The Breedlove Guitar Company is nestled in the foothills of the Cascade mountains in Oregon's high desert. Majestic snow capped peaks and miles of untamed wilderness create a perfect backdrop for outdoor enthusiast from around the world and inspiration for the craftsman at Breedlove. The Breedlove workshop reflects that same warm and inviting spirit that defines Central Oregon. Everyday, Breedlove instruments are created here. Each one reflects a passion for detail an inspired aesthetic and breathtaking tone. Gifted Craftsman spend their days designing and building some of the worlds most extraordinary guitars, mandolins and acoustic basses.
At the Breedlove Guitar custom shop, building is as much science as it is an art and requires the best craftsman with steady hands and eye for detail to complete this intricate work. Breedlove craftsman are closing in on their 15 thousandth instrument and every single one of them has followed a specific process that guarantees the production of the finest guitars and mandolins.
The construction of fine instruments is a delicate process and requires unique machinery. The craftsman at Breeldove not only construct fine instruments but they also develop and invent their own tools and machinery that are engineered for specific tasks. Every custom tool that is created has a specific use and each one is instrumental in providing the best tone, for each type of guitar.
The parts department is where all the individual components for an instrument are made. There are three different disciplines in this area, the first is raw wood processing, the second is the CNC and the third is bending and bracing operations.
Raw wood processing involves stacking, drying and prepping woods and finding specific pieces to shape into strong and smooth necks that are a trademark of the Breedlove instrument. It also involves the milling of wood to create the unique bookmatched sets that comprise the top and backs of the guitar.
The second phase is the CNC processing. During this phase the raw wood materials begin to be shaped into the precise dimensions that are critical in the construction process. Mandolins, guitar necks, instrument bridges, fretboards and a number of other small pieces begin to take form here. Every single part that is created must meet exacting standards of quality in order to make it on one of our fine instruments.
Bending the side woods for an instrument is probably one of the most difficult and interesting processes that takes place in this area. The perfectly smooth and curved sides of an instrument start out flat. A skilled luthier must exhibit his experience and patience while carefully bending stiff thin pieces of wood into beautifully smooth guitar shapes. This is achieved through the use of moisture, heat and pressure.
By performing the initial bend of the wood accurately, we are changing the molecular structure of the wood itself. This gives the wood a new form and shape that it will maintain forever.
The final stage of the parts department involves bracing the top and back for its unique voicing. By bracing the top, we provide structural integrity that allows the guitar top to withstand the tension of the string pressure and enhances the instruments tone.
Once an instrument is shaped and the parts have been created, it goes through a build, bind and scrape out process, essentially sealing the end grain - providing an aesthetic appeal and closing up the instrument to give us a solid raw body. This part of the process is where all the pieces begin to fit precisely together.
Once an instrument is bound, it will sit, secured with tape, overnight, When the tape is removed the following day, the instrument will be carefully scraped and sanded down to a final raw finish and will undergo a final inspection before it is allowed to move on.
Working in close unison with the parts and body departments, is the neck department. Breedlove necks are perfectly smooth and their shape and strength must be carefully considered for each instrument. Every neck is filed, sanded, and shaped carefully and then built-up to fit on a guitar body. Once this process is complete, it will undergo an inspection. If it passes, it will be attached to the body it was built for, thus setting the geometry, before the instrument is passed on to the finish department.
The finish process takes about two weeks, and consists of many carefully applied layers that are sanded down after each application to eliminate any flaws. The detail of this process is measured at a hundred-thousandth of an inch. The process can vary slightly depending on the instrument and whether it is a high gloss finish, toner application, sunburst application or something even more custom. The finish process strengthens the instrument by providing a highly durable finish and by bringing out the beautiful figure depth of the amazing woods. A final round of buffing out the finish, provides the instrument with the trademark Breedlove high gloss finish. This is one of the most exciting aspects of the process because an instrument really begins to take on a personality and come to life. Of course, many hours have been invested in an instrument by the time it reaches this department and the craftsman here are especially careful to inspect an instrument before it is passed on and accept nothing less than perfection.
String Up Department:
After an instrument has been carefully built and finished it finally arrives at final assembly and string-up and spends three days being fine-tuned and adjusted to perfection.
The bridge and neck are checked to be certain they have the appropriate geometry. The finish is carefully routed off the body to accommodate the bridge and create a wood to wood contact. The craftsmen then radius the fret board, apply the frets, nut and saddle, as well as the tuning machines, and finally get the instrument to its first playable state. The craftsman in this department have the privilege of hearing the first notes flow from the body and seeing the entire finished instrument for the first time. The instrument sits under tension, over night. On the final day in this department it's dialed in one last time and all of the appointments, the action, and the neck are inspected to make sure everything is set up, to Breedlove’s precise specifications.
By the time a guitar or mandolin has reached final inspection, highly skilled craftsmen have spent countless man hours working on an instrument. Final inspection involves roughly 35 different assessments. Once these have been passed, the guitar is packaged and sent to its new home where it can make beautiful music for many generations to come.