We build all of our Custom Shop and Semi-Custom instruments from scratch and on demand - therefore, Custom Shop and Semi-Custom orders are fulfilled in the order in which they were received. These times can vary due to demand and the custom options you choose. Our production/assemble time frame: 20 - 25 working days since our professional Control Team and Supervisor Engineer will ensure that your ordered guitar is top notch considering the fact that this guitar is intricate to assemble and they check very carefully every detail such as the finish, fret work, pickups, strings. And also, they will test the sound quality. We do not rush up the process of manufacturing your guitar since we would like to deliver to you best quality performance. The Top Guitars bodies, necks and fingerboards are all handcrafted from premium tone woods, Wilkinson parts, electronics and hardware are imported from Japan and South Korea.
This is our procedure for the CNC:
The guitar body comes out of the CNC machine cut to its rough shape, and covered in tool path marks and what we refer to as “tear out” — little marks on the body that need to be sanded out. This is where the body sanding team comes into play.
A supervisor will inspect the body for mineral or cracks in the wood, things that would typically require the body to be destroyed. If the body passes its inspection out of the CNC process, it is put into racks where the bodies will be distributed to our body sanding team. At any given time, we have about 30-40 guitar bodies in queue waiting to be sanded. This insures that we always have some instruments ready to be worked on.
As you know, there are many different styles of body shapes and models, and each one needs to be handled a bit differently. The more veteran sanders on the team will often handle models like the Solid Body Wood, Hollowbody II, Santana, and other quilted-top models (which require a bit more finesse). The newer sanders on the team usually work on the flame-top guitars. If customers requires a specific body shape and carve then it will incur additional charges depending on the body shape and style.
Typically, each employee on the team is responsible for 8 guitars a day and on average each guitar takes about 1 hour to sand. Newer employees in their first 3-9 months are often set with a goal of only 4 guitars a day so they are able to spend more time with each guitar and master the process. On average, it takes 9 months for a sander to get to the point where they can sand all types of models as well as 8 per day.
The body team uses varying grits of sandpaper to sand our guitars. Because each guitar needs to be handled and sanded differently, the grits used fall under the discretion of the employees. Typically though, they start with the lowest grit (80), and then move up to 150, 220, and 280. 80 grit is only used on the maple tops which tend to have more tooling marks and tear out from the CNC machines. The mahogany back and sides are started with 150 grit because of the softness of the wood.
A number of tools are used to sand the guitars with fine detail. We use compressed air powered sanders that have dual action movement, meaning they spin as well as move in an elliptical pattern at the same time. We also use upright handheld drills for the smaller carves on the body like the knob contours.
The benches have an incredible amount of light which helps employees see the small details in the wood that need attention. Ultimately, the hands and eyes of our well-trained employees are the key to our quality.
Sometimes in manufacturing things go wrong, an area of the body may be over sanded, or a crack in the wood might develop. As soon as this happens, the guitar is carefully inspected and if it doesn’t meet our standards of quality we destroy it. It’s sad to see this happen, but we want our guitars to be the best they can be and live a long life in our customer’s hands. Fortunately, our cut up rate is less than 5%.
Painting Process and Procedure:
In the paint shop, guitars with various coatings of lacquer and pigment travel along a conveyor attached to the ceiling, like the system a dry cleaner uses to juggle clothes, but way sexier given the instruments' sleek curves and alluring colors. And at the end of the line literally hundreds of guitars hang, each one drying overnight next to an electrostatic rod that induces lacquer to better adhere.
We have to work patiently and carefully, covering each guitar just right so the paint goes on smooth and even. The key is, through every step of applying the two coats of paint and six coats of lacquer on every guitar, you've got to take pride in what you're doing.
The guitar spray booth gives the instruments a positive electrostatic charge and the paint has a negative charge, which makes it adhere to every part of the instrument. Before the guitars are painted all the parts that won't get a coating, like fingerboards, are taped over to preserve their integrity.
If a guitar that comes through the paint shop has a problem, it's up to the department's quality control team to find it and correct it.
The binding, which is sprayed over with paint and lacquer and then restored to its original look by an eagle-eyed crew of scrapers. The scrapers take the guitars in hand and employ sharp blades they make themselves. Those blades are wielded with the dexterity of sculptors as the scrapers peel the layers of paint off the bindings and the nuts.
"Peeling" makes the process sound less artful than it really is. Most of the time a scraper can remove the paint from a guitar's body and neck binding with a few long, deft, flowing slides of the blade. It's truly impressive to witness the steadiness and confidence on display in this exacting process.
