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Good/Bad Wood Years

Subliminal lanimilbuS

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Joined
Sep 28, 2023
Messages
230
There is an article out there that lists the best and worst years for wood at Gibson. You can find it by googling "Best Years for Gibson Les Paul and Worst Years to Avoid". It has some very incorrect information that I thought should be corrected somewhere online for people who own guitars from the period 2007 to 2012. The article lists those years as bad wood years. That information could not be further from the truth. Except for maybe the year 2012, the year Gibson was forced to use laminated rosewood fretboards and Richlite. If anything the years following 2011 when Gibson was scrambling to find wood and biting their nails that it was legal would be more subject to finding poor quality wood.
I know several collectors who cherish the years 2008 to 2011. One collector in particular has a very large collection of vintage Gibson guitars and used to have a very large collection of Historic Gibson guitars from the last 30 years. He has pretty much traded away all of his Historic's towards vintage Gibson's. The Historic's he kept are mostly from the years 2009 to 2011 with one from 2002 and one from 2003 that have Brazilian rosewood fretboards. Even a 2018 R9 with a Brazilian rosewood fretboard did not make the cut. I almost purchased that guitar, but the fretboard just didn't look Brazilian to me even though it was clearly listed as that in the COA booklet. I should correct that and say just didn't look enough like the Brazilian on my vintage guitars that I am accustomed to. Guitars he kept include Pearly Gates, CC#1, CC#2 and his two favorites which are regular Historic R9's aged by Tom Murphy that are just a few serial numbers apart. They are from 2011 and fall in the 9111XX range. Is there anyone out there that thinks the guitars I just listed have bad wood? He thinks the finest combination of all three woods (Honduran Mahogany, Hard Rock Eastern Maple and Madagascar Rosewood) falls within these years. The rosewood on his pair of Murphy R9's looks more like Brazilian to me than many other listed Brazilian boards I have seen. The Eastern Maple tops are so close looking to a real vintage burst, just full of mineral streaks, etc. This was when Gibson first started marketing their Hard Rock maple tops. According to Tom Murphy the recipe for the best sounding Les Paul is a heavy maple top on a light Mahogany body and heavy maple is usually full of mineral streaks/iron. This was the beginning of the era where people were really looking for the best woods in their guitars and Gibson was trying to source that before the hammer hit.
I have read elsewhere, also, that the finest years for ebony on a Gibson guitar are from 2010 and 2011. It is either in this forum or one of the other two big guitar forums I joined. Gibson has sourced ebony from many places in Africa and Asia in its history. The last several years have been Madagascar ebony. Madagascar is noted for having some very fine rosewood, but not noted for having the finest ebony. The finest ebony on the planet is "Diospyros ebenum". It comes from Sri Lanka and is also know as Ceylon or East Indian ebony. It is very dense, jet black and glossy looking. This was the exact wood that Gibson was raided for in the fall of 2011. If you have a 2010 or 2011 Gibson Les Paul Custom or other high end Gibson from these years with an ebony fretboard you have the finest ebony there is.
I hope my information comes in handy to someone with Gibson guitars in this year range. I was absolutely stunned when I read the article on good/bad wood years. I have owned several Historic Gibson's myself and of the two I kept one is from 2011. It is an aged Murphy R9. That collector, cheers my friend, I mentioned above tried to purchase it from me once.
 

jb_abides

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 6, 2005
Messages
5,210
Yes it's purely speculative and subjective; everything is down to the individual guitar.

Top maple and fingerboard wood, they don't factor apart from preference.

Density and weight of course contribute, but those vary tree to tree regardless of forest, location, year, and sorting and weight relief process matter more.

Does mahogany species and sourcing location really factor? I am dubious.

Might some body blanks be "better" at the white wood stage, in terms of weight, structure, resonance? Sure, marginally.

Might some pallets have different drying and moisture content management which introduce variations in the end result? Maybe, but it's all going to be within Gibson's tolerance. Again, marginal.

Would these translate into some aggregate yearly assessment for 'good' or 'bad'? No...

No one has ever had, or could ever have, a statistically relevant sample by which to judge, even Gibson, as they operate a continual build/ship production line.

Total lore.

The only real discussion, which matters but is not conclusive either, is 'Old Growth' versus 'New Growth'... and there have been many instances of Vintage versus Historics where Historics compare quite favorably, and are judged close enough or indistinguishable. And so other many factors contribute: pickups, etc. Not to mention there are dogs everywhere, even vintage bursts have been rated as dogs. It happens.
 
