’t actually allowed in, but you do get do gawp at the entrance and watch them working while David displays some of their current projects. He wouldn’t go into details about how they relic guitars, but he did talk about some of special guitars currently being made in there and the difference between team built and master built guitars.


The tour lasted about over an hour and was well worth the 10 dollars. David was a fanatic guide, very enthusiastic and quite a character.  His role is to run the visitor centre. I went back later that day and picked out a guitar from the factory floor. It was an incredible guitar buying experience. He takes you back over there and on the walk over was trying to help me narrow down what to look at. I just wanted a guitar! But had in mind either a rosewood Tele, a semi hollow Tele or a jazzmaster. I firstly looked at the Jazzmasters and couldn’t find one that really attracted me. After trying a few Teles David said there were a few Rosewood neck ones just nearing completion. Immediately just looking at it, I knew this was the one. I was then able to select the one I wanted prior to it even being completed! I then watched the last 30 minutes of it’s journey down the line.  Below is my sea foam green tele!


If you are in California, this is a must visit place. You get to learn a lot about how the guitars are made and now I have got my guitar home safely it will be a day I will never forget. David did say there are changes ahead for the visitor centre. He had just cleared the Squire section as nobody really paid that much attention to it and people just wanted to see the US made stuff. It may be moved to a smaller facility as the minute there is a lot of open space they aren’t using. Either way, I am sure it will still be well worth visiting.  I’ll leave you with one final image, a Johnny Marr signature guitar that didn’t pass quality control!



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