Jackson Guitar Factory

Jackson Guitars is an iconic name in the world of heavy metal and hard rock. Established in the late 1970s, it quickly became synonymous with shredding solos and aggressive tones.

However, while the guitars themselves are legends on the scene, the factories that created these instruments have a storied history of their own.

1. Charvel’s Guitar Repair: Southern California

Wayne Charvel, after a three-year stint at Fender during the early 1970s, established “Charvel’s Guitar Repair” in Azusa, California, in 1974. The workshop quickly gained renown for its high-quality repair services, custom paint jobs, and bespoke parts production for out-of-warranty Fender guitars.

As the reputation of Charvel’s shop grew among musicians, it faced competition from Asian manufacturers who started producing and selling knock-off parts at lower prices. This challenge led to a strategic shift when Grover Jackson, who had become an integral part of the business, suggested they start building complete guitars.

Charvel’s instruments were thus composed of wooden components sourced from Boogie Bodies and Schecter, adorned with a mix of Charvel-branded and aftermarket hardware.

Facing financial difficulties, Wayne Charvel eventually filed for bankruptcy and in 1978, handed over the company’s reins to Grover Jackson, dissociating himself from the Charvel brand thereafter.

After purchasing the company name, Grover Jackson moved the business to a new location in Glendora, California.

Jackson brand was born in 1980 when the iconic guitarist Randy Rhoads approached the company, seeking a unique guitar tailored to his playing style. This partnership with Grover Jackson, Tim Wilson, and master builder Mike Shannon led to the creation of the Concorde, a bold redesign of the classic Flying V.

The radical departure from Charvel’s traditional Stratocaster-inspired models prompted Grover Jackson to differentiate these instruments with a new brand name, selecting his own surname for the marque, thus birthing the inaugural Jackson Guitar.

This was a time when heavy music was gaining momentum, and Jackson became the answer to a new generation of flamboyant guitarists looking for more from their instruments.

The early Jackson guitars, including the legendary Randy Rhoads models, were crafted in this Southern California workshop, which quickly became an epicenter for high-performance custom guitars.

Following the success of the Rhoads model, Grover Jackson decided to launch the new designs under the ‘Jackson’ brand name, while still operating Charvel out of the same facility.

2. San Dimas, California

The San Dimas period is often revered as the golden era for Jackson guitars. It was a time marked by the birth of designs that would become iconic.

The San Dimas facility was not a mass-production powerhouse. Instead, it maintained an artisan approach, focusing on handcrafted instruments. This meant limited production numbers but exceptional quality.

The factory became a gathering point for some of the best talents in the guitar-making industry.

Beyond the Rhoads model, the San Dimas facility was responsible for the creation of several iconic guitar models. The Jackson Soloist and Dinky were all products of this era.

Guitars stamped with “San Dimas, CA” on the neck plate are highly sought after in the guitar-collecting community. Instruments from this period are considered to have an exceptional craftsmanship and a unique tonal quality.

By the end of the 1980s, operations were moved from San Dimas to a more spacious facility in Ontario, California, marking the end of the legendary San Dimas era.

3. Ontario, California

The Ontario facility was not just a new location, but a sign of the brand’s expansion, maturity, and an evolving approach to guitar manufacturing.

The demand for Jackson guitars was growing exponentially by the late 1980s. The San Dimas facility, though iconic, couldn’t keep up with the production requirements. Ontario, with its spacious facility, was chosen to meet this demand.

Moving to Ontario meant more than just additional space; it was an opportunity to introduce more modern manufacturing techniques, allowing for efficient production without compromising on the brand’s quality.

The Ontario factory incorporated state-of-the-art machinery that enabled more consistent production runs.

From wood selection and treatment to final assembly and quality checks, the workflow at Ontario was systematic and efficient.

Many artisans and luthiers from the San Dimas days transitioned to the Ontario facility, ensuring the brand’s legacy of craftsmanship continued.

The Ontario factory facilitated the production of a wider range of models. While flagship models continued to be produced, newer models were introduced to cater to a broader audience.

The Ontario facility managed to strike a balance between maintaining the legacy of the San Dimas era and embracing modern production techniques. This balance is a testament to Jackson’s commitment to their roots while also looking ahead.

4. Japan Factories

Jackson’s rise to fame in the 1980s prompted Grover Jackson to start producing popular guitar models in Asia on a larger scale.

