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Hey it's Mat from Gibson Product Development - AMA

matkoehler

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Joined
Sep 12, 2014
Messages
340
Mat,

GREETINGS!

Glad to have your expertise available to us. Hope you don't get hammered too bad! ;);)

My question pertains to USA Production Firebirds. Rumor floating around that they are going to be discontinued. What can you tell us about that? Additionally, how were the finish choices selected for the recent Birds, going back to say 2015? One year only Ebony, other years, Vintage Sunburst and a custom color.

If the Firebird will continue to be a regular USA production model in 2022 and beyond, any chance one of the finishes would be White?

Another question, 2018 was the last year the sculpted headstock was used on the USA Firebirds. Why did Gibson move away from that headstock and instead use the flat one with the Mini Grovers? I have my theory but I'd like to know from the company perspective.

Finally, in regards to the Mini Grovers, on the Gibson Birds, the tuner buttons are very close together; difficult to tune sometimes. The new Inspired by Gibson Epiphone Firebird uses the same tuning machines but their spacing is different and much easier to tune. Any chance that Gibson would A, go back to the sculpted head stock with banjo tuners and B, if the flat one is used, would Gibson make a change to the tuner spacing like is on the Epiphone Bird.

Thanks in advance for your response and thank again for taking on such an undertaking.

Bob
Great questions! So a bit of historical context here...the original style Firebird (reverse) was designed outside of Gibson (by Ray Dietrich but you know this) in 1962 and it was up to Larry Allers and his team to figure out how to build the thing. They hadn't done anything like it, and the 9-ply centerpiece came about after two-piece centerpieces literally came apart. There was a wing redesign too. Anyway with the length of wood required for the neck-through and the complexity of the build made the model the scourge of the factory. It impeded throughput and with the introduction of the Thunderbird bass, the factory literally had to rearrange how they channeled these extremely long models through production. However players loved it and it was a commercial success, based on how many they were able to produce with such complexity.

When all was said and done, the original style Firebirds and Thunderbirds were not made for more than two years. The Non-Reverse Firebird took its place as a much easier-to-build model with the classic set neck construction. It too was a commercial success, even moreso given the ability to fill an order book efficiently.

Cut to today. Still a very difficult guitar to build. So difficult that it prompted that headstock change at USA (not at Custom Shop where a Historic Reissue is a Historic Reissue) and eventually let to the *temporary* discontinuation of it and the Thunderbird as you said. But we will have reverse Thunderbird artist models coming up, and we introduced Non-Reverse Thunderbirds which are killer. Non-Reverse Firebirds are next. The goal is to have a more manageable product life cycle...it helps the overall mix. So in a couple years we'll go back to the classic Firebird at USA, perhaps with some concessions like fewer body ply and definitely different tuner spacing. Great idea there, so thank you.

White is the hardest color to get through a nitrocellulose guitar factory, bar none. But we are hard at work trying to make that and all lighter opaque colors factory-friendly at Gibson USA. Although white paint has been a battle since the Les Paul Custom in '61. Just very susceptible to airborne debris and aniline dye floating through the air and it's not easy to repair and rework. But people expect perfection, and that is what we aim for...just going to take some careful planning (and cleaning).

That said, Custom Shop went through the same woes with white paint and came out on the other side better than ever. We're running a lot of white guitars there. AND I'm happy to announce that we have a Polaris White Johnny Winter Firebird V out of Murphy Lab dropping later this year which may be of interest to you. They are turning out killer!
 

TM1

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Joined
Jun 27, 2003
Messages
8,190
The spec for Light Aged is to use VOS parts. Everything should have a light patina. See above for ideas on how to incorporate your ideas! And thanks for the question.
Nope, not this one.. All the parts were shiny, new looking parts. Like I said, the guitar looked like and old guitar with Brand New parts. The only patina was on the finish, no patina on the metal parts!. I've been working on and playing guitars for nearly 50 years. I know what's been aged and what hasn't.. Thanks Matt!
 

TM1

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 27, 2003
Messages
8,190
Great questions! So a bit of historical context here...the original style Firebird (reverse) was designed outside of Gibson (by Ray Dietrich but you know this) in 1962 and it was up to Larry Allers and his team to figure out how to build the thing. They hadn't done anything like it, and the 9-ply centerpiece came about after two-piece centerpieces literally came apart. There was a wing redesign too. Anyway with the length of wood required for the neck-through and the complexity of the build made the model the scourge of the factory. It impeded throughput and with the introduction of the Thunderbird bass, the factory literally had to rearrange how they channeled these extremely long models through production. However players loved it and it was a commercial success, based on how many they were able to produce with such complexity.

