Production in New Hartford

GuildInAtlanta

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This might have been covered in another post, but I'll admit I haven't quite learned how to successfully use the search feature in this forum so my apologies if this is a repeat question.

Is there a document somewhere that provides production information on the guitars built in the New Hartford Connecticut factory?

I'm very curious how many guitars were made per year, and how many were produced for each model?

The only document I've seen, which I've provided a link below, provides the coding scheme used for the serial numbers in Tacoma Washington and was carried over into New Hartford.

http://support.guildguitars.com/downloads/datingyourguild.pdf

Any additional information you might have will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

Robert
 

chazmo

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I'm not sure there's anything written that's sort of a history of New Hartford production, Robert, but I can give you a few facts.

The facility that Fender bought was part of Kaman Music. It was building Ovation and Hamer guitars at the time, and started building D-55 prototypes after the purchase through a good part of 2008. First production was January of 2009, D-55s only, shown at winter NAMM that year. This was very shortly after the actual shutdown of Tacoma in 2008, but there was no overlap (not including the prototypes that is). So the 2009 builds were all "NM" prefixed serial numbers.

New Hartford was shut down during the spring of 2014. Can't remember whether it was end of May or June, but something like that. "NR" prefix.

Production numbers are not actually published anywhere. They might be known, but it'd be a little complex figuring it out as New Hartford also build Fender acoustics a bit. There was a log book that some of us saw which every guitar that went through final assembly got registered in. But, I'm not aware that anyone actually saw it in its entirety to do a real count.
 

fronobulax

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There were four factory tours for LTG members and others, and I was at three. FMIC was extremely protective about revealing the number of Guilds being produced. It was a question that would be asked and answered with "We can't tell you that". There are some guesses but they get clouded by the other product lines that were made in the same factory. We all remember Ovation and Hamer but Fender also did a couple runs of Kingmen so even if someone who was there says "ten guitars a day", how many of them were Guilds?

My memory is that I decided 500 Guilds per year was probably true for the first couple of years. I think production was about 3.000 per year when they closed and was still ramping up. 5,000 Guilds per year was a target that could be met with the other demands on the factory and there was a lot of potential if a second shift was added. I can probably tell you why I decided that (instruments seen in Final Assembly/Inspection during tours, a peek at the production log book, a plant manager who shared expansion hopes off the record, the claim that a minimum order for GC was larger than the entire production, and so on) but you still have just my estimates and opinion.

We have tried to figure this out before. If you use the site keyword at Google to restrict the search to a single site (LTG) you might have some luck, although that will not return anything from a Members Only area. There are threads about GSR and Orpheum production. I'd try finding those, maybe searching on "ledger" or "logbook" to see if the thread with the picture pops up. LMG I, II, III and IV threads might have something. I'd say posts by me or chazmo are more likely to have off the record info behind them. SFIV1967 (Ralf) has an uncanny ability to find obscure information and anything he says on the subject should be taken seriously.
 

F312

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Not enough to stay put.

Ralph
 

fronobulax

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Not enough to stay put.

Ralph
Perhaps but my sources said the factory was making a profit and was on track to make a bigger profit. The outside investors basically said we are not getting the return we want on this investment. It wasn't clear whether the ROI expectation was reasonable. If I demand a legal, 50% ROI and I will pull out if I don't get it, I'm going to be leaving a lot of deals.

I acknowledge the attempt at humor but I'm not really laughing :)
 

geoguy

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I thought New Hartford closed because that small operation wasn't going to be able to help FMIC overcome their bigger financial challenges?
 

F312

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I have no sources.
:nonchalance:

Ralph
 

JohnW63

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It's hard to say why it shut down. We will never no the costs of running the place. It wasn't a new or modern building. Ovation wasn't selling enough USA models to make a decent profit, is my guess. How often did you see a US built Ovation in a store ? The Guild production HAD to have helped pay the bills for sure, but, some reason must have been there to " Cut costs ", and it was probably easier to drop an acquired line of guitars than do something to the core Fender brand to have a sale income and a cost reduction at the same time. I'm just glad the sale was made instead of just killing the brand.