Another post-lacquering step is scuff sanding. That's essentially a rubdown by hand for each guitar that takes place in a small space near the entrance to the paint shop, where Brad Brown and other scuff sanders man their stations with sandpaper and hand tools.
After a final coat of lacquer the guitars dry for four or five days. Then they're ready for the last few processes that will make them player-ready. Lacquer, paint or wood filler that may have gotten onto the frets or fingerboard is removed by delicate sanding. The frets are polished and the fingerboard oiled. And then it's time for buffing to get their distinctive, deep shine.
Each guitar gets three different coats of polish. There's a red compound that smoothes the surface, a yellow compound that brings out a little bit of a shine, and a white polish that really brings out the finish's luster. And the only way to do that is develop an eye for it. You need to buff out any fingerprint smudges, and just work that surface to the consistency of glass.
After painting process, we will proceed with the installation of the hardware and parts of the guitar.
Hardware and Parts Installation:
This process is also entirely done by hand. A guitar arrives at the beginning of the department's roller belt assembly line, and by the time it reaches the end it has gone past a clutch of technicians who've reamed out the tuning peg holes and inserted and attached the tuning assembly, done all the soldering inside the body cavity that's required to connect the electronics, placed the pickguards, strung and set up the guitar, and attached the back plate and truss rod cover. The guitars go from the final assembly line to the benches at the finishing station, where highly skilled employees, called finishers, who are both players and experts on guitar building get their hands on every ax.
Forwarded to Quality Inspection and Approval by the Government of China:
Your ordered guitar will be check to ensure it passed the quality inspection by the China Government Customs and the 10 points guitar evaluation. Time Frame: 7-25 working days. Expect delays during holiday season.
We put your new instrument through the demanding 10-point inspection below:
Estimated: 3-5 days
Fit & Finish. We visually check your instrument for any scratches, dings, finish flaws or other aesthetic imperfections. We also pay attention to the neck, bridge, tuners and any other part of the guitar that could be a loose or incorrect fit.
Action. We ship our guitars with a target action of 3/32" at the Bass E, 12th fret. Everyone is different. There is no such thing as one perfect setup... it depends on what you want the guitar to feel like.
Buzzes. Nothing drives me nuts more than a buzz. If there's a loose tuner bushing, rattling truss rod or any other similar symptom, we'll find it & fix it.
Neck & Frets. We inspect the neck angle so that your guitar has the appropriate amount of saddle height and a good break angle. If there are any loose or high frets, we will address this problem too.
Relief. Along with the action, neck relief can really make a difference in a guitar's playability. Too little and you can get fret buzz & poor volume. Too much, and your guitar can be uncomfortable, especially in the middle of the neck.
Intonation. Your new guitar should play in tune all the way up the neck. We inspect and adjust the intonation to ensure that you don't have any tuning problems higher up, with and without a capo.
Electronics. If your guitar comes with a pickup system (either from the factory or aftermarket) we will test it before it ships. Poor sound, uneven string balance, and just plain component failure is all checked & corrected so you don't have to fool around with it. If your guitar's system requires a battery inside the guitar, we may remove it prior to shipping.
Strings. We guarantee your guitar will ship with a fresh set of the factory recommended strings on it.
Case integrity. Every once in a while we might find a guitar case with a bad latch or other imperfection. It's our job to correct the bad case.
Test drive! After we complete the above tasks, it's our duty to play your guitar. There's just no substitute ... your guitar must be played to ensure that everything is in tip-top shape.
Photos and Video will be taken prior to shipment:
It is also a part of a standard protocol of the Company to take pictures of the guitar for documentation prior to shipment to ensure satisfaction and for security purposes to make sure the guitar is in perfect and immaculate condition.
We post the photos of our finished custom guitars in our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thetopguitarscompany
We packed all of our guitars with a styrofoam box for orders with or without hard case with Labelled Fragile Sticker in order to fully secured our packages during shipment, here is the sample of our packaging: http://thetopguitars.com/packaging.html
And also, all of our packages are insured. Tracking number will be provided.
Dr. E C Fulcher
"I have purchased 15 personalized guitars from the top guitar custom shop. All the guitars have met or exceeded my expectations. Great workmanship and quality work. An exceptional group of people to work with. They are ready to answer your questions or concerns. The one time i had a concern about a guitar they responded immediately and handled the situation more than i expected. I highly recommend this company!" Dr E C Fulcher Jr - Abingdon, Maryland USA.
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