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MIDTOWN RICHLITE FINGERBOARD ISSUES


djBeWilmingtonNC
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FINGERBOARD ISSUES: The Gibson Midtown Custom goes back unfortunately. Blame on the Richlite board - not its controversial paper and goo composition which looks and feels fine, but it's construction....just finished a practice session, and the problem is how the frets have to be set in richlite (no ridge underneath like into real wood boards). Instead frets are WTFfully laid into grooves with plastic end caps coming up from - and part of - the binding (i guess all richlite boards have to be bound because of this). This means plastic meets metal across the TOP PLANE, where naturally, it can catch (and does) on every fret at that join point. And i realized, even if its as smooth as glass there at first (and it isn't), the two sides will wear down at different rates because plastic and metal have different compositions. It creates quite audible (and tonal) pings when soloing and a finger on the e-string goes a bit south of the stringline. Or when chording and your e-string note comes down a little off, you slide into place and - ping! - it catches as you do so. Very sad - and shocking, Gibson. You can actually play the joins like a xylophone with a hammer-slide action, except i don't need a $1500 xylophone. Sure, Martin and Gibson-owned Steinberger do plastiboards, but acoustics and basses are tighter, bigger strings, and going south of the board not as likely. Had high hopes for this one WilmNC music friends but final verdict is the Midtown is a letdown: NOT RECOMMENDED. }:=(

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What do you mean by "no ridge underneath"?

 

What you are describing about the fret ends and the binding is what Gibson has always done, on nearly all of their electrics dating back to the original Les Paul's from the early 50's. You SHOULD find this on nearly every Gibson electric you play, unless it is a refretted guitar.

 

It does have it's disadvantages sometimes, as you point out. But it also has advantages in the feel of the neck. The binding coming up on the edge of the frets makes the edges feel smooth. It is one of the reasons Gibson's have a reputation for having such great feeling necks.

 

If you are having issues with the string sliding off, one thing you can do is have a new nut installed and cut with the high E string positioned further away from the edge. Also, you could do the same with the bridge. It might mean you need to get new saddles.

 

There have been threads and discussions about this issue here before. It may be that Gibson is positioning the strings too close to the edge lately, and it could be that some players aren't used to it. It could be both. But regardless, having the guitar set up for YOUR playing and preference is the way to have what is the BEST playing guitar for yourself. And, there is no reason that it can not be set up to play great for YOU.

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@Peter thank you for saving me the trouble of posting a closeup of the midtown's richlite neck. it clearly shows the ugly plastic binding bumps at each fret. thats a couple millimeters of plastic across the top plane, scrape an e-string across where that plastic meets the metal and - on my midtown at least - "ping!". whereas with Gibson wooden fretboards - i have four of them - the frets go all the way to the edge of the board, they slopes off of course but it is an unbroken composition, meaning no place for the string to catch. Betterplayers than me might not have a problem, but I sure do. I'll wait for a Midtown Custom with awood fingerboard because I do like the size and look. But I'm betting this richlite version of the midtown will not hold its value so its a good thing you are satisified with yours!

 

@flight959 thanks, but can't post elsewhere yet cuz I'm a newbie.

 

@stein- I read that there's a groove for the frets of course but not a ridge below the groove to hammer frets into, so they are glued in place and that it has something to do with the composition of the richlite, thus the endcaps coming up from the neck binding to help keep them secure. There has been extensive bloggage about the difficulties that may arise from changing frets set in this manner but very little (so far) about how the construction might affect play.

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OK here is a closeup for everybody....you can easily see the point where the fret meets the binding, not at the edge of the playing surface but a couple mills in. E-strings catch at that point, and they wouldn'[t on a tradionally fretted instrument. thats just how it is.

 

Interesting.......Hmmmm.....:-k :-k :-k .......

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OK here is a closeup for everybody....you can easily see the point where the fret meets the binding, not at the edge of the playing surface but a couple mills in. E-strings catch at that point, and they wouldn'[t on a tradionally fretted instrument. thats just how it is.