When all was said and done, the original style Firebirds and Thunderbirds were not made for more than two years. The Non-Reverse Firebird took its place as a much easier-to-build model with the classic set neck construction. It too was a commercial success, even moreso given the ability to fill an order book efficiently.

Cut to today. Still a very difficult guitar to build. So difficult that it prompted that headstock change at USA (not at Custom Shop where a Historic Reissue is a Historic Reissue) and eventually let to the *temporary* discontinuation of it and the Thunderbird as you said. But we will have reverse Thunderbird artist models coming up, and we introduced Non-Reverse Thunderbirds which are killer. Non-Reverse Firebirds are next. The goal is to have a more manageable product life cycle...it helps the overall mix. So in a couple years we'll go back to the classic Firebird at USA, perhaps with some concessions like fewer body ply and definitely different tuner spacing. Great idea there, so thank you.

White is the hardest color to get through a nitrocellulose guitar factory, bar none. But we are hard at work trying to make that and all lighter opaque colors factory-friendly at Gibson USA. Although white paint has been a battle since the Les Paul Custom in '61. Just very susceptible to airborne debris and aniline dye floating through the air and it's not easy to repair and rework. But people expect perfection, and that is what we aim for...just going to take some careful planning (and cleaning).

That said, Custom Shop went through the same woes with white paint and came out on the other side better than ever. We're running a lot of white guitars there. AND I'm happy to announce that we have a Polaris White Johnny Winter Firebird V out of Murphy Lab dropping later this year which may be of interest to you. They are turning out killer!
I have a 2003 Firebird VII! Really a great guitar and I have mostly Vintage parts on it. I can see where the neck through would be a real pain to build cause about 2 years after I got mine they were discontinued. Mine's in a "Copper Mist" finish with an Ebony fingerboard! I replaced the "way out vintage spec" mini's with 3 of the mini's that Gibson made for Silvertone that have the offset poles! Really nice sounding pickups and don't read 13K d.c., more like 6K.
 

matkoehler

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 12, 2014
Messages
340
Nope, not this one.. All the parts were shiny, new looking parts. Like I said, the guitar looked like and old guitar with Brand New parts. The only patina was on the finish, no patina on the metal parts!. I've been working on and playing guitars for nearly 50 years. I know what's been aged and what hasn't.. Thanks Matt!
Yep should not have been glossy. Sounds like it could be a mistake. service@gibson.com will need to see photos but they can help you! Good luck!
 

matkoehler

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Joined
Sep 12, 2014
Messages
340
I have a 2003 Firebird VII! Really a great guitar and I have mostly Vintage parts on it. I can see where the neck through would be a real pain to build cause about 2 years after I got mine they were discontinued. Mine's in a "Copper Mist" finish with an Ebony fingerboard! I replaced the "way out vintage spec" mini's with 3 of the mini's that Gibson made for Silvertone that have the offset poles! Really nice sounding pickups and don't read 13K d.c., more like 6K.
Oh yeah that's another thing we fixed a couple years back...no more ceramic magnet Firebird pickups. Jim DeCola developed a beautiful Alnico V firebird pickup that we began using first with the Eric Clapton Firebird I and then pretty much everything with that pickup. Anyway your guitar sounds killer!!!
 

matkoehler

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Joined
Sep 12, 2014
Messages
340
Going to call it quits for today but I will be back at it tomorrow. How about some historical questions? Any Gibson mysteries you've been curious about? I love that stuff! Thanks all.
 

goldtop0

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Joined
Aug 19, 2003
Messages
8,487
Hi Mat, can you please explain the numbering system for the CS ES guitars and also the vintage ones.
My Nashville '14 335 is A94120 I've looked at other ones over the years and can't figure out how to tell what year they were made as most times there appears to be no clue to that at all in the number.
 
