For nearly a quarter of a century, the best instrument builders on the planet have been handcrafting the Breedlove guitars of tomorrow. Step into our workshop and experience the magic for yourself…
The Breedlove workshop is located in Bend, Oregon, surrounded by majestic snow-capped peaks and miles of untamed wilderness, creating the perfect backdrop for outdoor enthusiasts from around the world. When you enter our bustling workshop, you’re enveloped in the same warm and inviting spirit that defines Central Oregon. The high-desert setting offers endless inspiration for our gifted craftsmen who spend their days designing and building some of the world’s most distinctive guitars, mandolins and acoustic basses.
Ultimately, we design and build more than just instruments: We design distinctively crafted sound, and bring that sound to life.
We love what we do – after all, it’s in our name. For our luthiers and craftsmen, building instruments is part passion, part art and part science. The fine art of stringed-instrument building requires a versatile artisan with steady hands, an eye for detail and design, and an understanding of the components that create the tone known around the world as “that Breedlove sound.” By the end of 2013, the Breedlove craftsmen will have produced over 15,000 instruments, and every single instrument has been lovingly crafted according to a specific process that guarantees the production of the finest guitars, mandolins and acoustic basses.
You can’t build Breedlove guitars with generic power tools. The construction of fine instruments is a delicate process and requires unique machinery. Our gifted craftsmen develop and invent their own tools and machinery. Every custom tool is engineered for a specific use, and each tool is critical in creating the perfect tone for each type of guitar.
The Virtual Guitar Shop Tour
The parts department is where all the individual organic (read: wood) instrument components are made. There are three different disciplines in this area: raw wood processing, CNC processing, and bending and bracing operations.
Raw wood processing involves stacking, drying and prepping woods, and preliminary milling. In this department, we select specific wood pieces that meet Breedlove’s exacting standards for necks and bodies. We then mill the body wood to create the unique bookmatched sets that comprise the tops and backs of our instruments.
The second step is CNC processing. During this phase, we begin to shape raw wood materials into the precise dimensions required for the construction process. Mandolin and guitar necks, instrument bridges, fretboards and a number of other small pieces begin to take form here. Every single part must meet our rigorous quality standards before it is approved to move to the next step.
Bending the side woods for an instrument is probably the most difficult and interesting process that takes place in this area. The perfectly smooth, curved sides of an instrument start out flat. A skilled craftsman carefully bends stiff, thin pieces of wood into our guitar shapes by carefully applying moisture, heat and pressure. In this initial bend, we essentially change the molecular structure of the wood itself. This gives the wood a new form and shape that it will retain forever.
The final stage of the parts department involves bracing the top and back for unique voicing. By bracing the top, we provide the structural integrity that enhances the instrument’s tone and allows the top to withstand the tension of the string pressure.
Once an instrument’s sides are shaped and the parts have been created, it goes through a build, bind and scrape-out process to seal the end grain, closing up the instrument to give us a solid raw body. This is where all the body pieces begin to fit precisely together.
Once the sides are bound to the top, the body will sit, secured with tape, overnight. When the tape is removed the following day, we carefully scrape and sand the entire instrument to a final, raw finish. We then give the instrument a final inspection before it is allowed to move on to the next department.
In the neck department, every neck is hand-filed, hand-sanded, and hand-shaped carefully and then built up to fit on a guitar body. The shape and strength of each neck is carefully considered for each individual instrument. Once this process is complete, we inspect the neck carefully. If the neck passes our inspection, we attach it to the body for which it was built, thus setting the geometry before the instrument is passed on to the finish department.
The finish process is one of the most exciting stages, because this is when an instrument begins to take on a personality and come to life. During this time, we carefully apply multiple finish layers and sand down every layer after each application to eliminate any flaws. Since the thickness of the finish is measured in thousandths of an inch, true expertise and artistry is required to properly finish a Breedlove instrument. The process can vary slightly, depending on the instrument and the finish type, toner application, sunburst application or other custom finish style. The finish process strengthens the instrument by providing a highly durable finish and by bringing out the beautiful figure and depth of the amazing woods. Once we apply the final finish coat, we then buff the finish to achieve the trademark Breedlove high-gloss finish. Once again, we inspect the instrument thoroughly before it’s approved to enter the next department: final assembly and string-up.
When the instrument arrives at final assembly and string-up, we spend three days fine-tuning and adjusting every little detail. We double-check the bridge and neck to verify the geometry. To accommodate the bridge, we carefully route the finish off the body to create a wood-to-wood contact, and then attach the bridge to the body. We radius the fret board, and apply the frets, nut and saddle, as well as the tuning machines. Then we string up the instrument. Once these processes are complete, the instrument will be played for the first time. The craftsmen in this department have the privilege of hearing the first notes flow from the body of the finished instrument.
Once final assembly is complete, the instrument then sits overnight under tension. The following day, we dial in the instrument one last time and inspect all of the appointments, the action, and the neck to ensure the instrument meets Breedlove’s precise specifications. Once we’re satisfied with the tone and specifications of that instrument, the next stop is final inspection.
By the time a guitar or mandolin reaches final inspection, we’ve spent countless man-hours building and perfecting the instrument. Leaving nothing to chance, final inspection involves roughly 35 different assessments. Once we’re absolutely certain that the instrument is perfect in every way, we package the guitar and send it off to its new home to inspire self-expression and liberation through music, for generations to come.