Yes...That looks the way it should, from what I can see in the pic.

 

Those 'nibs' are the way Gibson does all electrics, and many acoustics, sinse way, way back. Many modern acoustics don't have them, but if it is an electric, or an archtop, and it has binding, that is what it should be.

 

If it isn't, it is likely been refretted. That is one of the reasons a vintage Gibsons sometimes loose value if they have been refretted.

 

If you bought it new from a retailer, you don't need a reason to return it if it is within the policy. If you don't like it, that is enough reason. But if you are thinking it is odd, or a defect, I hate to see you turn in a guitar you like in every way besides this.

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OK here is a closeup for everybody....you can easily see the point where the fret meets the binding, not at the edge of the playing surface but a couple mills in. E-strings catch at that point, and they wouldn'[t on a tradionally fretted instrument. thats just how it is.

 

I'm no craftsman!! In fact I wouldn't even hang a picture!! But even I can tell that looks way off!!

 

Regards..

 

Btw I though post count only mattered for access to posting in the lounge!!

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@stein...it looks like you are right about other bound Gibsons having nibs or end caps, never being able to afford one i just didn't known. My four other Gibsons are unbound. I have bound epis, they do not have those nibs at the ends...just metal all the way. Here are closeups of Epiphone and Gibson Les Paul Customs...it still looks like there is more plastic across the top of the fret on the midtown the les paul.

post-41834-093371300 1332863020_thumb.jpg

post-41834-075173800 1332863081_thumb.jpg

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I also compared the midtown customs binding to a similarly-hybridized semi-hollow, my Greg Bennett Royale III (it too routs out sides from a solid mahogany block, but all the way through, the back is added.) The Greg doesn't have nibs or bumps. I guess this is a desired, upscale feature for some, not for me though. And maybe I just got one that wasn't sealed properly? Its very unsettling to be able to slide a string across the fret end and get tones. And these poor man's eyes just can't get used to that classy bumpy-ride look. };=Dpost-41834-014532000 1332863845_thumb.jpg

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@stein...it looks like you are right about other bound Gibsons having nibs or end caps, never being able to afford one i just didn't known. My four other Gibsons are unbound. I have bound epis, they do not have those nibs at the ends...just metal all the way. Here are closeups of Epiphone and Gibson Les Paul Customs...it still looks like there is more plastic across the top of the fret on the midtown the les paul.

NOW you are getting it.

 

Observe: Notice, on a typical guitar without binding, the fret ends go all the way to the edge-you can even see the fret ends. On a guitar with binding (no nibs) the fret has to be a little shorter, so as to not stick out the end. With nibs, shorter still.

 

So, with the 3 different ways, there IS slightly less "playing surface" with each one.

 

Gotta run...More later.

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As has been said by others; that's how Gibson traditionally binds necks. The problem (and there is obviously a problem) isn't, as far as I can tell from the snap, because of the 'board material. If anything the Richlite should be less prone to wear, shrinkage, warping or twisting. It looks more like poor finishing to me.

 

It would probably have been just as bad with a wood 'board.

 

I've heard of some people having problems with a gap between fret-end and nib - one very popular magazine for guitarists raises the subject every time they test a bound-neck Gibson - but I've never experienced it myself in 30-odd years of playing. Certainly none of my 4 bound-neck Gibbies has even a slight issue here and they are all between 16 and 21 years old.

 

Take it back to the dealership and see what they suggest.

 

P.

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Looking at the pic, it doesn't look like the nib is the problem. It looks like the fret has a step. Is that right? If so, the set up is wrong. The fret and nib should be the same height and there shouldn't be a noticeable 'edge'.

I'd change the guitar for another one.

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final verdict is the Midtown is a letdown: NOT RECOMMENDED. }:=(

My verdict: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

 

Of the many Gibsons I currently own or have owned, my Midtown Custom quite possibly has the most comfortable fingerboard and neck of the bunch. Unfortunately, yours is suffering from poorly executed workmanship on that particular instrument. It's unfortunate & shouldn't happen, but the fault does not lie with the basic construction method or the use of Richlite. I've experienced problems similar to what you're describing on Gibsons with rosewood boards as well.