I read that Ovation is once again making Adamas guitars, there high end stuff. Around 3 grand a guitar. Using an online inflation calculator, that's less than they used to MSRP for. Just two models, though.
 

fronobulax

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I thought New Hartford closed because that small operation wasn't going to be able to help FMIC overcome their bigger financial challenges?
That's one way of looking at it. My sources focused on the claim that the outside investors weren't getting the ROI they wanted from it. If they wanted that ROI to solve larger financial problem then we're both right :)
 

adorshki

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The Guild production HAD to have helped pay the bills for sure, but, some reason must have been there to " Cut costs ", and it was probably easier to drop an acquired line of guitars than do something to the core Fender brand to have a sale income and a cost reduction at the same time.
I think the "2 Birds with one stone" is the most likely rationale too, especially if Guild was making a profit, but not enough of one to satisfy the Fender Corporation debt holders.
Recall there was also speculation at the time that if GC, Fender's single biggest customer went down, it'd take Fender down with it.
So the pressure was on Fender and like doody, it rolled down hill.
 
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merlin6666

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I read that Ovation is once again making Adamas guitars, there high end stuff. Around 3 grand a guitar. Using an online inflation calculator, that's less than they used to MSRP for. Just two models, though.
Yes they have a new small custom shop in the area and I think that their MSRP is much higher than that. At NAMM they also showed some new models and that they are doing repairs there.
 

GuildInAtlanta

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Thanks for the insight guys!

Here's a video I found where Ren Ferguson discusses his experience with Gibson, but also shares thoughts on Guild and New Hartford, It's a pretty entertaining story, and if you have the time I would encourage you to listen the whole thing. But, if you jump to 15:58, you'll hear how he joined Guild and his comments on the production and closure of the New Hartford factory.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzbfmjClo_I&feature=youtu.be

Through this interview, and other sources, it seems the luthiers in Connecticut & Ren did a great job of raising the bar when came to quality and craftsmanship. I've been very impressed with every New Hartford guitar I've seen to date. However, Ren also explained how the cost and process of delivering this quality didn't align with the returns investors expected. In my experience patience for profitability is directly influenced by speed of returns.

So, it really makes me wonder how many of these guitars were made in New Hartford?

Do we have people on this forum that worked in New Hartford who can provide more details on productions numbers?

With fronobulax's guesstimate of 500 units ramping up to 3,000 units four years later, and right before they closed the factory, it makes you wonder what the investors expected?

To help put it into perspective, here's a link to an old discussion thread from the acousticguitarforum where they're talking about production volumes of various guitar companies.

https://www.acousticguitarforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=217903
 
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fronobulax

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That video has been discussed before. It is a critical piece of history. It it part of a three part series and when it first came out parts would sometimes disappear from public view, presumably because Ren was expressing honest opinions that bothered people who had the clout to get it pulled.

Since Ren alluded to conflict it should be obvious that there is another side to parts of the story. FMIC had employees from several subsidiaries at NH and chains of command and authority were not always clear. There were people with the charter to run the plant, regardless of what brand guitars were being made. Ren had the charter to make Guilds at that plant. Guild was the "big dog" but there were times when the answer to "who's in charge?" had to be worked out on a case by case basis.

Ren claims the factory was running in the red. Other sources claim it was profitable. Since the closest thing to an official statement that I can recall gave a reason as "not profitable enough" it really doesn't matter. The factory was clearly capable of making more guitars than it did. The decision not to do so was almost certainly market driven, IMO.

FMIC treated production numbers like a trade secret so it is unlikely that you will ever get more than informed speculation. Employees might have had to sign non-disclosure agreements in order to receive severance pay.

If better estimates are that important you might see if Cordoba is willing to share. They presumably needed to know production numbers so they could estimate the warranty liability they incurred when they bought Guild. If the log book/ledger did not go into a dumpster or someone's private collection then Cordoba presumably has that as well. But the reported experiences are that Cordoba is much more concerned with selling new guitars than they are in the historical aspects of Guild.

I once estimated a production of 25,000 instruments for a near peak year at Westerly. I probably was corrected but I don't recall that so I'll repeat the number. But that suggests a good year at Westerly produced more Guilds than all the years at New Hartford combined.
 

