While on tour this summer, I had the opportunity to visit the SIT String Factory in Akron, Ohio. I didn’t have a lot of time in-between sound check and show time, but I still wanted to get over to the factory, even if it was just for a few minutes. Bryan Trembley, one of SIT’s account representatives, was nice enough to pick me up at the venue and drive me over to the factory, which is located at 815 South Broadway.
When I first walked onto the building, I was struck with a sense of industrial nostalgia. SIT has been in the same building since the 1970s, and it was refreshing to see a fully functional operation that keeps everything in-house and relies on the elbow grease of a group of dedicated employees. Each winding machine can produce around 1000 strings a day.
All strings are made one at a time and each winding technician works on two machines at once, making each worker responsible for the production of roughly 2000 strings a day, depending on the model they're making and the speed of the machine. The company likes to consider its way of manufacturing strings an "analog" process that is also very detailed to ensure consistency. Each of the stations and machines are responsible for a certain range of gauges. For example, 046 or .042 gauges will be made by a different person and at a different station than, say, .032 or .034 gauges. In all, four to five people will be involved in manufacturing of a set of electric guitar strings.
The string bouquets are where the cores of the wound strings are kept, and this is where a winding technician gets the supply needed for the day's production. The technician then uses the winding machine to apply the cover wrap to the core. The bouquet in the photo above shows about a couple of hours supply of cores for the technician. Raw materials and cores are usually used within a couple weeks because the company likes the materials to be as fresh as possible and from the time a string is wound to the time it is packaged and shipped is usually less than two weeks.
After visiting the SIT factory, I had a different view of my strings when I put them on before the show that night. The factory tour was a reminder of how many people play a role behind the scenes that ultimately enables musicians to make music for the world to enjoy.
So if you ever get the chance to see how one of the products that you use is made, I highly recommend you take advantage of the opportunity. Play on!
For more on SIT Strings visit www.sitstrings.com.