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My verdict: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!....Of the many Gibsons I currently own or have owned, my Midtown Custom quite possibly has the most comfortable fingerboard and neck of the bunch.

I played a Midtown Custom today, as it happens, and I must say loved the feel of the neck and 'board.

 

The Richlite gets a big [thumbup] from me.

 

P.

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I have a '67 ES335-TD12 that has those same nibs on the frets. That's a Gibson trademark technique.

 

I just bought a 2012 SG Standard which also has the fret nibs. The problem I had was Gibson QA must have been absent for the final check of my guitar. "Plek'd nut" indeeed - the ^@%$#! high E string slot was over the binding! Had a new bone nut made now it's perfect.

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To my eye, that looks like pretty sloppy fret work. Fret ends look ground down leaving a slight lip at each end. Binding looks like it was not filed properly.

 

 

That's my reaction as well. The binding should project up over the fret ends, but the fret ends should not be "scalloped" the way they appear to be here, nor should there be any roughness or ridge between the end of the fret and the binding nib, either on the top or the side of the fret end. It should be a simple job to file the binding at the fret ends properly so that there is no hang-up at the edge of the board. It almost looks like someone skipped a step in the detailing.

 

I have zero experience with these Richlite boards, so I can't comment on the fret installation. The fret "cut" into the board is normally just that: a parallel-sided "slice" into the board that is a drive fit for the fret tang. I have no idea if the fret-setting technique is the same on these boards.

 

If I had just bought it, I would at the very least take it to a Gibson service center for evaluation before giving up on it.

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Thanks Bobouz, do you think from the pictures the caps on mine look wider than on the gibson custom? and what about my fears that wear might occur at different rates since they are different materials, thus potentially creating a catch, plastic side wearing faster so string catches on the way back?

 

i think i am going to get my gloss black gibson semi-hollow fix a different way, looking at a $300 epiphone es-339 and then buy some Gibson USA pickups (not sure which ones, recommendations welcome) and of course my trademark MIK-style GIBSON truss rod covers that i put on almost all my epis. Meantime, I've still got my Greg Bennett when i need a semi-holla

post-41834-074817200 1332881774_thumb.jpg

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do you think from the pictures the caps on mine look wider than on the gibson custom? and what about my fears that wear might occur at different rates since they are different materials, thus potentially creating a catch, plastic side wearing faster so string catches on the way back?

It looks like the width is pretty normal, but the overall dressing of the fret ends was poorly executed & needs to be redone. As for the potential for things to significantly change down the road, it seems unlikely, imho. Your thoughts about modding an Epiphone is an avenue that has worked well for lots of folks, but consider that the money spent on mods is rarely factored in when you go to sell or trade down the road. Btw, the Epi Valensi Riviera already comes with Gibson p94 pickups. If you like single coils & skinny necks, it's very well built & represents an amazing value (but doesn't come in black!).

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  • 3 weeks later...

Beautiful guitar! I own a Midtown Custom in ebony just as you. Not sure I can tell anything from the fuzzy, out of focus pictures you posted, however. Like others on here stated, the neck binding that contours up and into the frets on each end is the way gibson finishes their better instruments, and one of the features I've always loved about them. The frets on the Midtown Custom are finished using the Plek system which is supposed to be the latest and most accurate technology. The fretwork on my guitar is flawless. The neck feels and plays beautifully and there are no flaws anywere. My guess is that perhaps your guitar is dry and needs to be humidified, or there is truly something wrong and it made it past QC. Do you keep monitor and control the humitidy levels where you keep your guitar? Others on here are speculating the frets aren't true and I think it's because of a reflection on them in the photo. A dried out neck/fretboard will shrink and the frets will begin to separate from the fretboard, most noticeable on the ends. However, i'm not sure how that will be different from rosewood or ebony with the richlite board. If it is dry, it should correct itself pretty fast with proper humidity.

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