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Signed, Sealed, Delivered…The Kirk Hammett Flying V by Gibson Custom

Caption: Kirk Hammett Stands in a Sea of Vs.

One of the most challenging feats of a major artist release from Gibson Custom is coordinating schedules with busy artists.  In order for a few passionate fans and collectors to know that their guitar has been held, tested and signed by the artist, phone calls are made, flights are taken, appointments are held, sometimes cancelled and rescheduled and so on, until the planets align and guitars meet their namesake for a few minutes together to make sure that each passes muster. This critical and final step connects the owner to the artist in a very powerful, physical way; both hero and fan have held the same instrument. It’s a very unique and exclusive value that stays with the guitar for its lifetime. Shown here, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett stands amidst a sea of reproduction ’79 Flying V’s from Gibson Custom, each a recreation of his own instrument right down to the gaffer’s tape and the occasional ding or dent.

In early April, things fell into place for Kirk to sign the first 50 guitars in the run, which will total 150 (the final 100 are not signed by the artist). As is always the case, flight cases were packed, Custom staff flights were booked and an impressively orchestrated series of tasks and follow-ups were executed to near perfection. 

Posted: 4/23/2012 1:56:59 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink

‘Goldie’ Goes ‘Cherry’: A Limited Run of 50 ‘Like New’ Collector’s Choice #2

One of the most often repeated terms heard in the Gibson Custom Shop is, “You know what would be cool?” It’s as common as a trip to the coffee machine around here. And it only makes sense. Every day, a small team of craftsmen, engineers and musicians has the luxury of dreaming as part of our job descriptions. When we added the Collector’s Choice range to our line of fine guitars, we also added the benefit of a whole new group of guest product managers; the collectors that open up their vaults, choose their favorites and allow us to recreate them in amazing detail. The owner of the original instrument on which Collector’s Choice #3 (Goldie Serial Number 9-0629) is modeled, received the prototype and was inspired to think what she might have looked like when she left the factory. As a result, we received an enthusiastic phone call that started with our favorite term of inspiration: “You know what would be cool?”

We agreed whole-heartedly. And, as a result, have created a limited run of 50 Cherry Gloss Collector’s Choice #2 guitars. Whether or not she should be named “Cherry” instead of “Goldie” is an ongoing debate. This limited edition of 50 Cherry Gloss Collector’s Choice #2 guitars feature the aniline-dyed back of the original 1950s Les Pauls, which were a beautiful red that eventually faded with time, as reflected in the current condition of “Goldie.” The finished burst is made to recreate a factory new cherry burst from 1959 and has a high-gloss, luxurious nitro-cellulose lacquer finish, as it would have had when it left the hands of the craftsmen in the Kalamazoo factory.

If you’d like to learn more about “Goldie,” you can find more information here. The entire run of both finishes remains limited to 300 for the world, with the availability of qualifying materials ultimately determining the actual number that are built.

Posted: 2/16/2012 4:13:12 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink

Joe Bonamassa Introduces Paul Kossoff 1959 Les Paul (with Video)

At the 2012 NAMM Show, guitar hero Joe Bonamassa introduced the Paul Kossoff 1959 Les Paul, coming soon from Gibson Custom. Not only did Joe take the guitar for a test spin, he spoke about the influence that Kossoff (Free) had on his playing. Check out the video (via Wildwood Guitars) below:

Posted: 1/25/2012 2:35:50 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink

60-Year Logo Launched; Featured on All 2012 Gibson Custom Guitars

In celebration of Gibson’s 60-year legacy of solid body, electric guitars, Gibson Custom is unveiling both a new logo and subtle guitar feature to commemorate the milestone. Modeled after the vintage ’50s brass badge affixed to guitar cases and featured in advertising of the same period, the vintage replica brass badge reappears in 2012 as the Gibson Custom icon. 

Those that acquire a genuine Gibson Custom guitar shipped in 2012 will have an authentic brass badge affixed to the back cover of the rhythm and treble switch on most solid-bodied instruments. Guitars that are either semi-hollow, hollow or do not have a rhythm and treble cover will feature the icon in either the sound hole or as a decal on the back of the headstock.

Guitars featuring the new icon began shipping in January and are already at retail.

Posted: 1/11/2012 1:36:47 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink

Gibson Custom Hot Rod TV Episode to Re-Air in December

If you missed the original air dates of Gibson Custom’s Hot Rod TV episode, no worries.  The show has done so well that it’s going into a second run of airdates beginning on 12/17/2011 through 12/30/2011.

If you love cars and guitars, you don’t want to miss this one. Gibson Custom tackles the difficult task of creating a customized Les Paul for hot rod enthusiast Scott Whitaker. Based on Scott’s “Les Noyse” roadster, the Custom team eventually creates one of the most challenging and stunning guitars it’s ever crafted.

Air dates are 12/17 @ 10 a.m. ET, 12/22 @ 3:30 p.m. ET and 3:30 a.m. ET, 12/23 @ 11 a.m. ET and 12/30 @ 5:30 p.m. ET. Check for your Speed Television channel with your local cable provider.

