“People say it’s like going to Wonka’s candy factory”: PRS Guitars is offering tours of its Maryland factory

PRS Guitars Factory Tour
(Image credit: PRS Guitars)

If you you have ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at a high-end electric guitar brand now is your chance, because as of January 2024, PRS Guitars will be opening its doors for factory tours, allowing visitors to see the one-off pieces in its archive, and the sort of work and processes that go into making a PRS.

Those with allergies with curly maple might want to sit this one out. The PRS facility at Stevensville, Maryland is like Xanadu for tone wood obsessives. Though the man whose name is above the door and on the headstocks says some other visitors have their own cultural references.

“People say it’s like going to Wonka’s candy factory,” said Paul Reed Smith. “I’m not sure about that, but there is nothing like talking to someone right after they’ve had a tour. You can see the lightbulb turn on while they are here – it really gives a full picture of all the care each employee here puts into their work.”

The tours return for the first time since 2019. They take around 90 minutes, will include a maximum of six people, and they cost just $5. This is a workspace – no open-toed shoes, no photographs or video. PRS say it might not be suitable for children under 10, on account of the length and technical detail. 

It is, however, definitely suitable for guitar players who want to know more about PRS pickup winds, and what makes the 57/08 humbucker pickups so special, and how they find those tiny birds for the fretboard inlays.

PRS Guitars Factory Tour

(Image credit: PRS Guitars)

It also offers a rare opportunity to see the archive. If you follow PRS Guitars on YouTube, you will have an idea of the sorts of treasures that are in there; guitars such as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, which has a 27-fret build and some unique carving patterns on the cutaways to enhance upper-fret access. 

And there is of course the guitar that started it all, the Les Paul Junior style single-cut that Smith made out of violin wood while at St Mary’s College for his Independent Studies project.

And it is not just guitars. You’ll see how guitar amps such as the new Mark Tremonti MT-100 signature tube amp head are put together, and where the Indonesian-made SE line is inspected. The tours are led by various PRS higher-uppers, including COO Jack Higginbotham, director of new products engineering Michael LeBar, and art director Marc Quigley.

Guests receive a small gift at the end of the tour and get 10 per cent off at the West Street East Accessory Store. You can also play some of the guitars and the eco-logically conscious of might want to take their old electric guitar strings – PRS will recycle them for you onsite. For more details, see PRS Guitars.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.