Friday, February 23, 2018

Taylor Guitar Factory Tour – El Cajon, California

December 9, 2015 by  
Filed under Featured, Random Notes

Taylor Guitar Tour

I’ve been a fan of Taylor guitars since the mid-80s.  I remembered playing a Taylor for the first time in the mid 1980s at a music store that sold both records and musical instruments in the French Quarter in Tyler, Texas. There is a FedEx/Kinkos location there today.  If you remember the store name please type it in the comments below.  The guitar was a small body rosewood and spruce model and had an unusually big sound and an unusually thin playable neck.  The guitar was like brand new and was traded-in for another guitar.  The store manager said the Taylor guitars were well made. I played it for a LONG time in the store.  In the pre-internet days of research, it took a few days to find out that Taylor guitars were investment quality guitars.  Within that few days however … it was sold.

A few years later a Tyler musical friend Perry Coleman (who now does session work in Nashville) let me play his maple Taylor dreadnaught.  I was hooked.  It took me no time to acquire a maple Taylor 615 at the next Arlington Guitar show.  It is a blond jumbo guitar that is seen below.  It isn’t fancy, just an incredibly well balance guitar with great highs, mids and bass.  It is serial number 12893 built in 1991.


About a year later at the Dallas Guitar Show I acquired a Taylor 12-string rosewood 855 jumbo.  It has gold tuners and a very unusual mustache bridge.  The mustache 855 is pretty rare.  The only pro I have seen play an 855 12-string with the same bridge is Neil Young, who was one of the early adopters of Taylor guitars. Mine is serial number 4110 from 1986.


Taylor Guitar Co. publishes a magazine Wood & Steel each month with the objective of causing innocent man and women to lust over the pictures of beautiful Taylor guitars.  It also offers some interesting commentary and tips by founders Robert Taylor and Kurt Listug and other contributors.  So last weekend when I had the opportunity to join my wife Teresa in San Diego, CA it finally gave me the opportunity to see Taylor guitars being built.  It helped greatly that one of Teresa’s publishing company friends, Bob Parish, lives in the El Cajon / San Diego area, owns a few Taylor guitars, has been to the plant several times and knows a few of the folks working there!

I love building things and seeing them being built.  I have been lucky to have managed a few construction projects that house automated manufacturing processes.  Automaton fascinates me.  There are two words that describe Taylor guitars, innovation and quality.

Here are a few of the Taylor guitar innovations. The two wheels hold 36 book-matched backs being glued at the center joint.  This process would otherwise take up about a half acre of tabletop surface.

Taylor Guitar Tour 01

The Taylor headstock logo that looks like mother of pearl, isn’t.  It is cut from a sheet of stock with a laser.  It looks like some type of synthetic material.  The laser cutter runs day and night.

Taylor Guitar Tour 02

The necks are cut using computer controlled CNC machines that cut eight necks at a time!  They achieve a level of quality BECAUSE no human hands have to do the fabrication.  Hand made is only better when it produces a better end product.

Taylor Guitar Tour 2a1

Necks continue in the finishing process.

Taylor Guitar Tour 04

And are stacked.

Taylor Guitar Tour 03

Detailed work was being done by a few ladies, such as gluing the bracing to the tops, then placing them in a vacuum drawer to adhere.

Taylor Guitar Tour 05

Women also inserted frets into the fretboards.

Taylor Guitar Tour 08

The side-bending area was mainly not being used on the Friday afternoon of our tour.

Taylor Guitar Tour 06

Those crews were “Ahead of the Curve”  (ha ha) and were found playing ping pong in a nearby room in the plant.  Seriously!


Fortunately there was a large supply of sides and backs.

Taylor Guitar Tour 10

Taylor’s neck design is one of the greatest innovation to the guitar building world.  It uses a series of shims to trim the neck to the perfect angle.

Taylor Guitar Tour 09b

There was some hand finishing work done near the end of the production line.  Here and luthier hand-planes the binding on a guitar body.

Taylor Guitar Tour 09

After a few strings are attached …

Taylor Guitar Tour 11

… they are being prepared to make some lucky guitar players very, very happy!

Taylor Guitar Tour 12

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