Posted: 12/15/2011 4:08:42 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink

Bench Tips From a Self-Proclaimed Rock God

When we receive guitars from consumers and artists, I am occasionally blown away by the setup of one guitar. Frets are nasty and corroded, the neck looks like the back bowl of the Vail ski resort, and the action is set so high it would make any bluegrass player hug you. Here are a couple of tips to make you and your guitar happy:

·         0000 Steel Wool: You can buy a bag of this at any hardware store for under $5. It will last you forever. Run a small handful of steal wool across the frets and fingerboard. This will not only clean the corrosion off the frets, but will remove the gunk (or finger jam, as some call it) off the fingerboard.  Linseed oil or Lemon oil to follow, when needed. Oiling the board, depending on your climate, should only be done two or three times a year (or when the seasons change).

·         Oil Your Rod: Do not be afraid. Adjusting your neck is a quick and easy way to love your guitar. Before you adjust, remove the truss rod nut and oil the truss rod threads. You do not have to remove the nut entirely, just enough to see the threads. The truss rod is cold-rolled steel. The threads can rust up making it very difficult to tighten. It just will take a small drop of oil (air tool oil, three in one oil). Be careful not to get the oil on your finish. Big mess.

·         Adjust Your Neck: Use your E-String as a straight edge. Finger the string on the second fret. With your other hand, Use your pinky and finger on the 16th fret. You may see play or relief in the neck. You want the neck to be straight with maybe just a touch of relief. If you find the turning of the truss rod difficult and you’re using all of your strength to turn… STOP! Take it to a repair dude.

Straightness of a neck really depends on the player. Some players are hard pickers. Some are very light pickers. I am a hard picker, with fat fingers. My action is a little taller than most, so I can get my fingers under the string. Some players are soft pickers and have a set of .008’s with the lowest action (like strings sitting on the fret). That’s fine… if it works for the player. I would be splatting all over a guitar, set up like that.

I have been blown away by how many “guitar celebrities” use extra light strings. I cannot name names, but it is the guys on the short list… that you hear on the Classic Rock stations… every day. I prefer .011’s on my guitars. They make my amps really sing. I tend to like the stiffness, especially when bending the strings. It brings out the Rock God in me. (I just hope I do not make all of those painful facial expressions you see too often in the magazines.)

This brings me to another point:

·         PLAY YOUR FREAKING GUITAR! My personal guitars are not clean. They have multiple scratches and dings from drunken lead singers tripping on their mic stand, slamming into my guitar. They do not sit in a climate-controlled room with just the right amount of humidity. It is out in my car, right now. I believe that if a guitar (or amp) can survive all of the grueling conditions I put said guitar in, the more trustworthy the instrument.  My gigging guitars have proven their worth tenfold, and I will probably never sell these guitars.  You should see some celebrities’ touring  guitars… TRASHED. But, they are dependable and trustworthy. The celebrities and their techs know how the guitar is going to perform, day-in and day-out. That, to me, is a keeper.

Posted: 11/28/2011 4:30:23 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink

Meet the Mule #3

As ineloquent as a block-lettered number painted onto the otherwise unfinished front of a Les Paul, the name “mule” doesn’t begin to imply how important any one of the these 11, very special guitars is. In fact, these sometimes dusty, never-finished guitars are critical reference tools. Each one has a slightly different profile and character and collectively they capture the various median profile specifications of actual vintage instruments that we’ve analyzed throughout the years.

Each “mule’s” guitar neck is a starting point for our builders and craftsmen; an exact beginning to a purposefully inexact result. No different than the original guitars built over a half-century ago, each neck profile that leaves the Custom Shop today is the result of hand work by individual human beings.

However, in order to chase down and deliver elusive and passionate terms like “chunky,” “fast,” “heavy/light cheek” and dozens of other enigmatic terms used by guitar players (including us), we need a reference library of the historic profiles that put these words in our vocabularies to begin with. From these starting points, a.k.a. “the mules,” a true master craftsman, guitar player and someone who understands what “chunky” means dials each neck in at the bench. These aren’t the only types of “mules” hanging around the Custom Shop. We’ll introduce you to a few others here in our blog another time.

Posted: 11/14/2011 5:09:10 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink

Attention to Detail: Recapturing the History of Gibson Craft

Among the key challenges of recreating specifications from guitars originally crafted a half a century (or more) ago, is that we often find ourselves as the sole consumer of some very small-run parts.  Today’s example is the plastics and tooling used to create some of the reissue details of Gibson Custom’s Historic Reissue guitars. In the picture above, you see a rhythm/treble toggle switch washer, which would seem run of the mill.  What’s not obvious from the photo is that this humble little piece represents a great deal of research, engineering and investment. Over the last 20 years of continual refinement of the Historic Reissue series of guitars, Gibson Custom has faced the challenge of locating, analyzing and recreating much of the minutia that adds up to recapture the original essence of the finest guitars ever made.

