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Part Two: Inside the Factory - Banjo & Dobro Production

 On the inside, this factory is much like you'd expect. There's a bit of dust, noise, and the usual clutter of instruments in progress, parts, tools, etc.

 I was a bit surprised to see heavy equipment like these big shapers here. They are on the far side of the room, away from the windows. These tools are clearly the most dangerous in the shop, and the operator works facing away from the public.

 All the shapers are lined up against the far wall.

 At one end of the big machine room, there's a large dust collector.

Not all of the big tools are connected to the dust collection system. . .

A bunch of mandolin bodies in progress.

 Final sanding opposite the cafeteria line at lunch time. . .

 The view out the window from the banjo setup area.

 Jay Hostetler (in yellow) and Don MacRostie (far right), both from Stewart MacDonald, discuss the banjo parts they supply to Gibson. This was a business trip for all of us, you know.

 Everywhere you turn in this place, there are curious onlookers peering in through the windows.

 The Dobro assembly area.

 More folks like me, taking photos. . .

 This man has been shaping Gibson banjo necks for about 15 years.

 Armed with this big "dead head" belt sander, he can really plow through the wood.

 After working the shaft of the neck to shape, he rounds the areas at the heel and peghead volute.

 A bit of cleanup with a hand file.

 It took him about 5 minutes to go from the machined part in the foreground to the final shaped neck above. There's a lot of work left to do, but the major shaping is neat and clean.

 This shop made drum sander is used for adjusting the fit of the banjo neck to the shell.

 Speaking of shells, they're turned right here on this big lathe.

 Same for resonators.

I'm not sure, but I think he's aligning the cutout for the neck heel.

Final sanding with a "jitterbug" orbital sander.

Detail sanding the inside curves.

A banjo resonator gets the finishing touches.

In the banjo assembly area, finished resonators wait to be attached to RB-3, Earl Scruggs, RB-250, and other models.

And, here are the instruments in question.

Check out this Earl Scruggs Deluxe, with its mother-of-pearl binding. (The specks are dust from all the woodwork going on nearby.)

A gold plated "Granada" on the bench.

This gang saw receives a strip of basswood, and the little carrier is closed

Once closed, the carrier is shoved under the saw blades, neatly cutting the kerfed lining for Dobro guitars.

The lining is glued on while the sides are in the mold, mounted on this free standing work station.

Several stations allow for a good flow of work.

Backs and tops are glued on right in the same molds.

A Dobro neck is cut to shape on one of the big shapers along the back wall.

Nearby, a Dobro sound well is shaped in a router fixture.

Binding the body.

Gibson uses that same heavy brown masking tape I've seen at other factories. It's stronger and holds better than the usual cheap kind.

Final sanding a Dobro neck.

Stacks of Dobro bodies waiting to have necks fitted.

More detail work.

This is a metal body blues model with an interesting paint job.

In the spray booth for that famous shaded lacquer finish.


And more buffing.

Final assembly after finishing.

This is the peghead drill jig that's used to align tuner holes

Tuners in bulk pack.


A rack of "product."


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