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Tom Murphy (Gibson Murphy Labs) - His Most In Depth Video Interview EVER!

jb_abides

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 6, 2005
Messages
5,210
Just settling in to watch...

Notes:
- Lee to Tom: "It's all you fault!"
- Aging: Tom defines as cosmetic. Sees 'distress' as an extension.
- Distressing: aging that may have sonic benefits. Tom feels overall checking 'relaxes' the entire guitar (surface area) to open it up. Tom will not claim specific sonic benefits, but claims the feel is 'friendly'... Hmm, psychosomatic?
- Started advising in 1992, a journey which led to the features we see today, 'old feeling guitars'
- Lee: estimates 75% of buyers are 'offended' by relics. Tom: Ultra-Light is meant to appeal to those who want the least visual aging, but they will check eventually, and are engineered to show wear.
- Tom: distinguishes between his initial razor blade process and the new finish formula that checks organically.
- Tom: we believe we have tastefully offered these choices, you can decide, or opt out for VOS, etc. Don't worry about every new scratch or ding. Demand is there, as seen by orders on the books.
- Ultra/Heavy Ultra is not Tom's thing.
- Demonstration of Tom's original "tool box": nails, keys, etc. Railroad spike was his Number 1 tool, bumpy texture of the metal breaks the finish in a pattern to remove splotches of wear. Shows original cowboy belt buckle for rash (in baggie no less).
- Tom: We don't want it to look fake or artificial: some of it does, all of it is.
- Lee: the analogy they are dragged behind the truck is overly simple, it is a definite skill to do artfully.
- Tom: stresses consistency and frame of reference using his specialized methods, discusses training folks from the Lab.
- Tom: some artists request 'feature delete' from replicas: 'Don't put the cigarette burn on it' or 'Don't replicate the broken headstock' because they are embarrassed.
- Tom: does ML make a guitar better? He thinks yes, because he can see and feel it. [Again, sidestepping any definitive claim on sonics.]
- On the Acoustics: the thinner finish does not restrict movement of the box. Tom feels prior finishes dampen response. He didn't completely expect but was hoping for a positive impact on sound and feels that's the case. [I believe Tom is earnest in this, of course there's an aspect of optimistic marketing too!]
- Finish is not durable at all. Fair Warning: it you don't want wear, don't buy a ML Acoustic!
 
Last edited:

JASIII

Active member
Joined
Sep 19, 2020
Messages
98
Something Tom said stood out. He said that with the material used in the finish, they can't release the guitars out there without pre-checking them because they have to control the initial nature of the checking because they don't know how customers will treat the guitars in an effort to "age" the finish themselves, and the finish material won't hold up to "misuse". So if I'm understanding him correctly, Gibson feels they have to start the checking process to determine the course it will take because the delicate, prone to checking nature of the finish will have unpredictable results! So this isn't even a true "finish" in the standard sense of the word, it's a special effect. It's a product designed to fail. What's going to happen to these guitars in 10+ years of "normal" handling and use if Gibson can't "trust" the customers to handle them in a way of their own choosing when they are brand new? It seems logical to assume the finish will rapidly progress past the point of wear and checking, etc that a true vintage guitar has because those original finishes were actually designed to be durable and protect the wood. Will a 20 year old Murphy Lab be a bare plank of wood?
 

60thR0

Member
Joined
Nov 1, 2021
Messages
61
Tom: We do not claim any sonic benefits of our finish on solid bodies.
Lee: So about those sonic benefits, can we have them without the checking?
Tom: That’s what UL is…. But we have to do the checking for you.

We’ve gone from corksniffing to corkscrew aging. Still want one though…
 
Last edited:

MBSC

Member
Joined
Oct 31, 2023
Messages
72
Just settling in to watch...