Last edited:

Wilko

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Mar 11, 2002
Messages
20,837
Ya gotta pick it up and play it. Some like different wood and sounds. I happen to love a woody resonant guitar as those tend to get me the sounds that work for me. Others may not like the guitars I love.

A bunch of guitars made from the same pallet may all sound/feel pretty different.

for the record, the 2012 Traditional in my avatar is one of the best looking and sounding Les Pauls I've ever played, and I've owned a lot of them. It likely has a laminated rosewood fret board. The top is amazing and looks very "authentic", not like the western maple top on my early 2000s R8s.

I've owned a bunch of '68s, a few trans-tenon Norlins, some short tenon Norlins, a couple of R8s and a 1956 factory Tune-O-Matic converted to PAFs
 

60thR0

Member
Joined
Nov 1, 2021
Messages
61
What does “good” or “bad” mean? Without an agreed set of desirable characteristics it’s completely meaningless. I haven’t seen anything attempted by anyone. People mention resonance, but is that really better from a tone perspective? What about the tone, should it be focussed or airy? Is it possible to be too-focussed (eg. “Midrangey”?) Acoustic loudness, does it matter, and what about on low strings vs. high strings? How bright is too bright or at what point is it too dark. What is this “ping” that Joe B speaks of? To what extent does wood contribute to “Tele on steroids” vs. the pickups and wiring/pots/caps?
 

lure555

Swirling Vortex of Sound, Classic Club
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Jul 15, 2001
Messages
3,410
I'm sure there are some amazing Gibsons from 2015.
 

c_wester

Well-known member
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May 9, 2002
Messages
2,114
Different parts of the three might have different hardness and different tonal qualities.
So to talk about good and bad years seems like one does not understand wood.

You have the play them as previous posters said.
 

c_wester

Well-known member
Joined
May 9, 2002
Messages
2,114
I'm sure there are some amazing Gibsons from 2015.
I have two guitars from 2015 one Les Paul Standard and one SG Standard with wide necks.
Those guitars communicate simply to me: It's up to you now.
 

Bryansamui

Active member
Joined
Jul 1, 2022
Messages
186
In my Guitar Shop I'd compare many Les Pauls, each sounding slightly different unplugged (not better or worse )and this translated to the slightly different tone through an amp.
However, the wood batch , fret type, or saddle variation which created the variance in unplugged tone pales massively compared to the tonal shift if I was to install an oddball 250k pot for example.
 

MarcB

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Joined
Sep 1, 2023
Messages
716
I’m sure Gibson would’ve had a level of quality control when buying wood during its difficult period.. I also doubt they would’ve bought any ole wood.. yes there could’ve been a drop in quality to previous inventory.. but from all the guitars I’ve seen and heard from this period, they all have a pretty good look and sound..and are in keeping with previous production. I’d agree within any production run/period there will be dogs.. but even these would have the right bark to the right owner.. (see what I did there..lol).

I’ve previously said that.. it doesn’t matter what the wood is ..old/new growth.. and have even said.. just buy any ole guitar and play it.. but after a few months of being in the forum and deep diving into these kinds of posts.. it has become a matter for thought..and has swayed my judgement on prospective guitars, which raises the question of influence of information.. much like politics.. do we actually agree with what they are saying? It’s up to the individual.. I personally like to keep my vote (guitar purchases) based on my perception of reality.. as I don’t really care what Joe Bloggs thinks..
.... whoever started the “good wood” and “8lb guitars are better” .. obviously didn’t think it would have so much traction and become Gibson folk lore.. as they were probably just adding an opinion based on their perception of reality..

..for me personally, and this has to be personal conjecture, as we all perceive things differently, the tonal qualities of a guitar must lie with the user and not in folk lore.
So if you have a guitar from the “bad wood” period .. it’s more than likely a bloody good guitar..(in comparison to lesser brands) and a guitar from the “good wood” period is probably on par..

Not entirely sure what my point is or that I’ve explained myself .. but it filled the time while on the can..


Bonjour.
 