Last edited:

Awall

Member
Joined
Aug 20, 2021
Messages
38
Hi Mat,

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions! I got a Murphy Lab 68 custom ultra light aged with a June build date and was received by me in June as well. Upon receiving the guitar I let it acclimate for a day and opened it up, the checking was pretty subtle and looked great! A few days into owning it the checking process seemed to continue and at times I could even hear the finish cracking. The neck has a long, deeper finish crack that feels like it's lifting and it's starting to run the whole length of the neck. Should I worry about this or is it normal?



ULTRA-LIGHT aged? holy smokes!
 

Shelkonnery

Member
Joined
Jan 28, 2021
Messages
26
Going to call it quits for today but I will be back at it tomorrow. How about some historical questions? Any Gibson mysteries you've been curious about? I love that stuff! Thanks all.
Hey, Mat!

It’s so nice to get an insiders perspective. Really appreciate it!


Talk about mysteries…here's a silly one.

Can you comment on the particular praise late 80s/early 90s Gibsons get in general?



Sellers are so quick to use terms indicating a special era of wood (not gonna say it lol).

But my searches point that it was actually tight QC in the first few years of the Henry Juszkiewicz management, with lower production numbers.



My #1 is a ’90 LP Custom that I absolutely adore. 
I have other Gibsons from other decades that I love as well.

But there’s just something about that ’90 Custom.



So QC + low production can go a long way?

What can you tell us about it and that management transition period?



Thank you so much for you time!
 

Coachmoe

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 23, 2002
Messages
1,103
Great questions! So a bit of historical context here...the original style Firebird (reverse) was designed outside of Gibson (by Ray Dietrich but you know this) in 1962 and it was up to Larry Allers and his team to figure out how to build the thing. They hadn't done anything like it, and the 9-ply centerpiece came about after two-piece centerpieces literally came apart. There was a wing redesign too. Anyway with the length of wood required for the neck-through and the complexity of the build made the model the scourge of the factory. It impeded throughput and with the introduction of the Thunderbird bass, the factory literally had to rearrange how they channeled these extremely long models through production. However players loved it and it was a commercial success, based on how many they were able to produce with such complexity.

When all was said and done, the original style Firebirds and Thunderbirds were not made for more than two years. The Non-Reverse Firebird took its place as a much easier-to-build model with the classic set neck construction. It too was a commercial success, even moreso given the ability to fill an order book efficiently.

Cut to today. Still a very difficult guitar to build. So difficult that it prompted that headstock change at USA (not at Custom Shop where a Historic Reissue is a Historic Reissue) and eventually let to the *temporary* discontinuation of it and the Thunderbird as you said. But we will have reverse Thunderbird artist models coming up, and we introduced Non-Reverse Thunderbirds which are killer. Non-Reverse Firebirds are next. The goal is to have a more manageable product life cycle...it helps the overall mix. So in a couple years we'll go back to the classic Firebird at USA, perhaps with some concessions like fewer body ply and definitely different tuner spacing. Great idea there, so thank you.

White is the hardest color to get through a nitrocellulose guitar factory, bar none. But we are hard at work trying to make that and all lighter opaque colors factory-friendly at Gibson USA. Although white paint has been a battle since the Les Paul Custom in '61. Just very susceptible to airborne debris and aniline dye floating through the air and it's not easy to repair and rework. But people expect perfection, and that is what we aim for...just going to take some careful planning (and cleaning).

That said, Custom Shop went through the same woes with white paint and came out on the other side better than ever. We're running a lot of white guitars there. AND I'm happy to announce that we have a Polaris White Johnny Winter Firebird V out of Murphy Lab dropping later this year which may be of interest to you. They are turning out killer!
Mat,

Thanks a million for the clarification. You're welcome for the tuner spacing idea. I wish you success here on the Forum.
 

Phoenician

Member
Joined
Oct 12, 2020
Messages
63
Hey there! Yeah this is something we have actively been trying to tackle...ten years of M2M existing only in theory is too much. But we've made some strategic hires and the goal is to get to a configurator of some sort. I'm sorry your dealer sent you an excel file...not very glamorous or helpful. I think the best thing to do is identify the starting platform and have bullet points for the specs. A dealer can send that on to Custom Shop and they will flag anything that can't be achieved. Without naming names, I do think some dealers are more proficient at M2M coordination than others. But the onus is on Gibson to lead the way with a new level of sophistication and intuitiveness. Stay tuned.
Very cool. Thanks Mat! …FWIW, I’m referring to Sweetwater who I otherwise think is top notch. I specifically asked to talk with a M2M expert.