The Story of Reissue Plastic: Back in the 1950s, there was much less emphasis put on the efficiency of manufacturing compared to the trends of later decades. This simple, round washer is a small but telling example of that trajectory. On the original Les Pauls of the ’50s, the R/T switch washer was cut from a sturdy plastic, where a machine tool would cut multiple pieces from a single sheet after the sheet had been silkscreened with the words “Rhythm” and “Treble.”  Because the tool and the silkscreen process were separate, it was possible to use a thinner, slightly more flexible plastic. The original specification of this plastic, not constrained by a fervent desire to squeeze efficiency out of every pore of manufacturing, more closely formed around the carved top of the Les Paul and also could accommodate the fine look of a silkscreened font.

Over time, the process was changed to cost less and be more efficient. Thicker plastic allowed the tooling to cut and stamp the washer at once. As the tool cut the plastic into washer shapes, a stamp built into the same tool added the words “Rhythm” and “Treble” in a foil that replaced the original silkscreen process. The manufacturing benefits were a reduction in motion, time and materials, the new measure of manufacturing vitality in the 1960s and 1970s. What was lost was one of dozens of intricate details that had made the most substantial, ornamental and beautiful sounding guitars in the history of the craft. 

For the last 20 years, and continuing today, Gibson Custom has poured through every detail that made the original guitars in Gibson’s history some of the magical instruments ever created. From the tiniest details to the most substantial specifications, we remain on a constant mission of research, craft and passionate dedication to capturing every aspect of our own history of craft so that we can bring our fans a piece of time, history and a playing experience that would otherwise remain for a privileged and dwindling few. Whether through the general specification of our Historic Reissue Collection of guitars, or through the “bench copy” replication of specific serial numbers in the Collector’s Choice series, Gibson Custom remains fanatical about bringing every detail of tone, feel and performance to the world.

Posted: 11/4/2011 5:30:00 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink

Going Back in Time for an Amazing ’59

The 1959 Historic Reissue Les Paul of today is the result of an unyielding commitment to capture and recreate the mean average of the hundreds of specifications from the originals. It is an unprecedented achievement requiring science, skill and the contributions of many collectors willing to let go of their precious ’bursts long enough for Gibson Custom to analyze them down to dizzying detail. Each is a beautiful recreation of the essence of the famed 1959 Les Paul, boasting the key aesthetic, performance, tone and “feel” features from a time long gone by in an instrument that many can afford to call their own.

As amazing as the results are, the process behind today’s Reissue ’59 Standard captures the essence of the approximately 700 ’59s and has taken nearly 20 years and the collaboration of a passionate community of players, collectors and Custom builders.

Average is Awesome. Specific is Breath-Taking.

The Collector’s Choice™ ’59 Les Paul series makes it possible to own a recreation of a specific guitar from the few Les Paul Standards created in 1959. The world’s collectors have again allowed Gibson Custom access to their originals and opened up their vaults so that specific ’bursts can be re-analyzed, digitally scanned and measured from every conceivable perspective. Now, Gibson Custom is faithfully recreating the individual personality of specific serial numbers from the past and bringing them to a limited number of owners. Every detail of finish, material, wear and tone in the Collector’s Choice™ range are as near to perfect re-creations as humanly possible.

The Latest Collector’s Choice #2: Meet 9-0629, a.k.a. “Goldie.”

Posted: 10/24/2011 4:12:37 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink

Inside the Pro Shop with Sean Nicholson: An introduction.

I grew up in Atlanta. Even before I could drive, I would ride my bike to Atlanta Discount Music, not to always buy gear (because I was a kid and broke). I rode seven miles to Atlanta Discount Music to just to be around all the musicians (working or just hanging out). It was musicians, just talking about guitars, amps, playing last night’s gig. It was not just a guitar shop. To me, it was a school of music. I just soaked it up. Most of my friends, from way back then, do not even play music anymore. I am unable to let it go.

This same feeling plays out at Gibson. Not all of the employees are musicians, but there are some really good players. Some are weekend warriors, a few are Honky Tonk pickers down on lower Broad and a lot are backyard sling-a-longers. In the Custom Shop, most of the guys I work around are players. My boss has had the same weekend gig at a roadhouse (on the TN/ KY border) for 17 years.  The roadhouse is in the middle of a corn field, across from a cow pasture, no joke.

We spend our breaks and lunches talking gear. Just when we say, “I have everything I need,” here comes the release of another amp… or pedal… or someone is selling a ’72 Super Lead (I hate when that happens). It never stops. And it shouldn’t.

I gig just about every weekend. I really enjoy playing in front of an audience with other musicians. I am not trying to be a touring rock god (like I thought I would be, years ago). I am playing guitar, to just play. It is what I have always wanted to do. 

I tell my wife, about my gigs: “This is my bowling night or golf game.” Instead of going out and spending thousands of dollars on golf clubs or a kick-ass bowling ball (custom Ebonite, Vital Sign with skull and cross-bones airbrushed on the face), I acquire guitars, pedals and amps. My wife understands. Not many wives do. The fact that I work at Gibson as a profession and perform live as a hobby makes up for the life I thought about, years back at Atlanta Discount Music.

But, I still have not forgotten about the “touring rock star” dream. I just need to stop losing hair, find my parachute pants and clean up my knee high moccasin boots.

Posted: 9/26/2011 4:14:41 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink
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