Here's the letter they sent to dealers today:
Dear G&L dealer,
In recent years, many makers of fine hand-crafted goods have come to the realization that some modern production techniques can be blended with their time-honored traditions of old-world hand craftsmanship. For example, legendary automobile makers such as Bentley, Ferrari, Rolls Royce and Aston Martin have each successfully blended old-world craftsmanship with new-world production technology. The goal is always to produce even better quality products by letting machines do some of the mid-level processing work, allowing the crafts-people more time to use their talents in ways that add more value to the product.
In the world of electric guitars, G&L has been blessed with the traditions and methods taught to us by our founder, Leo Fender. Leo strongly believed in hand-craftsmanship, particularly for premium musical instruments. At the same time, Leo was intrigued by modern approaches to doing things, and he had great admiration for such approaches where the product was honestly better for it. As G&L approached this year, our 25th anniversary, we had been carefully studying what sort of modern methods may be appropriate for G&L, methods which would allow the finished product to remain of superb quality and individuality. Eventually, we came to the conclusion that that the time is right for some mid-level processing in our woodshop to be done by a brand-new, high-end Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) machine rather than by manually-fed pin-router. Naturally, the work performed by the machine would be carefully inspected by our woodshop team.
Having made the decision, G&L recently took delivery of two compact CNC machines of the kind typically used for machining metal parts to aerospace tolerances. These machines are capable of amazing detail and have far tighter tolerances than conventional CNC-controlled wood-milling machines optimized for high-speed, mass-production applications requiring less strict tolerances, such as conventional furniture construction. The fact is, our machines are capable of infinitely more than we can visualize now, but our team decided that if were going to allow any CNC machines, they had better be the best. Whats more, we anticipate that we will begin producing some of our metal parts on these machines rather than by outside contractors as weve always done, giving us greater control over quality.
Our goal in employing these machines is to free our craftsmen from some of the mid-level processes in the woodshop: use of a band saw to rough cut body and neck blanks, and the use of pin-routers and templates to cut the body outline, neck pocket, pickup, bridge and control cavities. Neither of these procedures contributes the hand craftsmanship evident in every G&L, and with the machines performing this work, our craftsmen have more time to devote to both the early and late stages of wood-shop production. The later stages, in particular, are where the benefits of the hand-craftsmanship in G&L instruments become appreciable to the musician, in terms of sculpted shapes and feel. The early stages include wood selection for bodies, tops, necks, fingerboards and preparation of body and neck blanks via our traditional, handwork-intensive means.
Heres how G&Ls use of machines is different: The CNC machines will be employed by our wood shop craftsmen solely for mid-level processes. The deep and complex contours of the bodies will still be shaped free-hand as they are today. The rear profile of each neck, and the way that profile gracefully flows into the headstock, will continue to be shaped by hand by our most skilled woodshop craftsmen. In other words, the hand-craftsmanship that musicians treasure will remain in the hands of our dedicated craftsmen.
This is not something that will happen overnight, however, as the integration of the machines will likely take several months. There is a lot of programming code yet to be written and even more testing to be performed. To give you an idea, right now we are working on our first operation using the machine: routing the twin voice-chambers of a semi-hollow body blank. Fortunately, we have one of the most experienced men in the world to help us, a man who is both a spectacular luthier with nearly three decades of electric guitar building experience behind him, and a pioneer in the engineering, programming and operation of compact, aerospace-grade CNC machines in custom shop guitar building.
We realize that most of you already realize that manually-fed pin-routers, guided by a template, are not a component of the hand-craftsmanship in our woodshop anyway. And, in fact, the pin-routers are an elementary form of mechanization, though an operator must move the template-mounted wood around on the table rather than the table automatically moving with the item fixed to it. But, as you know, G&L resisted the use of any form of CNC work for many years because we want the skill and individuality of our craftsmen to be clearly communicated through the touch, feel and tone of every G&L made in our Fender Avenue facility, just as Leo would have wanted. Though weve gone through years of debate and exploration, we have found the right direction for our woodshop: Leave the hand-craftsmanship unchanged, and allow machine-work be done entirely by a machine, rather than require our craftsmen to manually feed the wood during some operations.
Each and every one of us sends our thanks and appreciation to you for your support of G&L.
VP Sales and Marketing