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Hey it's Mat from Gibson Product Development - AMA

matkoehler

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Sep 12, 2014
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150
Hi all. Charlie and I thought it might be fun for me to address Gibson (or Epiphone) questions in this thread...whether about current products or mysteries from Gibson's history. I think it's important to hear it straight from the horse's mouth...don't seem to have much luck getting accurately paraphrased or quoted in magazine articles.

If you don't know me, I was a longtime forum geek and I decided to put my passions to use by joining Gibson in April 2016. I started in product management for Custom Shop and Memphis and now I'm doing product development company-wide. I am also a huge Gibson/Epiphone history fan and having access to our archives is an incredible perk of the job. So fan to fan, let's have some fun!
 

goldtop0

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Aug 19, 2003
Messages
8,211
Welcome Mat(no pun intended), good to have you back here and congrats on your working at Gibson, I can imagine you'd be happy as a dune bug on a pumpkin doing those great youtube vids etc that are so informative for all of us.
One burning question I have is, are there any plans for CS to make a '58 335 again ie fat neck and no binding...........thanks.
 

matkoehler

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Sep 12, 2014
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150
One burning question I have is, are there any plans for CS to make a '58 335 again ie fat neck and no binding...........thanks.
Thank you and thanks for the question, and I actually have a welcome mat that says "Welcome, Mat!" so that is the appropriate greeting...haha.

You can order a 1959 ES-335 Reissue with no neck binding and larger neck profile through Made 2 Measure, but no plans to have a '58 back as a core model in the near future just because we have such a large order book for the current ES models. I would like to add a core Historic ES-345 when possible but same issue there...constrained by our capacity so no place to add without discontinuing something else. Portfolio management is a combination of Tetris and Whack-a-Mole...
 

J T

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Oct 20, 2005
Messages
10,141
Hey Mat!
Nice to see you here!

Any chance those protector cases can be back in stock?
 

stumphead

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Dec 12, 2018
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373
Hi Matt -

can you tell us about the nitro finish on the Murphy Labs - is it some kind of " old school " formula ? If possible go into technical detail about the chemical composition.

also I would not be surprised if there were chemicals you can no longer use because of modern states laws regarding chemical exposure to employees ... if you know what is NOT in the modern formula that was in the 50s please elaborate.

and lastly it is common for folks to state on line that an absolute preproduction of a vintage burst is not possible because Gibson cant use " old growth " lumber ... its not available in large enough quantities for a large company like Gibson to use .... is this true ? any talk of a special run using "old growth " air aged woods ????

( and if possible - where do I send my deposit )
 

Vics53

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Jan 21, 2021
Messages
50
Hello Mat. If all goes to plan I'm hoping to try to find and purchase a '61 SG Reissue by November. I have yet to play one because I want to wait until I have the cash in hand. My concern is in regards to Gibson's fretwork.

In January of 2019 I bought an Epiphone SG Pro. Little did I know it would become my favorite guitar to play. The thing that amazed me most was how immaculate the fretwork was. Basically, this guitar did not need a setup other than new strings and a mild tweak of the intonation. That same day I also tried out a new Gibson SG Standard. I hate to say it but I gotta be honest. The fretwork was horrid. Fretted notes buzzed, rattled and pinged out badly.

So on one had, here was a guitar for $400.00 that was flawless and on the other hand was a guitar for $1,500.00 that had to go straight to a tech. And one could only hope the tech could get it all sorted out. I've gotten burned in the past with other guitars when I was told "a setup will take care of that."

Not trying to give you a hard time, just stating the facts. A '61 SG Reissue is my dream guitar. I'm hoping when the day comes I'll be totally sold when I try one out. Just want to know how Gibson's quality control is these days. What do they do to insure a potential customer such as myself will say "Oh, yeah!! This is mine!!"

Thank you for your time.
 

matkoehler

Active member
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Sep 12, 2014
Messages
150
I have an original type ll chainsaw case and also
2 new LP style protector cases and 2 new SG style protector cases..the new ones are far superior imo .
I agree...having a handle that's not fixed makes them a lot more comfortable to carry too. Thanks for the note!
 

