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No More Gibson Archtops?


powerwagonjohn

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In the last couple of weeks I have talked to two major Gibson dealers and both told me that Gibson is 3 years back ordered on carved top archtop guitars and they are not taking any more orders for L-4CES, L-5CES, Super 400 and any of the other carved top guitars. I was also told "if" they do start making them available for order after 3 years they will either double the price of have someone else make them for Gibson. From some discussions else where on this forum I understand that the Byrdlands use a pressed spruce top. Do any of the other "carved?" top guitars use a pressed top? I sure don't like the sound of this, can anyone confirm this? And i am sure there will be some comments.

Thanks John

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Think about it:

 

If Gibson is "back ordered", how is it they can START making them if they haven't STOPPED making them?

 

If Gibson had someone else make them for them, would it still be a Gibson? Where do you think that statement came from? Gibson has NEVER contracted out to have models made by someone else, and no reason to think they would.

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The only current archtop model other than the Citation that claims to have a "hand-carved top" is the Johnny A. Since the underside of the Johnny A top is flat, it is not really fair to call it a "graduated top", in the traditional sense. The top surface is graduated, though, that is true enough...

 

I just zoomed in on the picture of the Citation shown in the on-line catalog, and I believe this particular guitar has a carved top (the one in the picture, I mean). The description attests to the fact it is a graduated top, as well, not to mention the price.

 

I do NOT believe, judging based on either the photograph or the write-up, that the L-5 CT has a carved, graduated top.

 

[Those who are familiar with violins and cellos will attest to the unmistakable differences in grain pattern that emerges as the graduation of the top takes the surface of the wood off the 90 degree axis of the vertical grain of the billet and back again...]

 

My $0.02/FWIW

J/W

[smile]

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This is what I was told by two different Gibson dealers hundreds of miles apart. And it would be when they start making them available for order again after 3 years. Lets remember it is a different Gibson now days. Before 2008 the were never raided either!

Don't kill the messenger, this is just what I was told so take it for what it's worth. Both dealers said they got this information from the Gibson Custom Shop and that they can not place any new orders for these style guitars. "With most of their profits coming from SG, Les Paul's and ES guitars there is no reason to keep making the hand made archtops". "Plus most of the old skilled craftsmen are gone with few who are experienced to build these guitars" These were both conversations with major dealers.

Thanks John

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.

 

Maybe so PW. I'm aware that Gibson has cancelled some other planned runs of "limited edition", "anniversary" and "sig" SGs and LPs - a couple were mentioned on these forums (you might have caught them). I think it has more to due with the flood losses, and the money tied up in property confiscated by the FnW raids, forcing Gibson to put their resources into models that sell large numbers. . . If so, what a sad turn of events.

 

.

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There are PLENTY of used Gibson archtops available, and the selling prices of the used (and vintage) ones are far less than the MSRP (as advertised) on the Gibson website, and still less than the "out-the-door" prices of new ones.

 

$5000 - $6000 will buy nice used L-5CES's all day long, last time I looked the MSRP on the Gibson website was like $14,000.

 

Even IF available, I'm not sure I would choose a new one over an old(er) one anyway.

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.

 

Maybe so PW. I'm aware that Gibson has cancelled some other planned runs of "limited edition", "anniversary" and "sig" SGs and LPs - a couple were mentioned on these forums (you might have caught them). I think it has more to due with the flood losses, and the money tied up in property confiscated by the FnW raids, forcing Gibson to put their resources into models that sell large numbers. . . If so, what a sad turn of events.

 

.

 

I gotta say that this whole "turn of events" saddens me greatly. I acquired a wine-red Les Paul Studio (Plus top, although it was not sold as such) that the serial number places in the first week the plant was back in full production after the flood. That guitar has such Karma!

 

You can literally feel and hear the happiness and pride oozing from the pores of the wood in that little guitar. And I am equally proud and happy to play it as the folks who made it seem to have been. Why? Because it has the look, feel, and sound of the finest examples of Gibson guitars I have either owned or played over a 44-year span of time.

 

Much as Henry J's decisions madden me at times, I credit his hardheadedness for saving the company after Norlin had just about beat its reputation to dust. I applaud the use of baked maple, swamp ash, poplar, and alder in some of the models. [OK... obeche,not so much.] I marvel at the marketing genius that can gut a guitar like a trout of its luxury appointments, yet still have it play, sound and feel like a genuine Gibson guitar.