adorshki

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If better estimates are that important you might see if Cordoba is willing to share. They presumably needed to know production numbers so they could estimate the warranty liability they incurred when they bought Guild. If the log book/ledger did not go into a dumpster or someone's private collection then Cordoba presumably has that as well.
That same thing occurred to me yesterday, too, along with the already raised issue about Fender's treatment of those numbers as coinfidential, so would they have possibly kept it?
Particularly since it wasn't Guild-specific?
But the reported experiences are that Cordoba is much more concerned with selling new guitars than they are in the historical aspects of Guild.
Consider that CMG themselves haven't seen a need to update the s/n chart which they themselves provide a link to, with their own s/n system or decoding key.
I wonder if there's anything to be read into that fact or is it simply a matter of priorities. (Which is understandable since I myself would prefer to see them concentrate on getting as many US built models to market as possible. I can wait for an s/n decoder.)
I once estimated a production of 25,000 instruments for a near peak year at Westerly. I probably was corrected but I don't recall that so I'll repeat the number. But that suggests a good year at Westerly produced more Guilds than all the years at New Hartford combined.
I don't ever recall seeing you corrected on that, and your methodology seemed sound to me at the time.
(Pun fully intended. :smile:)

I think this thread is a suitable candidate for a sticky because a good recap of New Hartford's Guild history as well as most of the issues that affected it's fate are gathered here in one place.
Just not sure what sub-forum might be appropriate for it.
 
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hideglue

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I once estimated a production of 25,000 instruments for a near peak year at Westerly. I probably was corrected but I don't recall that so I'll repeat the number.
Good math, frono! 60-70 guitars/day was certainly a number through Final Assembly in the '90s-2001. I'd say you're right in the ballpark considering all eras of production.
 
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GuildInAtlanta

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This afternoon I spoke to Guild customer service and they told me the production records for New Hartford were not available, and indicated they didn't receive hardly any records from Fender when they acquired the company in 2014? Oh well.

I do have an idea that could help add to our ballpark estimates for New Hartford

Could New Hartford guitar owners look at the tag on the inside of the guitar and provide the details below?

- Tell us the model & wood used (Example - The tag may list F30 Standard, but you tell us the wood used on the back & sides)

- First two letters in the serial number
(it confirms the factory & year produced)

- The 3 numbers following the letters
(it corresponds to the day it was built)

- The last number in the serial number
(it corresponds to build order of guitars produced that day. So if the last number is a 2 it's the second guitar produced that day)

Granted this would be a sketchy attempt at best, but would show some trending information to better speculate on how many guitars were produced in a given year, and a cursory view of types of guitars that were built on a given day.

For example when it comes to build order I know of two New Hartford guitars built in 2012. One was the 2nd guitar built that day and the other was the 4th on another day. So now I have a reference that as many as 4 guitars "could" have built on any given work day in 2012.

After collecting as much information possible, and if the highest and repetitive number in build order is a 4 I can speculate as many at 1040 guitars (4 x 260 working days) could have been produced in 2012.


The 260 working days is not a perfectly accurate number, it's just 52 weeks x 5 days a week. I didn't subtract for holidays, plant closings, etc., but if someone can give me insight into that we can adjust the number.

Well...anybody willing to give it a try? Maybe we can build our own thumbnail sketch of New Hartford production?
 
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fronobulax

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Go for it. I've been down this path before and have no motivation to do the work but I will gladly let you do it.

I will note that in the early days I got the impression than the number of guitars per day was variable. For example they only made 5 guitars in a week but they all were finished on Friday. But I don't have a better methodology for you. I will however throw the BS flag if you get over 500 for the first year and be terribly skeptical if 2013 is much over 3,000. Those are numbers I recall when someone who perhaps should have been more careful was talking dreams and aspirations. We also need to remember that the ledger recorded all brands, not just Guilds.

Oh yes - you probably want more than the last digit from the serial because there could have been a real good day when they exceeded 10 :)
 

merlin6666

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Isn't 3000 in a year a bit low? I think there were fewer than 1000 Orpheums built in about 1.5 years, so if Orpheums were about 10% of production then we'd have about 6000 per year. But maybe my estimate for the contribution of Orpheums is off?
 

fronobulax

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Isn't 3000 in a year a bit low? I think there were fewer than 1000 Orpheums built in about 1.5 years, so if Orpheums were about 10% of production then we'd have about 6000 per year. But maybe my estimate for the contribution of Orpheums is off?
I think your Orpheum estimate is wildly high but the bottom line is it your opinion against mine. I would also ask whether the 10% estimate is wrong?

Maybe reviewing https://letstalkguild.com/ltg/showthread.php?188323-Orpheum-Production-in-New-Hartford&highlight=orpheum+production or https://letstalkguild.com/ltg/showthread.php?183519-Guild-Orpheum-Jumbos-How-been-made-in-total&highlight=hartford+orpheum+production I seem to recall another thread but just can find it now.
 
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