Production Line. So What?

The Fender Broadcaster—the instrument that would become the Telecaster—began production in 1950. And it was great, wasn't it? What guitarist doesn't dream of owning a 1950 Broadcaster? I'd love one. Wouldn't you?

So where am I going with this?

Well, that vintage Broadcaster I (any possibly you) have been dreaming about was made on an assembly line in a metal shed with no toilets*.

These highly coveted instruments were made in Leo Fender's premises on Pomona Avenue, Fullerton, in what was described as "two plain steel buildings". The instrument was designed, from the ground up, to be a factory product. It was intended to be built on a production line with as little fuss as possible. 

I often find myself thinking about the perceptions people have around guitar manufacture. There's a sense of snobbery about guitars made in a certain way, or manufactured in a certain place, that's not always warranted. 

Here's the thing (and I'm NOT just talking about Fender here): Pretty much all of those classic solid body guitars from the last sixty years were not lovingly hand-crafted by a kindly looking artisan wearing half-moon glasses. Those classic guitars came off a production line. 

There will certainly have been 'hand-tooling' involved in its manufacture (even the most automated, CNC-driven, factories will have hands-on) but it went from one station to the next and was worked on by a number of skilled workers in its travels through the factory. 

Yes, factory. Not a sunny workshop on a hillside outside Seville where a master luthier builds six guitars a year, just as he's done since he apprenticed there fifty years ago. Nope. A factory, where hundreds of workers make hundreds of guitars every single day. 

And there's nothing wrong with that. 

Not a thing. 

The fact that an instrument comes off a production line isn't a problem. The fact it comes off that line with a particular name on the headstock doesn't absolutely speak to its *quality*. The fact that the production line is in a particular part of the world, does not necessarily mean it's better or worse. I've played a *lot* of guitars over the years. I've played guitars costing a hundred bucks that felt fantastic and I didn't want to put down. I've also played guitars worth ten grand that I'd think hard about paying a hundred bucks for. 

Any manufacturing process, and in particular a very busy production line depends massively on its quality control. When poor quality stuff is allowed to leave the factory, the consumer suffers and the brand suffers (although, sometimes it seems like some brands are bullet-proof). 

Back in those steel buildings in Fullerton, in the '50s, Leo Fender hired a guy called Forrest White to help manage production. White implemented an incentive scheme and allowed any line worker to reject a product from the previous stage if it wasn't perfect. Granted, this may have been easier in an early Fender factory than a current one, churning thousands of guitars a week but, I see evidence of good quality control in a lot of manufacturers these days (and most are improving every year, all around the world). As an aside, I see too much evidence of the opposite in a couple of brands that really ought to know better.

What's my point with all this rambling?

Don't take things at face value, push away any preconceived ideas you may have, and don't fall prey to other people's snobbishness. Your guitar probably came off a production line. Don't stress too much about that or about where the line is located or whose name is on the factory gate. Squier or Fender, Epiphone or Gibson, USA, China, Mexico, blah, blah, blah. Check the specs for what you want, try lots of instruments with an open mind, and you just might find your next guitar is something you wouldn't have expected. 

*According to *The Fender Book* by Tony Bacon and Paul Day, Fender workers had to cross the railroad tracks to use the toilets in the nearby Santa-Fe depot. A toilet was installed after one worker got too old to dodge trains when he wanted to take a whiz.