 

Fact of the matter is, it takes years and years to learn how to carve a spruce top or a maple back, no matter what instrument you are trying to build. That tradition of hand craftsmanship and paid apprenticeship goes against the current of North American economics and social trends. I think, more than anything, that is why we are witnessing the end of the hand-crafted in America arch-top jazz guitar.

 

I don't blame Gibson in the least for adopting a strategy of retrenchment, if that is what it is going to take to ensure its survival. Quite to the contrary, I admire their guts, pride, and determination. OK, you have to watch them like a hawk before you open your wallet, but a well-made Gibson still ROCKS!

 

'Nuther $0.02 from the Jelly.... Y'all gonna get RICH offa ME!

 

J/W

:-({|=

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The only current archtop model other than the Citation that claims to have a "hand-carved top" is the Johnny A. Since the underside of the Johnny A top is flat, it is not really fair to call it a "graduated top", in the traditional sense. The top surface is graduated, though, that is true enough...

 

I just zoomed in on the picture of the Citation shown in the on-line catalog, and I believe this particular guitar has a carved top (the one in the picture, I mean). The description attests to the fact it is a graduated top, as well, not to mention the price.

 

I do NOT believe, judging based on either the photograph or the write-up, that the L-5 CT has a carved, graduated top.

 

[Those who are familiar with violins and cellos will attest to the unmistakable differences in grain pattern that emerges as the graduation of the top takes the surface of the wood off the 90 degree axis of the vertical grain of the billet and back again...]

 

My $0.02/FWIW

J/W

[smile]

 

 

From the Gibson website on the Lee Ritenaur L-5 Signature:

 

" The body retains its traditional tonewoods; high-grade and hand-carved spruce top with high-grade and hand-carved figured maple back and sides. The body is then adorned with multi-ply black and white binding on both the top and back, with single-ply white binding around the f-holes. The gold hardware includes a “fingers”-style tailpiece and endpin jack, with a compensated bridge and base made from ebony."

 

My 2011 Wes has a carved top, as does my 2005 L-5C, 2001 Byrdland and 2002 L-5CT.

 

The archtop photos on the website have been unchanged for a number of years, so if your premise were true, Gibson has not been carving the tops for at least that long. I've seen enough L-5 guitars *in person* to know that you are wrong.

 

Danny W.

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From the Gibson website on the Lee Ritenaur L-5 Signature:

 

" The body retains its traditional tonewoods; high-grade and hand-carved spruce top with high-grade and hand-carved figured maple back and sides. The body is then adorned with multi-ply black and white binding on both the top and back, with single-ply white binding around the f-holes. The gold hardware includes a “fingers”-style tailpiece and endpin jack, with a compensated bridge and base made from ebony."

 

My 2011 Wes has a carved top, as does my 2005 L-5C, 2001 Byrdland and 2002 L-5CT.

 

The archtop photos on the website have been unchanged for a number of years, so if your premise were true, Gibson has not been carving the tops for at least that long. I've seen enough L-5 guitars *in person* to know that you are wrong.

 

Danny W.

 

Well... I didn't research each and every guitar on the site. It appears I should have, because my comment is being taken as a sweeping generalization. I just wanted to make the point that there are quite a few of the Gibson arch tops that boast "solid spruce tops" that are NOT carved.

 

But here's the text from the catalog about TODAY'S L-5 Montgomery:

 

"Today’s Wes Montgomery model features a body crafted with a high-grade spruce top, and high-grade maple back and sides. "

 

This does not say hand-carved, and neither does the description of the L-5 CES:

 

"Available in wine red, ebony, natural, and vintage sunburst finishes, the L-5 CES has a high-grade spruce top and maple back and rims."

 

That the instruments Gibson originally produced were, in fact, carved is not in question. But notice how the catalog copy of today has changed from a few years ago, when the hand-graduating process was trumpeted in detail!

 

On the Ritnour model, on the other hand, the copy does reads as Danny quoted it in his post...

 

"The body retains its traditional tonewoods; high-grade and hand-carved spruce top with high-grade and hand-carved figured maple back and sides.'

 

I am happy to concede that the top on this model is, clearly, CARVED. If I am interpreting these words wrong, I stand corrected. And I would ask Gibson to step in at any time to set this matter straight.

 

J/W

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.

JW - Wes passed away long ago . . . so past tense would be expected.

 

BTW, I trust Danny's opinion - he's got some gorgeous archtops and the chops to go with them.

 

Oh, I don't doubt that one bit, nor do I doubt his assessment of how his guitars are made.

