Carvin's San Diego facility.
The guitars are made in San Diego?
Every solidbody, including the basses, are made here. We offer some semi-hollowbody guitars and hollowbody acoustic-electrics that are also made here.
How many people in the factory?
There are a 140 in the company. The guitar factory itself is not as large as people would think. We've had some people here for decades, and that is really key. They do important jobs like handpick and book-match the flame and quilt tops. We turn away a lot of wood because we have certain standards. Other companies may have a private stock or figured wood stashes they charge a huge premium for—for us, that's our everyday top.
How many people just working on guitars?
There are 30 to 40 people working solely on guitars. We have two people doing final setups so we can keep quality control down to two guys, and really focus on the attention to detail. During the difficult economic times, we had some tough choices to make—do we make someone wait another couple weeks for their guitar, or do we add another shift and run this place 24/7? In order to keep the quality under control, we did not add a second shift. In my experience, when you get someone who stays up all night, you kind of wonder about them. I prefer to have my guitar built by someone that dwells during the day. [Laughs.]
Unidentified Carvin employees operate the fretwire press (left) and sand the body of a guitar (right)
in the San Diego factory.
And your pickups are made here as well?
Every single pickup is wound and assembled in San Diego. We wanted to maintain that because that was how this company started. We have three or four people making our pickups and each of them knows how to make every single pickup we offer, which is currently about two dozen. That's tight quality control.
Carvin factory workers wind pickups (left) and spray finish (right) in the San Diego factory.
What is the most popular electric guitar you make?
The California Carved Top—and it comes in different models. There is the original CT6 with a deluxe flame top, which can be upgraded to quilted maple or other deluxe maple tops like spalted or burl. There’s also the CT3, which is all mahogany, and the CT4 that comes with a standard maple top. The CT6 is actually my personal guitar—the neck on that thing plays so beautifully, and the sound of that guitar is astounding.
Our semi-hollow electrics are also popular because they are not quite as hollow as an ES-335. It is a nice hybrid between a semi-hollowbody and a solidbody. We start with a solid piece of mahogany and core it out. It's simply a cored-out solidbody—no laminate or veneer sides—with an added maple top, so you don't have the feedback issues you often find with traditional semi-hollowbodies.