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What Exactly Is The Custom Shop? And Master Built?

Discussion in 'Sidewinders Bar & Grille' started by nutball73, May 17, 2019.

  1. nutball73

    nutball73 Senior Stratmaster

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    Forgive me for being dumb, but I have been around for a long time but still don't know exactly what the Custom Shop and Master Built offerings from Fender are. Can someone explain it to me? I've tried looking at the Fender web sites but it's all a bit "marketing"...

    To me, the vast majority of Fender guitars are mass produced parts, assembled by technicians and shipped. I can see that if you want a combination of options that Fender don't offer, then that is somewhat "custom" - but basically it's take neck x, add body y, pickups z and screw it together. Is that what "Custom shop" means?

    If you want a specific colour, neck shape, wood choice, etc. then presumably the guitar is built from scratch by one luthier - is that what "masterbuilt" means? Or does it mean that you choose the options but the neck carve and finish is done by the neck guy, the body sanding is done by body guy, the paint is by the body paint guy, and then it's assembled by the "master builder"?

    In other words, is "Custom shop" just "not standard assembly" and "Masterbuilt" means "made by the same guys to your spec but assembled by a master builder"?

    I'm interested to know what REALLY happens, rather than what you believe...
     
  2. Nate D

    Nate D Most Honored Senior Member

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    There are like three basic runs in the Custom Shop.

    1. Master Built: Built to your specs from the floor up by a master builder/Luthier
    2. Team Built: Built to your specs but assembled by the team in the Custom Shop
    3. Custom Shop Production Runs: Set runs of guitars with certain specs that are assembled by the CS Team. Some of these have been designed by the Master Builders at the shop.
    I own three Custom Shop Fender and this is my understanding of what the differences are. You can always download the catalog from the Fender Custom Shop website and it'll give you a really good run down.

    http://www.fmicassets.com/sites/fen...omshop/2018/2018_Custom_Shop_Design_Guide.pdf
     
  3. Neve

    Neve Strat-Talker

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    As far as I’m concerned it’s just a marketing scheme to sell at a huge premium so called « handmade » guitars. Which is how the simple and standard guitars were made back in the 50´s and how it’s supposed to be.
    It should have stayed that way IMO.
    Now don’t get me wrong, they are great guitars, but highly overrated and overpriced IMO.
     
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  4. michaelinokc

    michaelinokc Strat-Talker

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    So, great but overrated? hmmmm
     
  5. gwjensen

    gwjensen Senior Stratmaster

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    Custom shop - several people build it to your specs.
    Master Built - one guy builds it to your specs.

    I think.
     
  6. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Most Honored Senior Member

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    No one actually knows since Fender has been so ambiguous over the years, and no one at Fender that does know can say without Corporate approval due to the non disclosure agreement they sign... I know a few of former employees and that ND agreement is pretty much Iron Clad, and unless one wants to give up reproductive abilities, they keep quiet..

    from what I've gleaned over the years is the CS guitars are production line assembled guitars done by a select group of employees... the hardware is the same exact "stuff" found on the "standard Issue", that, according to Mike Eldred. The Neck and bodies are CNC production...

    A Masterbuilt is purported to be a guitar made in its entirety by a Select luthier... Over the years the inference has been those guys start with the raw lumber making everything, but "leaks" over the years suggest that the bodies are still CNC production, and just recently I was reading s Sherwin Williams paper on Fender and their use of SW lacquers.. which said the CS has their own painter responsible for all CS and Masterbuilt production..

    In any instance, either guitar will be superb...

    But one thing that has bothered me for 20 years is, they have NEVER shown any of the CS builders actually making a neck or body, fretting a neck, ... Painting, other than Yuriy painting doo-dads on a body ... but none actually making anything .... I'm not suggesting any of them couldn't, but its just that such would be a highly productive visual that should be used in promotion.... It suggests that a "masterbuilt" is just another "Partscaster" made of parts someone else made and handed over to someone with a promoted name to assemble..

    it really bugs me.... ya know like that 1957 YT video of the whole dad-gum factory.. guys sweeping and all.. ya never see anything like that.... I used to be a News guy and that kinda stuff just makes me wonder what are they hiding.... specially when ya think of the Marketing advantage that kind of stuff can generate..

    r
     
  7. nutball73

    nutball73 Senior Stratmaster

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    Yes, Ron, that's exactly what I'm getting at. Does a Masterbuilt guitar actually get carved from scratch timber by one person into your guitar? Or do they use all the production machines but one person does it? Or do they use production machines and the master builder "supervises"?

    Anyone with decent woodworking skills can assemble a strat and finish it from pre-carved parts (I do all the time). True luthiers, carve a block of wood into a neck/body and do the whole 9 yards.

    So are Master Builders actually Master Assemblers?
     
  8. sonny wolf

    sonny wolf Senior Stratmaster

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    When I did the Fender factory tour the first time a few years ago they walked us through the regular factory and also the custom shop.I was really impressed with the amount of handwork that went into the regular factory Fenders...the American Pros,reissues ect.Lot's of hand sanding the bodies and necks and they even make the metal and plastic parts themselves(not sourced out from another factory).Then they walked us through the custom shop and it was the same type of operation...it didn't come across as being any more high end.The custom shop had the same type of employees each handling their designated task.They just make guitars in smaller batches but I don't believe they are crafted in any superior manner.They did also walk us through the master builder section where they build one guitar at a time in their own office which would involve a more specific attention to detail in selecting the parts.But as far as team built custom shop vs regular factory I didn't see anything all that different...it is very much an assembly line operation.
     