TM1

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Joined
Jun 27, 2003
Messages
8,101
Hi Mat! Welcome (although you've been here before)! I too would love to know about the Murphy Lab Lacquer. I heard that it was the same type as used in the late `50's & early `60's and was reverse engineered. Any plans on making an accurate PAF type pickup?
Thanks!!
 

matkoehler

Active member
Joined
Sep 12, 2014
Messages
150
can you tell us about the nitro finish on the Murphy Labs - is it some kind of " old school " formula ? If possible go into technical detail about the chemical composition.

also I would not be surprised if there were chemicals you can no longer use because of modern states laws regarding chemical exposure to employees ... if you know what is NOT in the modern formula that was in the 50s please elaborate.

and lastly it is common for folks to state on line that an absolute preproduction of a vintage burst is not possible because Gibson cant use " old growth " lumber ... its not available in large enough quantities for a large company like Gibson to use .... is this true ? any talk of a special run using "old growth " air aged woods ????
Great questions! I can tell you that Tom Murphy worked for a long time on the lacquer formula...truly labored over it for years...but it is something we are regarding as a trade secret for the time being so I can't share technical specifics. Same goes for comparing the original lacquer composition to what we're using now...it was important to get not only the look but the feel, both of which I believe are very close to the original lacquer.

Regarding "old growth" lumbar, you're exactly right -- there's just not a lot of it available, or at least not sustainably and responsibly. Brazilian Rosewood is unobtanium at this point but dark Indian Rosewood is a fantastic substitute, as is Bolivian Rosewood like we used in 2018. Our Mahogany is the same species it's always been (Swietenia macrophylla), but old growth is only found occasionally and usually at the bottom of a river (sinker mahogany). And personally I believe our maple is as good as its ever been. For Custom Shop, mostly Eastern Maple and some Western (yes, Gibson did use some Western Maple in the 50s) and what I'm seeing looks fantastic and authentic.

If you know of large quantities of responsibly harvested old growth woods with paperwork, I am definitely interested in considering it for a run sometime! Anyway thanks so much for the questions.
 

matkoehler

Active member
Joined
Sep 12, 2014
Messages
150
Hello Mat. If all goes to plan I'm hoping to try to find and purchase a '61 SG Reissue by November. I have yet to play one because I want to wait until I have the cash in hand. My concern is in regards to Gibson's fretwork.
Hello Mat. If all goes to plan I'm hoping to try to find and purchase a '61 SG Reissue by November. I have yet to play one because I want to wait until I have the cash in hand. My concern is in regards to Gibson's fretwork.

In January of 2019 I bought an Epiphone SG Pro. Little did I know it would become my favorite guitar to play. The thing that amazed me most was how immaculate the fretwork was. Basically, this guitar did not need a setup other than new strings and a mild tweak of the intonation. That same day I also tried out a new Gibson SG Standard. I hate to say it but I gotta be honest. The fretwork was horrid. Fretted notes buzzed, rattled and pinged out badly.
Thank you for the question, and I understand your concerns. Hard to comment without seeing the guitar in question but I'm very sorry that guitar did not live up to your expectations. We have the Plek machines to try to make fretwork as perfect a science as possible, but with organic materials, there are lots of variables. Your average guitar requires occasional truss rod tweaks over time especially if environmental factors fluctuate. It's no excuse for the poor experience you had, but believe me the hardest aspect to quality control is the fact that the guitars need to go from the factory to a box in a warehouse, then ship to a dealer or distribution center, then hang on a wall in a new environment or ship directly to a customer. A lot can change in that time and it's nerve-wracking! But I think the best way to approach the variables is to have solutions in place at every turn. We still have our work cut out for us on that front! Thank you so much for the feedback.
 

matkoehler

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Joined
Sep 12, 2014
Messages
150
Hi Mat! Welcome (although you've been here before)! I too would love to know about the Murphy Lab Lacquer. I heard that it was the same type as used in the late `50's & early `60's and was reverse engineered. Any plans on making an accurate PAF type pickup?
Thanks!!
Thank you! Yes the goal was to get it as close to look and feel to the lacquer from that time period. But reverse engineering only gets you so far and we had specific needs regarding the behavior of the checking when combined with Murphy's aging. So from what I understand the original formula is where we started, but there were additional tweaks made to get it to its final form. Thank you for not saying "Plasticizers"...haha. Pretty sure that nonsense has been debunked on here already, but yes even Gibson's 1950s lacquer had plasticizers. Just not as many as is needed and expected from modern Nitrocellulose finishes, nor would they create any sort of a plastic barrier like one imagines from a word like plasticizer. If applied the same way an old nitro finish and a new nitro finish will continue to thin naturally over time and sink more and more into the wood in the process...that is what makes it such a good finishing material for toneful instruments, whether it's Murphy Lab lacquer or Gibson USA lacquer.