By 1986, production shifted to Japanese assembly lines, and guitars were then designated by model numbers.

Jackson Guitars has leveraged the production capabilities of Asian factories to cater to various segments of the market, especially the mid-range and entry-level sectors. This move not only allows for more cost-effective production but also broadens the accessibility of Jackson guitars to a global audience.

Grover Jackson sold the Jackson brand to IMC (International Music Corporation) in 1989.

Under IMC, Charvel guitars were manufactured exclusively in Japan from 1986 to 1991.

The “Professional” series, which started in the late 1980s, was one of Jackson’s initial lines produced outside of the USA, specifically in Japan. These guitars were well-received and provided players with a more affordable option while retaining many of the quality features Jackson was known for.

After Jackson Guitars was acquired by the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC) in 2002, the production dynamics for Jackson underwent several changes to leverage Fender’s expansive infrastructure and manufacturing capabilities.

5. U.S. Production – Corona, California

Many of Jackson’s high-end and custom shop guitars shifted to Fender’s main U.S. facility in Corona, California. This allowed Jackson’s Custom Shop to benefit from Fender’s advanced resources while retaining the brand’s distinctiveness and craft quality.

Even within the Corona facility, Jackson guitars are made by specialized teams well-versed in Jackson’s unique design elements and specifications.

6. Mexican Production – Ensenada Facility

Just south of the U.S. border, in the bustling city of Ensenada, Baja California lies a facility that has become synonymous with producing some of the most esteemed instruments in the music world. The Ensenada factory has played a pivotal role in guitar manufacturing.

The collaboration between Jackson Guitars and Fender’s Ensenada factory in Mexico has been a significant development, enabling Jackson to tap into Fender’s vast manufacturing prowess while maintaining its unique identity.

The Ensenada facility is predominantly recognized as Fender’s primary manufacturing hub in Mexico. Established in the early 1990s, it was designed to produce high-quality instruments at a more affordable price point, expanding Fender’s reach to a wider range of musicians.

Its proximity to Fender’s main U.S. operations in Corona, California, allowed for seamless integration, communication, and shared expertise between the two facilities.

Although Jackson’s roots and flagship models originated from the USA, the decision to manufacture select models in Ensenada was strategic. It allowed Jackson to cater to a wider range of customers, offering quality instruments at a more accessible price point.

By leveraging Fender’s established infrastructure in Ensenada, Jackson could swiftly upscale production without the logistical challenges of setting up a new facility from scratch.

The Ensenada factory is renowned for maintaining rigorous quality standards. As Jackson models started rolling off the production line here, they inherited the facility’s reputation for consistent and top-notch build quality.

Over the years, a variety of Jackson models have been produced in Ensenada. This includes versions of their popular Dinky, Rhoads, Soloist, and Kelly models, among others. Jackson’s Pro Series guitars are produced in Mexico, offering a more affordable alternative to the U.S. models. Despite their lower price, the Pro Series guitars boast high playability, with speedy necks, smooth frets, and a compound radius for easy soloing.

As the years progressed and market dynamics evolved, Jackson further diversified its production to include other Asian countries like Indonesia and China. This was especially true in the 2000s and beyond, as the brand looked to cater to both mid-tier and entry-level segments of the market.

7. Indonesian Factories

Over the years, Indonesia has emerged as a primary hub for Jackson’s mid-tier models. With a strong woodworking tradition and an established network of skilled craftsmen, Indonesian factories have produced a wide range of Jackson models with consistency and quality. This includes variations of the Soloist, Rhoads, Dinky, and other.

While these factories are third-party operations, Jackson maintains stringent quality oversight. Regular inspections and collaborations ensure that the instruments align with Jackson’s standards.

8. Chinese Factories

China, being a massive manufacturing powerhouse, has facilities that produce Jackson’s entry-level models. These guitars are primarily aimed at beginners or guitarists looking for budget-friendly options without compromising too much on quality.

Economies of scale and more automated processes contribute to the affordability of these models.

The JS Series, particularly the lower-end models, is often produced in China. These guitars provide a taste of Jackson’s signature playability and aesthetics at a more accessible price point.

While Asian factories allow Jackson to offer cost-effective solutions, the brand is conscious of its reputation. As such, rigorous quality checks and periodic inspections ensure that the instruments, regardless of their production location, uphold the Jackson name.