Notes:
- Lee to Tom: "It's all you fault!"
- Aging: Tom defines as cosmetic. Sees 'distress' as an extension.
- Distressing: aging that may have sonic benefits. Tom feels overall checking 'relaxes' the entire guitar (surface area) to open it up. Tom will not claim specific sonic benefits, but claims the feel is 'friendly'... Hmm, psychosomatic?
- Started advising in 1992, a journey which led to the features we see today, 'old feeling guitars'
- Lee: estimates 75% of buyers are 'offended' by relics. Tom: Ultra-Light is meant to appeal to those who want the least visual aging, but they will check eventually, and are engineered to show wear.
- Tom: distinguishes between his initial razor blade process and the new finish formula that checks organically.
- Tom: we believe we have tastefully offered these choices, you can decide, or opt out for VOS, etc. Don't worry about every new scratch or ding. Demand is there, as seen by orders on the books.
- Ultra/Heavy Ultra is not Tom's thing.
- Demonstration of Tom's original "tool box": nails, keys, etc. Railroad spike was his Number 1 tool, bumpy texture of the metal breaks the finish in a pattern to remove splotches of wear. Shows original cowboy belt buckle for rash (in baggie no less).
- Tom: We don't want it to look fake or artificial: some of it does, all of it is.
- Lee: the analogy they are dragged behind the truck is overly simple, it is a definite skill to do artfully.
- Tom: stresses consistency and frame of reference using his specialized methods, discusses training folks from the Lab.
- Tom: some artists request 'feature delete' from replicas: 'Don't put the cigarette burn on it' or 'Don't replicate the broken headstock' because they are embarrassed.
- Tom: does ML make a guitar better? He thinks yes, because he can see and feel it. [Again, sidestepping any definitive claim on sonics.]
- On the Acoustics: the thinner finish does not restrict movement of the box. Tom feels prior finishes dampen response. He didn't completely expect but was hoping for a positive impact on sound and feels that's the case. [I believe Tom is earnest in this, of course there's an aspect of optimistic marketing too!]
- Finish is not durable at all. Fair Warning: it you don't want wear, don't buy a ML Acoustic!
I think you just saved me 45 minutes of my life..
 

William Payne

Active member
Joined
Aug 10, 2007
Messages
855
Something Tom said stood out. He said that with the material used in the finish, they can't release the guitars out there without pre-checking them because they have to control the initial nature of the checking because they don't know how customers will treat the guitars in an effort to "age" the finish themselves, and the finish material won't hold up to "misuse". So if I'm understanding him correctly, Gibson feels they have to start the checking process to determine the course it will take because the delicate, prone to checking nature of the finish will have unpredictable results! So this isn't even a true "finish" in the standard sense of the word, it's a special effect. It's a product designed to fail. What's going to happen to these guitars in 10+ years of "normal" handling and use if Gibson can't "trust" the customers to handle them in a way of their own choosing when they are brand new? It seems logical to assume the finish will rapidly progress past the point of wear and checking, etc that a true vintage guitar has because those original finishes were actually designed to be durable and protect the wood. Will a 20 year old Murphy Lab be a bare plank of wood?

That is something I would like answered myself. It really makes it sound like the Murphy lab finishes are not authentic to what was on the original instruments and has been formulated to speed up the aging process rather then period correct.
 

Wizard1183

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Joined
Jan 20, 2018
Messages
748
That is something I would like answered myself. It really makes it sound like the Murphy lab finishes are not authentic to what was on the original instruments and has been formulated to speed up the aging process rather then period correct.
They’re not

Those mesa amps just never got my. They sound thin. No balls.

As for Murphy Labs I never was impressed. As for sonics had he came out and said there’s a difference I’d say he was full of shit. Im glad he stayed truthful about it cause finish doesn’t do anything sonically whether or Not it’s checked.
 

jb_abides

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Joined
Apr 6, 2005
Messages
5,210
ML finish: 0-60 years in 1. Once they check properly, Gibson hopes the remaining finish coverage adheres to wood more than falls off. Hence the supervision.

If I'd venture into ML I'd only ever get Ultra-Light. But even then, what will these look like in 5-10 years? We will find out. I have plans for getting some M2M in the near-mid future so the jury's still out.

VOS has been good enough for me. And I am somewhat risk-adverse.
 

Any Name You Wish

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Joined
Apr 15, 2021
Messages
461
Well that settles it. I am going to strip the finish off my R9 to get it to resonate more;)

Seriously though, My non-Murphy R9 and '61 SG RI have pretty thin finishes. So much so that I can put a pretty good dent in them with my fingernail. I say there is no sonic difference between these and the Murphy formula. The nitro lacquer is going to dry out over time, and it very well may not be a good idea to try and speed that process up - a thought that has always been in the back of my mind about the Murphy Lab guitars. But, they do indeed sell like crazy.
 
Last edited:

el84ster

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Joined
Sep 10, 2001
Messages
1,420
Ol’ Murph mentioned a couple times that the ML finish is pretty fragile and that it’ll take damage a lot easier. I don’t want to pay a bunch more for a guitar who’s finish has an unknown future.