 

But I know from my own experience that the Byrdland I was about to buy a few years back did NOT have a carved top, the truth of which was confirmed by an official Gibson representative. At any rate, my purpose here is not to argue with anyone else... it is simply to point out that not all Gibson arch top guitars with solid spruce tops are carved. Some of them are pressed into shape and then braced, etc, etc.. And the real carved ones are getting rarer and rarer and more and more costly to buy.

 

I am afraid that one day soon they will no longer be available, which is sorta where this thread started...

 

J/W

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.

Some call it solid spruce, but it's not -

 

Carved - one solid piece of spruce (no laminations) carved into shape.

 

Solid laminate - two or more thin layers of spruce laminated together and pressed into shape. Usually advertised as "solid spruce", but it's laminated.

 

Laminate - plywood (unspecified species) with the top layer being spruce and pressed into shape.

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Well... I didn't research each and every guitar on the site. It appears I should have, because my comment is being taken as a sweeping generalization. I just wanted to make the point that there are quite a few of the Gibson arch tops that boast "solid spruce tops" that are NOT carved.

 

But here's the text from the catalog about TODAY'S L-5 Montgomery:

 

"Today’s Wes Montgomery model features a body crafted with a high-grade spruce top, and high-grade maple back and sides. "

 

This does not say hand-carved, although the catalog descrption of the HISTORICAL GUITAR that Wes Montgomery once played, and which inspires today's production piece says:

 

"Though it all, Montgomery relied on his faithful Gibson L-5CES guitars. His original instruments were typically stock L-5s that came equipped with either Gibson’s single coil P-90 or Alnico pickups. "

 

That these original instruments were carved is not in question. But notice how the catalog copy is cleverly written in the PAST tense!

 

On the Ritnour model, on the other hand, the copy reads as follows...

 

"The body retains its traditional tonewoods; high-grade and hand-carved spruce top with high-grade and hand-carved figured maple back and sides.'

 

I am happy to concede that the top on this model is, clearly, CARVED. If I am interpreting these words wrong, I stand corrected. And I would ask Gibson to step in at any time to set this matter straight.

 

J/W

 

You conveniently left out the following from the Wes description:

 

"The Wes Montgomery L-5CES built today by Gibson Custom is built to the same specifications as the instrument used by Montgomery in the 1960s"

 

Oops!

 

And from the Byrdland desciption: "The instrument produced today by the Gibson Custom Shop offers the finest original-spec rendition of this classic model that has been available since its production of the late 1950s."

 

If the premise is that Gibson might not be building many carved archtops, or any for that matter, I can believe that. In 1986-7 they built close to none (I know of two.) But the argument that "they don't build 'em like they used to" is still unproven by your claims.

 

Danny W.

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Well, folks, I really said everything I wanted to say back in post # 7. I didn't want to get into a "they don't make 'em like they used to" mode. And I don't want to plough that field over again, either.

 

So I will defer to your greater first-hand knowledge on the subject (I'm not being snarky... you have had tons more hands on experience with these babies than I have. I've seen your pictures in other threads!) and just leave the tractor parked here, if you don't mind. I am reassured to know that , in the unlikely event I have ten grand to invest in Gibson archtop before I kick the bucket, it will in fact be hand-carved, solid spruce.

 

Good evening, gents...

J/W

B)

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L5LARRY (and others) have made a VERY good point:

 

There are a LOT of used archtops available. And it is a good time to buy. And it has an effect on how many Gibson can sell.

 

Consider: The L-5 (and similar) are the most expensive guitars to make. They really have nearly every time consuming and difficult features of all guitars all in one.

 

So, whether or not one agrees they are worth the price, they are still going to cost the most to make. And currently, the prices and availability of the used market at this time makes it extremely difficult to be able to build and sell for a profit at anything near what they are selling for.

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A lot of good discussion here and this is why I started this thread. I took a good look at my 2009 L-4CES and the front and back are definitely carved. I can see the transition from side grain to end grain on the back and top. I can always learn something here, thanks to all.

I do wonder just how much hand carving is really done and what models are actually carved. I think most of the carving is done by machines and the finishing is by hand but I wish someone who actually worked there could tell us how much hand work in really involved.