Subliminal lanimilbuS

Active member
Joined
Sep 28, 2023
Messages
230
Nice to see a lot of quick responses from this forum. The main reason of my post was to debunk those years 2007-2012 as being bad wood years. I have since found several other articles of the exact same nature including some from guitar magazines I used to read. Years vary a bit, but almost identical. Almost as if they had copied each other. Not very fair to people with guitars in the year groups they list as bad years. If they had done some good research and maybe just listed the woods used by Gibson during various years I might have found that fair and informative as I am partial to the feel and sound of certain woods used in guitars. Not to say all guitars with those woods always sound good to me, but it has helped me along the way. Most guitars today are bought abroad and I personally can't afford to fly to all their locations to see how they feel and sound. We need some kind of information to base our judgements on. Physical things I can understand, but someone else's description of feel and sound could easily be misinterpreted. Someone above mentioned the word "Ping". I am a long time tone junky and think I understand it, but who really knows for sure. Look is also important to many guitar players and owners. Even really great well known players. Eddie painted his guitars and Joe likes vintage, but I would never say to either who cares how it looks just play the darn thing. We wouldn't even have forums like this one if Gibson hadn't made those beautiful looking Les Paul's in the late 50's.
 

MattD1960

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 17, 2009
Messages
736
id imagine like anything, there are good and bad ones from all time periods. many people with much more information and experience then me will tell you even bursts are not ALL GOOD. and one that speaks to you might not do it for others. as far as GOOD WOOD, its way to subjective to insist one era better then the next. i dont like super flammy tops so some people would say my guitars dont have good wood? i think they sound and play good.
 

J T

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Joined
Oct 20, 2005
Messages
10,488
2007 bad wood?
Who ever came came up with that is either clueless or a liar.

HbsSjEE.jpg
 

Dave P

Active member
Joined
Oct 13, 2001
Messages
947
If a guitar sounds good, it is good. A person needs to judge a guitar based upon its individual merits (or deficiencies). Blanket statements like 'good wood' doesn't mean anything to me. Plugging a guitar in and hearing what comes out of the amp is what really matters.
 

Wilko

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Mar 11, 2002
Messages
20,837
Back in the day, there would be a few guitars in a store for you play and compare. Gibson worked as hard as they could to kill that model. They prefer that people just buy online and take what they get.

In the old days it was well accepted that the shift in wood suppliers in the late 60s marked a change in sound/weight/feel. That perception helped drive the demand for "golden era Gibson Les Pauls. That info is published in books made of paper well before any of this internet lore.
 

p19978

Active member
Joined
Sep 7, 2003
Messages
144
For the "good wood vs bad wood" folks... "too middy... too bright"... whatever... someone should tell them that amps have these knobs on them that control things like bass, treble, mids, etc.

I'm 60: I have played exactly ONE crappy Les Paul in my life (out of a hundred or more). Different? YES! Bad wood... meh... not buying it.
 

El Gringo

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 8, 2015
Messages
5,644
I’m sure Gibson would’ve had a level of quality control when buying wood during its difficult period.. I also doubt they would’ve bought any ole wood.. yes there could’ve been a drop in quality to previous inventory.. but from all the guitars I’ve seen and heard from this period, they all have a pretty good look and sound..and are in keeping with previous production. I’d agree within any production run/period there will be dogs.. but even these would have the right bark to the right owner.. (see what I did there..lol).

I’ve previously said that.. it doesn’t matter what the wood is ..old/new growth.. and have even said.. just buy any ole guitar and play it.. but after a few months of being in the forum and deep diving into these kinds of posts.. it has become a matter for thought..and has swayed my judgement on prospective guitars, which raises the question of influence of information.. much like politics.. do we actually agree with what they are saying? It’s up to the individual.. I personally like to keep my vote (guitar purchases) based on my perception of reality.. as I don’t really care what Joe Bloggs thinks..
.... whoever started the “good wood” and “8lb guitars are better” .. obviously didn’t think it would have so much traction and become Gibson folk lore.. as they were probably just adding an opinion based on their perception of reality..

..for me personally, and this has to be personal conjecture, as we all perceive things differently, the tonal qualities of a guitar must lie with the user and not in folk lore.
So if you have a guitar from the “bad wood” period .. it’s more than likely a bloody good guitar..(in comparison to lesser brands) and a guitar from the “good wood” period is probably on par..

Not entirely sure what my point is or that I’ve explained myself .. but it filled the time while on the can..


Bonjour.
love your post
 

El Gringo

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 8, 2015
Messages
5,644
For the "good wood vs bad wood" folks... "too middy... too bright"... whatever... someone should tell them that amps have these knobs on them that control things like bass, treble, mids, etc.

I'm 60: I have played exactly ONE crappy Les Paul in my life (out of a hundred or more). Different? YES! Bad wood... meh... not buying it.
Your words resonate to me in as far as turning the knobs on your amp go, and also will add the tone knob(s) on your Gibson .
 
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