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"Making guitars in Ecuador is a very challenging, but rewarding experience. The richness of the personalities involved and the inherent reward of making and selling a product keep it enjoyable. Our market has been exclusively in Ecuador. More information can be found at

"We made a neck sander like the one we saw on FRETS.COM, at the Fox shop. It took us a good while to get the thing to work right. It kept burning up the belts, but since we discovered graphite cloth for the fixed cauls, the thing works great. We have a different cauls for each model, various sizes of belts, and each model has its own round guides for the neck jig which run in slots. We have learned a lot from FRETS.COM, and from visits to Klein, Taylor, and others who have generously opened their doors to a misplaced gringo loco guitar maker."
"Jose is attaching the neck to the jig which runs in the channels on the neck sander."
"We use the Fox bender I bought from Luthiers Mercantile Inc. I think we need more heat."
"Kleiner and Manuel sand electric guitars with 5" pneumatic sanders. I built sanding tables, with a perforated top, and an extractor, but they never use the extractor. The table tops are covered with rubber mesh I buy at the 99 cent store in the USA."
"Notice the inlay on the classic necks. We use a strip of Caoba or Clavellin, both very hard woods, instead of a metal truss rod. The necks are "Cedro" which is also called Spanish Cypress."
"Luis is showing us one of the fiberglass back shells we use on some of our classics and acoustics. The shells are laid up by hand, using fiberglass, resin and a paint brush, and are very lightweight, as well as being extremely stiff, which we find gives a nice snap the sound of the guitars. We also make all wood guitars."
"The 'arillos' or kerfed lining strips are glued with epoxy into the shells, which are then sanded flat."
"Clayboss sander. I bought a Clay Boss pottery wheel and we use it to sand the radius on the sides. Again, I saw this on!"
"Cesar Torres masks a guitar top. Tops, backs and necks are all lacquered in different operations, which means three masking operations on each guitar. Behind Cesar is a 48" x 96" vacuum table we use to clamp the braces on the tops. We can do a dozen tops at a time."
"Wilson cleans up the heel on a neck with his 3/4" chisel. Wilson came to us without any previous guitar making experience, and has progressed rapidly. He went from Aprendiz (apprentice) to Ayudante(helper) and is currently working toward Maestro (team leader). Each Maestro has a team of one or two helpers. The teams make their own parts (necks, braces, bodies, etc.) and work on 30 guitars at a time. We have three carpentry teams and two lacquer teams. The assembly area is a team of two, and the fiberglass area is another team of two. After work the guys play volleyball or soccer until dark."
"The neck is fitted to the body and a bolt installed through the neck block into the heel. The fitting operation is done with a chisel and takes a long time. We use a 'colipata' or dovetail joint at the neck to body connection. Then we glue it in with epoxy, and then we put a bolt through the neck block into the heel. I guess that ought to hold it. The carpenter in the photo is named Cergio Bladimir Chuni. Another worker is named Stalin Sanchez Sanchez. I'm not making this up."
"We use 5" pneumatic disc sanders, except when we sand by hand, which is more often than I'd like to admit."
"Gluing the bridge to the top."
"All spraying is done with HVLP guns. We have 2 spray booths with extractor fans I bought from Graingers. Most other guitar makers in Ecuador simply go outside and lacquer their guitars on the sidewalk. "
"We wanted to have a UV curing oven like Taylor has, but after much consideration decided to use a UV light on a tripod, paint our curing room black and make the whole thing like a curing oven. Perfect for our cheapo operation. The light is not on in this photo, but the flash makes it appear so."
"Here the light is on, and our guy is suited up. The power supply is mounted in an equipment rack with wheels, and the light on a metal arm overhead. The idea is that they lacquer the guitars, lay them on the drying racks, and move the light over them. Presto! Manuel got the nickname 'El Oso' because they think he looks like a polar bear in his white suit. Where they saw a polar bear I have no idea -- it certainly wasn't anywhere near Quito."
"The final sanding is always done with wet paper, the last step before buffing."
"We use Menzerna wax for final buffing, which is not only expensive, but also heavy, making it even more difficult and expensive to get to South America. We haven't found any other alternative, however, for that glassy finish." 
"Gonzalo is good at what he does. He takes time on each guitar to fine tune the fret details, work out string height, install electronic components, and perform a final quality control check."
 "Here is the indispensable photo of hanging guitars, times three. Our monthly production sometimes reaches 65 guitars."
"3M blue low-tack tape is not available in Ecuador, but sure is handy to use on the fingerboards. It doesn't leave any residue. I bring it from the USA."
"Bass guitar fingerboards. This light wood is called "Chonta Caspi". We also use a similar dark wood called simply "Chonta" which is actually the bark of a palm tree, and is so hard it dulls the machine tools. Chonta is used for stakes and fence posts because it won't rot, even in the tropical dampness. Any other wood that is used as fence posts either rots, or sprouts. So far we haven't had any trouble with our fret boards sprouting, but you never know."

"I thank God for his help in making Vogel Guitars a reality." -- Bob Vogel, October 12, 2002

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