Can any Gibson authorized dealer facilitate a M2M order or is it just select dealers?


To everyone else, I would be happy to have any dealer recommendations for a M2M order. Preferably via PM to avoid any risk of hijacking the thread.
 

JoeC

Member
Joined
Oct 25, 2019
Messages
91
Mat, thanks again for all your time. Historical question. Is there any truth to a few burst being made 1961-1963 on special order from left over parts?
 

AA00475Bassman

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Joined
Apr 26, 2016
Messages
3,463
113 post 6 pages since Tuesday , Geez guys Road hard & put Away wet Mat does have a day job !

Thank you Mat for subjecting yourself to this onslaught from my Forum Brethren.
 

renderit

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Joined
Jan 19, 2009
Messages
10,467
Hey Mat!

Years ago when I was running for the job of
President and Grand Pubba of Gibson I promised a Mayonnaise machine in every room.

Though I was sadly ignored during my attempted wrest of control of the TRUE CLUTCHES OF POWER IN THE MODERN WORLD I still am waiting by the phone.

Tell me my dream has been realized and said machines have been installed!

Sinsearely Searedly Cincinaty
Thanks,



Ren
 

ES5

Member
Joined
Nov 13, 2015
Messages
60
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!
Yo! I had the chance to meet you at Rumble Seat once...big fan...

quick question: has the "waist line" changed since you and JC took over? IE, more accurate dimensions on the "hips" of the Les Pauls between the pickups if that makes sense.
 

citson

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Joined
Feb 6, 2019
Messages
46
Historic question. That “number one” goldtop owned by Les Paul himself… that’s a production model isn’t it? Not a prototype with binding?
 

KeoRS

New member
Joined
Sep 10, 2021
Messages
3
Thanks for the questions!

1) As far as I know, all the dealers and customers who received the instruments had them replaced through our Customer Service department.

Hi Mat,

I understand it may be a small number of guitars affected, but I believe we are a few owners still waiting to have our guitars fixed or replaced. Hopefully it'll be done soon. It has been over 8 weeks since I sent mine back due to the finishing defect.

Can't wait to get mine back. It's the best guitar I've ever played.
 
Last edited:

matkoehler

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 12, 2014
Messages
340
Hi Mat, can you please explain the numbering system for the CS ES guitars and also the vintage ones.
My Nashville '14 335 is A94120 I've looked at other ones over the years and can't figure out how to tell what year they were made as most times there appears to be no clue to that at all in the number.
Is it a '59 Reissue ES-335? Shooting from the hip, I feel like the same format as on Les Pauls might make sense (Last digit of the year reissued as first number, then the last digit of the year made next)
 

matkoehler

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 12, 2014
Messages
340

Talk about mysteries…here's a silly one.

Can you comment on the particular praise late 80s/early 90s Gibsons get in general?

 Sellers are so quick to use terms indicating a special era of wood (not gonna say it lol). 
But my searches point that it was actually tight QC in the first few years of the Henry Juszkiewicz management, with lower production numbers.

 My #1 is a ’90 LP Custom that I absolutely adore. 
I have other Gibsons from other decades that I love as well.
 But there’s just something about that ’90 Custom. 

So QC + low production can go a long way?
 What can you tell us about it and that management transition period?
Thanks for the question -- there seems to be a following for every era and sub-era of modern Gibson history...maybe not so much for 2015, haha...but the one 1990s claim I hear consistently is that it was the "good wood" era. Make no mistake, there were some monster tops then but I think the quality of the wood we're getting now is better on average. Only difference is we're not usually using flame enhancement finish prep techniques. Every time I go to Custom Shop there is something jaw-dropping coming down the line.

In any case, I do have several co-workers who worked at Gibson at that time and friends who have since retired from Gibson and it's funny because, the way they tell it, Gibson was frantic and fraught and unorganized during that period...probably because Gibson was actually growing for the first time in a while and expectations became a moving target. BUT I know exactly what you mean and I'll take a late 1980s/1990s LPC any day...also an early 1990s Les Paul Classic...yes please. They're fantastic. And honestly when it comes to QC, the Norlin era gets a bad rap but the quality of those guitars was fantastic until maybe the very end. Given, they had manipulated the designs with the best intentions over the years...but the fit and finish was spectacular.
 
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