Since 1973, Cort has been producing quality guitars that are sold all around the world. Over that time, guitar production methods have evolved. However, today, as it did over 4 decades ago, a great guitar always starts with great wood. At Cort guitars, the first step in the production process is drying the wood to be used in each instrument. After highly regulated drying, Cort stores the wood for over a year to ensure proper climate acclimation. Quality control inspectors check the progress to determine when the wood is ready to be utilized in production.
Next, the wood is cut to size, preparing it to start its long transformation into a great-sounding guitar. Many models feature special exotic wood tops that are glued on at this early phase. Cort uses specialized machinery to apply proper pressure to ensure a tight bond. On neck-thru-body models, the body wings are adhered to the necks using the same method. Cort uses modern technology in a careful blend with traditional guitar-building skills to produce its guitars. After the Cort R&D team hand designs the model, it is meticulously plotted, allowing the handcrafted prototypes of the initial creation to be captured and replicated consistently using computer-aided equipment.
The model shape and the elaborate contours of the bodies are crafted using specially adapted CNC machines. Initially, the body shape is fabricated starting with the back of the guitar. Then the other areas like the belly cut and the electronics cavity are cut. The body is then flipped, and the top areas are then cut to shape. These processes use up to 8 different cutting tools. Fingerboards on Cort guitars feature various inlay options, ranging from simple to ornate. In each case, the process starts with the precision cutting of the fingerboard. This is done using specially designed compact CNC machines for maximum accuracy.
While many other factories purchase generic inlays from outside suppliers, Cort uses inlay materials ranging from abalone and mother of pearl to plastic and exotic woods. These materials are laser cut right in the factory. Another important part of the fingerboard preparation is cutting the fret slots. Perfect fret position is critical in the instrument’s performance and tuning stability. This machine, along with highly skilled craftsman, ensures a result that is precise and consistent. With a single pass, it cuts all the slots including the perfect position for the nut. The next step is the installation of the inlays. This meticulous process is done by the hands of some of Cort’s most experienced workers. Now, the fingerboard is ready to be installed on the neck. It’s carefully positioned, clamped, and allowed to bond fully. Then, the fingerboard radius and decals are applied.
The correct installation of the frets is a very important part of the guitar production process. This three-step process begins with the initial installation of the frets. Then the frets are machine pressed for maximum stability. Finally, a highly trained member of the Cort team inspects each fret to assure that it’s fully seated and fine-tunes as needed with a hand hammer. Now that the vital initial construction is complete, the guitars move into the finishing process. This starts with a craftsman sanding the final shape of the guitar’s body and neck. This process uses a combination of traditional equipment, new technologies, and handcrafting. Once again, at this point, additional quality control steps are taken before the instruments are ready for painting.
For many guitars, the next step is hand staining. This process is especially important on models with exotic wood tops, as it will accentuate the look of the special woods, like flamed and quilted maple. For other colors, the painting process includes a visit to the paint booth. This is where highly experienced painters will apply various colors including hand-painted burst effect finishes.
The next few steps are the application of a clear coat. This brings us to one of the most impressive areas of the Cort factory. Here, you will see hundreds of gorgeous guitars moving on a carefully timed conveyor. This high-tech painting department uses electrostatic technology to assure an even, durable finish while allowing it to be as thin as possible. This thinner finish is important to allow your guitar to sound its best while also looking its best.
After each guitar is allowed to fully dry, it is moved into the buffing department. The first step is to hand-sand the guitars using very fine sandpaper. This is the start of a process designed to maximize the look of the final finish. Next, the guitars pass through the automated buffing machine. Moving towards a smooth and flawless finish, the guitar is inspected and then moved along to the hand-buffing area where several stages of buffing are done as the guitar starts to reach its full potential.
Each guitar receives additional detailed attention as it moves towards the final steps. The frets are leveled, dressed, and polished to assure great playability. Then the guitar moves into the assembly department. Premium Cort guitars utilize a cellular assembly methodology, meaning that one highly trained technician will handle all assembly steps for one guitar. With this method, the worker takes full ownership of the final building process on that guitar.
After assembly, each guitar will go through two different inspection processes. The first includes an in-depth setup, making sure that everything functions correctly and that the instrument plays well. The second focuses on inspecting all aspects of the instrument. Each guitar must pass 10 different detailed inspection processes conducted by one of 15 quality control supervisors. Some guitars take 45 days or more to go through production at the Cort electric guitar factory.