  9. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Most Honored Senior Member

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    Over the years the consistent inference of Fender is a MAsterbuilt guitar is made by one guy, from the ground up ... ... and I would hope so.. however.. the trickle of unintended leaks through peripheral sources suggests otherwise....

    a number years ago the company that made and installed the CS's CNC machine did a rather comprehensive article in the CNC world's internal "organ".. they "spilled the beans".. This was right when FMIC was pretty adamant in insisting such was not the case... then the Sherwin Williams article in another internal magazine, said rather clearly one painter does all the CS paint work...

    I don't care one way or the other, its just the subterfuge that keeps my "antennae" piqued... and they've be so for so long, they're getting cramped...

    r
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2019
  10. Mr C

    Mr C Senior Stratmaster

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    As far as I can see the only reason to get a custom shop Fender is if you want a relic treatment as the finish. They’ve developed their techniques to the point now where they make the best relic jobs on the market.

    I had a PV64 tele, just. A regular production model. A buddy of mine has a Custom shop 63 tele. They are identical guitars other than the colour. Not similar, identical.
     
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  11. Dreamdancer

    Dreamdancer Strat-Talker

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    Custom shop and master built are just a couple of ways to test true love between you and your wife....
     
  12. Neve

    Neve Strat-Talker

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    Maybe, but they are still light years away from the real thing when it comes to the neck. None I’ve seen look even close to realistic. At least not to me.
     
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  13. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Most Honored Senior Member

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    there is an ethos in some manufacturers that allow for, shall we say, interesting methods.... back in the early 70's John DeLorean wrote a book, "On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors" In it he exposed some of the methodology the automotive manufacturers incorporated.


    One example I recall was the real difference in the price of a Lincoln Versailles, and the same car in "less pretentious" trim, the Ford Granada... The Lincoln retailed for around 17,000 with the usual ad-ons.. the Granada, sold at about 6,000.00. ... DeLorean shared the difference, in cost to manufacture was right at 500.oo... for useless "Bling".. other than that and the name, no difference...

    you can rest assured much the same tactics are incorporated to drop black numbers to the bottom line today..

    rk
     
  14. mikeh0917

    mikeh0917 New Member!

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    I guess I've been wondering a similar question. I've been keeping an eye on the market for Eric Clapton models and noticed on Reverb several Custom Shop guitars in the $5200 range while regular EC's were in the $1400 range give or take. Why is this? Are you getting higher quality or better materials...what justifies the added cost?
     
  15. SpeedKing

    SpeedKing Strat-Talker

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    Surely it just amounts to quality control. The more you pay the more attention to detail you get until you get down to being able to identify one particular fella as responsible for any flaw on a master built. He puts his name to it thus gives it his full attention. As for how far even detailed attention to materials, fit and finish can go though on a relatively simple primarily wooden tool designed to be mass produced in a factory .. well? And what is it worth?

    I can't pass comment since that is entirely but only known by the buyer but would say I would buy one of the CS Blackmore '68 tributes if I suddenly came into big money and found one secondhand. For me that particular CS would be worth it. Wouldn't spend a quarter of it on a Clapton or a Gallagher say, much as I love 'em both.

    If I won big enough I'd even consider getting them to make a 'new' one for me with the correct chips and dings his accumulated and without the pre-aged headstock face it didn't. For me that would be worth it... assuming it was relatively easily affordable (which it currently is not unfortunately).
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2019
  16. LOSTVENTURE

    LOSTVENTURE Strat-O-Master

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    Of my 12 Strats, two are CS and the rest are AVRI and AV. As far as I'm concerned, all are exceptional guitars, and on any given day I can't tell you whether I'm playing a CS or not. Again, these are all incredible instruments.
     
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  17. Sangetsu

    Sangetsu Strat-Talker

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    I’m not sure how it works now, but I have a Masterbuilt strat, and it was made to my specifications, with the builder adding input and making suggestions.

    I could choose the type of wood for the body and neck, the color, the frets and pickups. I opted for a Clapton model, with stainless frets.

    The guitar took nearly a year to finish, and was shipped to me overseas. When I received it, I was blown away when I opened the case. The neck was a work of art, I had never seen such a beautiful piece of maple. The body was finished in red lacquer, polished to a glassy shine, but in the right light, you can make out the pattern of the grain. The body is two pieces, the grain is in a butterfly pattern, it seemed a shame to cover such beautiful wood with paint.

    When I first played it, I didn’t quite like it. Like coffee, beer, or wine, the first taste was a little strange. But the more I played it, the more I liked it. Though I have a lot of strats, my Masterbuilt is my go-to guitar.
     
  18. ccalda

    ccalda Strat-O-Master

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    I have owned Am std, special and a CS strat and I can tell you that the Custom classic strat just feels so much better. The neck is silky smooth and the wood resonates much more. As for sound, pickups are really personal, and I loved the Tex Specials in my Am special the most.

    Overall, custom shops are like comparing a Lexus to a Toyota. Both reliable, but the Lexus just feels so different and premium when driving it.

    Who really cares who touched it or carved it, try one you connect with, and you will understand the difference.

    That said, this is not a knock on other Fender guitars, because they too are well made and sound great.
     
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  19. BuddyHollywood

    BuddyHollywood Strat-Talker

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    As John Mayer said, "It's a game of inches". It's amazing to me how a 1" wide piece of a business card cut off the side and placed in my neck pocket as a shim makes my guitar play exponentially better than it does without it. Imagine how much knowledge and experience the CS and Masterbuilders have accumulated over the years? There must be so many small details that they incorporate into their guitar builds. All of those little details add up.
     
  20. Paul47

    Paul47 Strat-Talker

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    I've masterbuilt most of my Fenders myself.
     
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