RE: PAF pickups...yes we actually just made a fantastic hire in this department and he's first helping us with the current order book and optimizing production at our Pickup Shop. We have a ton of original Seth Lover & Walt Fuller documents in our archive and even detailed spec sheets for humbuckers 1957-1962 so I cannot wait to bring them (back) to life. We've done a lot of the development work already, we just need to clear a space for producing them. Will they sound better than Custombuckers? Hard to say. I really love Custombuckers.
 
Last edited:

Awall

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Aug 20, 2021
Messages
14
Thank you! Yes the goal was to get it as close to look and feel to the lacquer from that time period. But reverse engineering only gets you so far and we had specific needs regarding the behavior of the checking when combined with Murphy's aging. So from what I understand the original formula is where we started, but there were additional tweaks made to get it to its final form. Thank you for not saying "Plasticizers"...haha. Pretty sure that nonsense has been debunked on here already, but yes even Gibson's 1950s lacquer had plasticizers. Just not as many as is needed and expected from modern Nitrocellulose finishes, nor would they create any sort of a plastic barrier like one imagines from a word like plasticizer. If applied the same way an old nitro finish and a new nitro finish will continue to thin naturally over time and sink more and more into the wood in the process...that is what makes it such a good finishing material for toneful instruments, whether it's Murphy Lab lacquer or Gibson USA lacquer.

RE: PAF pickups...yes we actually just made a fantastic hire in this department and he's first helping us with the current order book and optimizing production at our Pickup Shop. We have a ton of original Seth Lover & Walt Fuller documents in our archive and even detailed spec sheets for humbuckers 1957-1962 so I cannot wait to bring them (back) to life. We've done a lot of the development work already, we just need to clear a space for producing them. Will they sound better than Custombuckers? Hard to say. I really love Custombuckers.
Hi Mat, on that subject I really love my custombucker's too! How close in spec are they to the originals and what changes would be needed to make them even more historically accurate?
 

TM1

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Joined
Jun 27, 2003
Messages
8,101
Hi Again Mat! I know on my `64 Block Inlay Reissue ES-335 I put in a set of Pat.#'s from a 1965 SG. I did swap out the short magnets with Throbak A-4's and those pickups sound just amazing compared to the Custombucker's. Custombuckers sound thin and wimpy to me. The 335 though is one of the best I've played new or old!
I did just get a Murphy Lab R-9, Light Aging. One of the best I've ever played including originals. I've probably played around 25-30 originals! I did drop-in a set of early T-Tops(with A-4 magnets)! I'm not keen on buying a set of original PAF's as they're more than the guitar cost me($8k). I do have one Original PAF and 7-8 early Pat.#'s with the same "PAF-type" bobbins and dual black leads on the coils.. In my opinion you guys should own the pickup market that Seth Lover created. You really shouldn't be playing catch-up. But I chalk that up to the previous owner who cared more about the almighty dollar than having stuff correct.
 
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matkoehler

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Sep 12, 2014
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Hi Mat, on that subject I really love my custombucker's too! How close in spec are they to the originals and what changes would be needed to make them even more historically accurate?
Great question. Really the Custombucker development was a sonic pursuit by Edwin Wilson based on the pickups in Jimmy Page's #1. It was not so much a historically-accurate PAF clone project as it was a tone quest, and in my opinion Edwin nailed it. In 2017 I initiated a project to improve the entire wiring assembly and for the pickups, we began experimenting with different magnets in the Custombuckers, no wax potting, different wire, etc. The specs we preferred in A/B tests were still the same one as the original Custombucker -- Alnico III -- with the exception of the wax potting. It's subtle but removing the wax added a little bit of wildness and feedback susceptibility we all preferred. We did some focus group tests that corroborated our internal testing as well. So we moved on to the rest of the wiring assembly and by 2019 we had vintage taper pots and real PIO bumblebee caps which added some additional character to the Custombuckers, especially when rolling off the volume.

All that said, making true clones of late 50s humbuckers is different project entirely because of the specific materials. All humbuckers are created the same at their most basic level; it's just the material and aesthetic nuances that make for a PAF clone. Butyrate bobbins based on scans of originals, original spec purple enamel wire, original spec 3M black tape, long magnet of various types, recreations of the metal spacers and wood shims and screws and poles and whatnot. Pickup covers are important too and when the time comes we'll dive into the plating and all that. One interesting little historic tidbit is that Gibson used two different places for plating in the late 50s -- Star Silver for gold plating and Kalamazoo Metal for Nickel. But I digress. Thanks for the question!
 
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