I am not into bashing Gibson, I have 4 Gibsons and my L-4CES is near perfect in build and sound. It is also interesting that three years ago a Gibson dealer[not where I bought my L-4] I know well was telling me he thought Gibson Custom was building the best Guitars they ever built. Now he says that the employee turn over at Gibson is real bad, bad enough to get written up as one of the 3 worst places in TN to work. He told me the hardware/ electrical installation and set ups are minimum wage jobs and so the quality suffers. can anyone confirm or deny this?

I would really hate to see Gibson stop making archtops, although I probably will never buy another new archtop, it would be an end of an era. I know Gibson has some hard choices to make to stay profitable and to deal with there legal troubles. It does seam they are trying to transition in to a "lifestyle" company than a traditional music instrument manufacturer.

Thanks John

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I gotta say that this whole "turn of events" saddens me greatly. I acquired a wine-red Les Paul Studio (Plus top, although it was not sold as such) that the serial number places in the first week the plant was back in full production after the flood. That guitar has such Karma!

 

You can literally feel and hear the happiness and pride oozing from the pores of the wood in that little guitar. And I am equally proud and happy to play it as the folks who made it seem to have been. Why? Because it has the look, feel, and sound of the finest examples of Gibson guitars I have either owned or played over a 44-year span of time.

 

Much as Henry J's decisions madden me at times, I credit his hardheadedness for saving the company after Norlin had just about beat its reputation to dust. I applaud the use of baked maple, swamp ash, poplar, and alder in some of the models. [OK... obeche,not so much.] I marvel at the marketing genius that can gut a guitar like a trout of its luxury appointments, yet still have it play, sound and feel like a genuine Gibson guitar.

 

Fact of the matter is, it takes years and years to learn how to carve a spruce top or a maple back, no matter what instrument you are trying to build. That tradition of hand craftsmanship and paid apprenticeship goes against the current of North American economics and social trends. I think, more than anything, that is why we are witnessing the end of the hand-crafted in America arch-top jazz guitar.

 

I don't blame Gibson in the least for adopting a strategy of retrenchment, if that is what it is going to take to ensure its survival. Quite to the contrary, I admire their guts, pride, and determination. OK, you have to watch them like a hawk before you open your wallet, but a well-made Gibson still ROCKS!

 

'Nuther $0.02 from the Jelly.... Y'all gonna get RICH offa ME!

 

J/W

:-({|=

Wow P.W. are you dating Gibson Guitar co.?

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Some call it solid spruce, but it's not -

 

Carved - one solid piece of spruce (no laminations) carved into shape.

 

Solid laminate - two or more thin layers of spruce laminated together and pressed into shape. Usually advertised as "solid spruce", but it's laminated.

 

Laminate - plywood (unspecified species) with the top layer being spruce and pressed into shape.

 

"Solid" should mean a single layer of material, such as the conventional top of a flat-top. "Solid laminate" is not a term I know, so I'm not sure if it's one that Gibson uses. In the ES 335, I believe they refer to it as "laminated maple". That should be the equivalent of your "solid laminate", where all the layers of the plywood are maple.

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I have no inside knowledge whatsoever, but...

 

I do know of some products that, regardless how popular and still profitable, were discontinued when tooling wore out and different ways of seeking to achieve the same result were sought.

 

Needless to say, that brought no small amount of criticism of the corporate folks.

 

I know not everyone here likes even the idea of firearms, but they might serve well as an example of relatively small manufacturers' products that have changed not so much always to reflect improved technology, but to reflect lesser degrees of handwork. An old-fashioned Colt six-shooter is a great example; ditto older Smith and Wesson double-action revolvers. Now both firms can claim better machine-crafted examples that are easier to replace parts in, etc., etc. But...

 

Carved or even pressed variations of laminated woods for a "jazz guitar" top are also kinda a matter of preference. The 335 and 174 have been such woods since the beginning. Now, one might argue for or against that, but both are classics for what they are. Then we might get into a battle over a metallic bridge vs ebony or whatever...

 

I really dunno... But I think Gibson has taken a heck of a one-two set of punches from the flood and somebody in the government not liking them much. Maybe they should have had a solar panel biz on the side or something. I tend to agree that a lotta companies would have just plain gone belly up after the flood.

 

And three years... that's a long time from now; Who knows who can promise what in that time...

 

m

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I'm not sure about this. I ordered two Archtops from the Custom shop in the last two to three years and have received both. And I now have a Wes on order and I'm expecting it in mid 2012.

 

The two archtops I ordered were an L5 Lee Ritenour and a single pickup Es 175. Both are really excellent guitars and I can see the superb craftsmanship of the Custom shop in both guitars

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