Orpheum Production in New Hartford

fronobulax

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<Fronobulax enters, nods at the audience and mounts The Soapbox>

I am seeing statements in other threads concerning Orpheum production, and by implication, operations at New Hartford, that I believe are incorrect. However I don't feel like charging in, telling folks they are wrong, questioning sources and then finding out (as so often happens) that the real issue is my memory combined with the imprecision of the English language sprinkled with an assumption that things never change.

Based on my attendance at LMG I, II and III and hearing Ren talk about the Orpheum at LMG III I believe that the creation of an Orpheum was not as "special" as others claimed. In particular: Guild purchased wood, stored it and assigned in internal grades to it. All the wood was aged/dried in the same place with managed temperature and humidity. Orpheum wood was selected the same as any other wood. Someone went into the storage area with an idea of what kind of wood they wanted, what grade they were going to use (based upon the expected price point) and picked the "best" of what was there.

Orpehums were built on the regular production line using the same equipment as regular production instruments. Orpheum parts may have gotten extra attention but it was the same people using the same equipment. In the same way there may have been more, or closer inspections but the build process was fundamentally the same.

I saw no evidence that "top tapping" was a major part of the Guild production process.

What made the Orpheum special was the design and not the build process.

Things may have changed since LMG III so what I say may have been true then but was not true a year later.

People may have assumed that Guild worked like everyone else. For example, top tapping was a big part of the process making a Collins guitar. Some companies do assign a single person to oversee the production of a single instrument, when that instrument is 'custom'. But neither of these were being done in New Hartford.

People away from the factory don't always get the story right. My dealer had been to New Hartford and we compared notes. He then told me all the claims that the sales rep had made about what happens in the factory and we decided that the sales rep had no idea how things were done. It was not clear whether the sales rep was clueless or was making claims needed to sell guitars but the rep was definitely not a reliable source for what was happening in New Hartford.

I am prepared to be corrected on any of the above points although if the source had not personally observed the process I may remain unconvinced. So if the source is a dealer then we can agree to disagree or delve deeper.

I do know that many dealers did travel to New Hartford and hand pick the instruments they added to their stock. But they were picking from already completed instruments and not in anyway interacting with or specifying production.

I understand that I might be extrapolating concerning the Orpheum. But the 60th Anniversary was in production at LMG III and I did talk to people on the factory floor about it and they told me that the process was pretty much the same as for a F30 Traditional - same steps, same machines and so on. What differed was the details - same neck, same frets but different inlays - and the fact that they had a little extra time to make sure everything on the 60th was as close to perfect as they could manage at their station. It's an opinion, not a fact, but I don't see any logic to claiming the Orpheum is more special during production than a 60th.

<Fronobulax observes the audience has diminished to a handful and many former listeners are inspecting tomatoes at a nearby produce stand, nods and dismounts The Soapbox>

 

Opsimath

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Sounds reasonable to me. I sat through the entire presentation, did not wander to the nearby produce stand, and report that what I learned in this seminar seems to have merit.

But I am nowhere close to being any type of authority on anything guitar, therefore defer to those who are, you being included in my list of authorities.

(There, does this make up for mentioning "that" song? I told my kid I had a moderator mad at me, all caps and three exclamation points - he was impressed.)

I await input from other authorities. The learning process is such fun!
 

merlin6666

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Does this mean that the "Custom Shop" was not an actual physical entity where master luthiers would build the top instruments but more of a virtual space occupied by marketing gurus?
 

Opsimath

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Does this mean that the "Custom Shop" was not an actual physical entity where master luthiers would build the top instruments but more of a virtual space occupied by marketing gurus?
Kind of bursts the bubble, doesn't it?

Regardless of who, what, when, where, how, and why, the Guild staff still designed and assembled incredible guitars. If they hadn't we wouldn't be here.
 
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jeffcoop

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Does this mean that the "Custom Shop" was not an actual physical entity where master luthiers would build the top instruments but more of a virtual space occupied by marketing gurus?
Pretty much. There was no physical "Custom Shop" to be seen at LMG IV--and I do recall seeing Orpheums on the tour.
 

dapmdave

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I love my Orpheum but I think it's exceptional qualities come from Ren Ferguson's exceptional design skills.

