I went to work for Schecter Guitar Research in early 1978. The 'bosses' were Hershel Blankenship, Shel Horlick and Gene Rushall. Dave Schecter was obviously the namesake of the company, and the one guy who knew how to do everything, but Dave didn't really give orders. Gene Rushall was the real task master, he'd run around to the various shops, look at production rates, etc. Hershel Blankenship was the sales & marketing mastermind.
Gene Rushall - Hershal Blankenship
Dave actually lived in his own shop next to all the other Schecter Van Nuys shops. Here is a satellite view of the area , with the Schecter occupied buildings outlined in Red. The upper right was the warehouse and sales/administration offices. The lower buildings were the production shops, from left to right, wood, metal, electronics, Dave's shop, guitar assembly shop.
Dave's shop was a nice machine shop, drill press, Bridgeport mill, a lathe. He made all the jigs, dies, machines, whatever was necessary to build his replacement parts. He had a small little bedroom and kitchen cordoned off with blankets, it was pretty cozy, I would of loved a home like that.
I started by putting together and soldering the assemblies. The only job qualification I had was that I could solder. In reality I got the job via connections. My friend Chris Wooley (CA based wedding singer now) was managing the electronics shop and hired me on.
I soon started tricking out my production station, nicely labeling parts bins, built a small jig, etc. After a week or so Gene stared to notice what I was doing, and pretty soon I was promoted to managing the electronics shop and metal shop. Chris became the purchasing agent. He spent years driving to pickup and drop off parts and supplies to keep Schecter running.
In addition to managing to production of everything except wood, I was chosen to assist Dave with new projects. I helped him build two new improved coil winding machines, and I help him build out new shop space as we grew. Dave and I built out what was the first custom guitar shop, (install power mostly)
The electronics shop was basically pickups, assemblies and some of the metal stuff (putting together bridges for example). There were two four spindle coil winders, a station for putting brass grommets in the bobbins, a station for pressing the magnets, the wax bath station and the magnatizer station. The pickups were taken into the wood shop to have their tops smoothed.
Mike Moran at the pickup winder, Lupe working on the Z Plus - molds in foreground
The guys that wound pickups (Tavo Fernandez and Mike Moran) were at the top of the pay scale, it was a delicate job. Next on the pay scale, but the true heroes of Van Nuys Schecter, were the guys in the metal shop.
The metal shop was a hell hole. It was the smallest of all the shops, the front 1/5th of the shop was a small room with the de-greaser, a tank with noxious chemicals to clean the buffing compound off the polished brass. The rest of the shop held three large dual buffing machines. Along the back wall were an array of monster fans to blow all the crap out.
Al Weiss, Bartolo Martinez
When I arrived at Schecter, everything was already up and running as a replacement parts factory. There were three major things that happened while I was there:
- Black Chrome
- Z Plus pickup and Les Paul Assemblies
- The building of guitars
It really started with the hire of Tom Anderson. Before Tom the wood shop was run by Larry Ludowitz (last I saw him he flew a private Jet for Roy Disney). Larry may have played a bit of guitar, but he didn't know a lot about guitars, he was just very good with the router and manhandling wood to cut out bodies and necks. Bodies were easy compared to necks when it came to the work done after the basic blank was cut. Necks were always in short supply.
Tom was clearly really into wood and guitars and Larry was into fun and rowdiness and competing with the metal shop (me) over air compressor capacity. Tom sort of took over the wood shop, but in a non-agressive 'quality control' kind of way, Larry still was on the hook for actual production numbers. Tom became responsible for the early quality of Van Nuys Schecter bodies and necks.
Now I'm not sure the motivation for the first factory assembled guitars. I think on the one hand it was an obvious thing to do, but the short term motivation was probably to photograph them for inclusion in the 1979 catalog as a way to show what you can do with Schecter parts.
The next thing I know, Schecter is hiring two guys from Memphis , Tommy Stinson and Tom Keckler (the Memphis Toms we called them). They were expert guitar technicians, and they were hired to crank out complete Schecter guitars.
Tom Anderson was their liaison to the factory floor, the wood shop mostly. The Memphis Toms focused on proper setup and play. Tom Anderson was more into the exotic woods, the look of neck body wood combos, etc. After about 1 year, the Memphis Toms had learned how the Schecter factory worked, and Tom Anderson learned a lot about setup from the Memphis Toms, and all three pretty much became the custom guitar shop. Tom still had 'parts production' responsibilities, but spent a lot of time dealing with the other two Toms building guitars.
Tom Keckler - Tom Anderson Tommy Stinson - Hershel Blankenship