Here goes, keeping in mind I’ve only been there less than a year:)
The Master Builders each have a company credit card to use for scenarios like that, or we send an email request with a link to our purchasing agent/buyer.
We often use outside vendors for pickups, such as Lollar, Novak, Bare Knuckle, etc.
I’m not sure if I’ve seen any vintage/NOS parts used lately.
I’ve donated a fair number of parts from my own stash for these past NAMM guitars, such as those cupcake knobs, the control plates on the CA Specials, the Brass Knuckles, the sterling silver, etc. Having built Thorn guitars for the past 18 years means I’ve probably got a lot more inventory than the other builders at home. No big deal at this stage, I just wanted cool guitars.
There is a huge parts department that I’ll often stroll through in hopes of familiarizing myself with where they’re kept and what’s available. For example, the control plate I used on my “Plain Jane” I simply stumbled across in a bin - drilled Volume / 3-way toggle / Tone.
I’d never seen that used on a Fender, what the heck - one more thing to be different. Someone at some point had it made, a few extras left behind.
The wood warehouse is amazing. If we see something we want to use for future builds we sign it out and stash it in a MB area under lock and key. An email is sent to us when ever something special is delivered, then it’s usually a mad sprint to get to it first. Chariots of Fire theme song playing on the PA
The NAMM guitars are the only time we’re given free-reign to build anything we want.
The rest of the year we’re building out our orders sent in from dealers. Some are equally custom as the NAMM guitars, others fairly straight forward. I’m currently wrapping up an order for a Strat with a metal flake body, pinstriping, a Floyd, a Sustainer system, humbucker in the bridge, glow-in-the-dark inlays and matching headstock. After that, I’m working on a straight-up 54 Tele with a baseball bat neck.
Both ends of the spectrum there.
I hope that sheds a little light. We’re back to offering tours now, too.