When I was at LMG IV I asked one of the higher-up guys there (don't recall the name) about the "Custom Shop". Like where is it, and is there anything special going on there. I got a bit of "Homina Homina" and nothing of substance. I think it's mostly marketing B.S.

 

fronobulax

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Does this mean that the "Custom Shop" was not an actual physical entity where master luthiers would build the top instruments but more of a virtual space occupied by marketing gurus?
I'm going to say Yes. It is incorrect to compare the New Hartford "custom shop" to either the Guild's Nashville Custom Shop or the custom shops of other builders. That said, my recollection is Collins offered custom guitars but what made them custom is that they were assembled from parts built on the regular production line. I recall that each custom instrument had a hang tag that specified what the customer had requested and there was an employee who had the job of inspecting the results at the end of one stage and taking the parts to the next step and making sure that everything was as specified.

Part of the issue is the various meanings implied by "custom shop". I can go to a Burger King (in the USA) and order a customized hamburger, but in the end I only get a hamburger and only with the ingredients they already have at hand. That is in contrast to a high end restaurant where, for enough money, the chef will procure and prepare the cut of beef I specify with the sides I ask for.
 

Neal

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One significant difference in the build process was the use of hot hide glue on the Orpheums, which must have required a significant deviation from standard production during the building process. Every glue joint on each Orpheum was supposed to have been made using hide glue (every brace, assembly of the body, attachment of the neck and bridge, all of the purfling, rosette and binding).

Someone at each station would have had to stop, put down the titebond, heated up a batch of hide glue, and used it instead. And my understanding of how tricky hide glue is to use would suggest that a special production process must have been in place for the Orpheums during assembly.

I could be totally wrong. Just thinking out loud.
 

fronobulax

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I should edit the previous, but postCount++ for the win.

There was no location in New Hartford called the custom shop. Before Ren was there Guild management discussed their desire to set up a way to accept custom orders but for a factory in the first few years of operation the logistics of doing so were difficult and a distraction from the more immediate goal of making the best darn guitars they could at a cost that would let them make money. The use of the phrase "custom shop" evolved to "Custom Shop" and I think the latter was a key word for "Ren had something to do with this". I am more prepared to be wrong about this than usual but my recollection is the first time Guild said "Custom Shop" was with the 60th Anniversary and that was the first instrument that Ren made any significant contributions to. I think when they talked about the American Patriarch and GSR they tended to focus on "limited numbers" and never suggested a different manufacturing process.
 

txbumper57

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Here is a video for folks from 2013 in the Factory with Ren Ferguson. It is a long video that takes you through a lot of the aspects of what they did there building guitars. You will see everything for Orpheums to Artist Awards to Traditional Series Guitars to Doyle Dykes Models being built on the same line. Really interesting processes. I watched this video before I purchased my First Orpheum. I never had the Idea that they were built in a separate "Custom Shop", just that their design was considered "Custom Shop" due to Ren's involvement and standards.

 
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fronobulax

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One significant difference in the build process was the use of hot hide glue on the Orpheums, which must have required a significant deviation from standard production during the building process. Every glue joint on each Orpheum was supposed to have been made using hide glue (every brace, assembly of the body, attachment of the neck and bridge, all of the purfling, rosette and binding).

Someone at each station would have had to stop, put down the titebond, heated up a batch of hide glue, and used it instead. And my understanding of how tricky hide glue is to use would suggest that a special production process must have been in place for the Orpheums during assembly.

I could be totally wrong. Just thinking out loud.
I have to ask - what is your source for the Orpheums using hideglue exclusively and for other production models using titebond? I can picture a glue pot in my mind and I see it in New Hartford although my mind often plays tricks on me. Even if you are right the factory worked in batches. So rather than switch glues between instruments they would have set up using one glue for a few weeks while they made F30 Standards and then another glue for a few weeks while they made Orpheums. I would not use the word "custom" to describe that kind of switch :)
 

Neal

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My source is Guild's website. "Use of traditional hide glue construction" in describing each Orpheum model.
 

wileypickett

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I was at LMGs 1, 2 and 4 and I don't recall any mention of top tapping at any of them, or any evidence of it in the assembly and production lines.
 

fronobulax

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My source is Guild's website. "Use of traditional hide glue construction" in describing each Orpheum model.
OK. Source for tite bond elsewhere?