My regular gloss ‘16 R8 has been checking on its own. The finish is pretty thin on that, any thinner and it’d have wear through the wood all over.
Murphy pass for me.
 

1allspub

Active member
Joined
Feb 25, 2018
Messages
178
Heck my Gibson USA Traditional from 2016 (w/ all its plasticizers) has gotten its first little bit of checking, and I don’t gig or do anything with it but play it at home (I have had it since new). I’m sure my RIs (two of which are VOS, one is Gloss) will start to show signs of checking eventually, as well. Point being, these guitars will check on their own given time… making a finish so fragile that it will check right away just seems like a long term recipe for disaster in terms of finish stability. We’ll see in a 5-10 years, I guess.
 

60thR0

Member
Joined
Nov 1, 2021
Messages
61
.. the Murphy Lab guitars. But, they do indeed sell like crazy.
Not to sidetrack this discussion but is that actually the case? Wildwood for example has dozens and dozens of them with serial numbers stretching well back into 2022 (new, not second hand). I do think that people are a lot pickier at this level of the market. If everything is ‘right’ then yes I think they go quickly. But it only takes one thing being ‘off’ and it’s gonna languish. Back color, top color, the matching of the two, the matching of level of aging with both back and top color. Especially 2020-2022 ML it seems to me a lot were mismatched eg. Top is factory or tea burst and yet back is brown, or back is deep red and top is lemon burst, or heavy aging with near factory colors (no fading) etc.. Of course there’s also the usuals including figure including the book/flip matching, weight, fingerboard color.
 

Any Name You Wish

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Joined
Apr 15, 2021
Messages
461
Yeah, their inventory of Les Pauls and ML have grown a lot lately. Probably another sign of consumers pulling back on spending, especially on luxury items. But maybe, just maybe, the aged/relic thing has peaked. Could be tough sledding for a while on these guitar sales.
 

MBSC

Member
Joined
Oct 31, 2023
Messages
72
Ol’ Murph mentioned a couple times that the ML finish is pretty fragile and that it’ll take damage a lot easier. I don’t want to pay a bunch more for a guitar who’s finish has an unknown future.

My regular gloss ‘16 R8 has been checking on its own. The finish is pretty thin on that, any thinner and it’d have wear through the wood all over.
Murphy pass for me.
Good point!!
 

krlpuretone

New member
Joined
Nov 18, 2023
Messages
4
Something Tom said stood out. He said that with the material used in the finish, they can't release the guitars out there without pre-checking them because they have to control the initial nature of the checking because they don't know how customers will treat the guitars in an effort to "age" the finish themselves, and the finish material won't hold up to "misuse". So if I'm understanding him correctly, Gibson feels they have to start the checking process to determine the course it will take because the delicate, prone to checking nature of the finish will have unpredictable results! So this isn't even a true "finish" in the standard sense of the word, it's a special effect. It's a product designed to fail. What's going to happen to these guitars in 10+ years of "normal" handling and use if Gibson can't "trust" the customers to handle them in a way of their own choosing when they are brand new? It seems logical to assume the finish will rapidly progress past the point of wear and checking, etc that a true vintage guitar has because those original finishes were actually designed to be durable and protect the wood. Will a 20 year old Murphy Lab be a bare plank of wood?
I took that to mean they might shoot a thin layer of clearcoat or two over the pre-checked finish so you don't have flakes of finish falling off entirely?
 

krlpuretone

New member
Joined
Nov 18, 2023
Messages
4
Yeah, their inventory of Les Pauls and ML have grown a lot lately. Probably another sign of consumers pulling back on spending, especially on luxury items. But maybe, just maybe, the aged/relic thing has peaked. Could be tough sledding for a while on these guitar sales.
Probably more so that the Murphy Lab is producing at full capacity.

Also, demand/sales of higher $$$$ guitars tends to spike around Xmas and tax refund season.
 

jb_abides

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Joined
Apr 6, 2005
Messages
5,210
I took that to mean they might shoot a thin layer of clearcoat or two over the pre-checked finish so you don't have flakes of finish falling off entirely?

I don't think so, more of a controlled check then settling in I would think.

Even after the early finish issue was recalled and fixed, there are reports of flaking around heavily relic'd areas, and areas in proximity to exposed wood, like the stop tail holes, major wear like buckle rash, or were the crazing is severe cracks that combine to form small pieces.
 
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