For what it is worth "hide glue" only occurs in connection with the Orpheum series on Guild's website so it is an open question as to whether it wasn't used or it was not considered noteworthy for marketing purposes. Only the Orpheums specify the glue as near as I can tell.

Website also says the "Custom Shop" opened in 2013 and so far has only produced the 60th and the Orpheums. Elsewhere Ren says that a "made to order" type custom shop in in the planning but still in the future.

I would amend my original post to suggest that the misinformation is the based on folks assuming they know what "Custom Shop" means in the context of New Hartford and that assumption, while reasonable, is not correct.
 

txbumper57

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OK. Source for tite bond elsewhere?

For what it is worth "hide glue" only occurs in connection with the Orpheum series on Guild's website so it is an open question as to whether it wasn't used or it was not considered noteworthy for marketing purposes. Only the Orpheums specify the glue as near as I can tell.

Website also says the "Custom Shop" opened in 2013 and so far has only produced the 60th and the Orpheums. Elsewhere Ren says that a "made to order" type custom shop in in the planning but still in the future.

I would amend my original post to suggest that the misinformation is the based on folks assuming they know what "Custom Shop" means in the context of New Hartford and that assumption, while reasonable, is not correct.
Not really a veer and along the same lines of discussion. I have seen in the Description from Guild Dealers referring to the Resonators that were made in New Hartford they almost always state, "Straight from the custom shop in New Hartford is the new line of hand built Resonators form Guild". Now one can imagine that there is a significant difference in the construction of a resonator as opposed to an Orpheum or Traditional Guitar. I have heard them referred to as Custom Shop on several occasions but mine and every other one I have seen has a regular label on it. Didn't someone say that the resonator construction was taking place away from the main line at New Hartford during one of the LMG events? Just curious.
 

krugjr

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when this Orpheum (Custom Shop) discussion (debate) is over and done, it all comes back to "how does it play, how does it sound, and do I want to spend X amount of dollars to own it vs the other $2K-$5K options in the market"!
 

davismanLV

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Just to distinguish, you are referring to Michael Collins Guitars in Argyle, New York and not Collings Guitars in Austin, Texas, right? Not that it's critical to your point about the Custom Shop, but, maybe.....
 

davismanLV

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when this Orpheum (Custom Shop) discussion (debate) is over and done, it all comes back to "how does it play, how does it sound, and do I want to spend X amount of dollars to own it vs the other $2K-$5K options in the market"!
While this is true I think frono was trying to head off some "glamorization creep" regarding the building of the Orpheum line. References to a type of build that was more custom than what really happened. That's what I think he's saying. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that's what I'm getting from this. Not that they aren't good guitars or worth the money. It's more technical correctness vs. glamorized mis-remembrance.
 

Neal

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Having spent my lunch hour reviewing the video, Frono, I agree with your assessment that Orpheums came right down the production line, just like all the other New Hartford Guilds, meaning that they fail to meet my definition of "custom" instruments.

I can find no reference to the glue used on the other Guilds, but I know that "hot hide glue" is an upcharge in the making of custom-ordered guitars from builders here in Virginia (Huss and Dalton, and Rockbridge). I find it unlikely that Guild would have gone to the trouble and expense of using hot hide glue on all guitars, without including it in their marketing.

Hot hide glue is hard to work with, and does not generally lend itself to a production environment.
 

krugjr

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understood, Tom.....I just grabbed a hold of the marketing angle (Marketing BS as Dave put it).....and then backed up to look at the big picture, which is ultimately that the buyer decides the success of product, no matter the hype, no matter the advertising, no matter which words are used in the process and for whatever purposes..... in the end Guild/Codoba is responsible for their corporate reputation, as it should be... after all, they're not exactly marketing giants are they!
 
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