The Gibson USA Factory Tour: Nashville


In this video, from Gibson TV, Mark Agnesi travels to Nashville TN and joins Master Luthier Jim DeCola. Jim walks us through the Gibson factory where all of their electric solid body and hollowbody guitars are produced.

Video Text:

0:00:02.7 –>
[Music] so [Music] hey everybody mark agnes here for gibson tv today i’m in nashville tennessee now everyone knows nashville is known as music city no company has been more instrumental in shaping the sound of nashville than gibson guitars now whether you’re picking on a banjo or mandolin strumming an acoustic or wailing on the iconic les paul gibson’s been making the finest stringed instruments in the world for over 127 years and it all starts right here let’s go check out how these guitars are made right here at gibson usa [Music] i’m here now with my dear friend and

0:01:01.2 –>
gibson’s master luthier jim decola what’s happening buddy this is quite the factory lots going on here tell me a little bit about how gibson guitars started gibson guitar started in 1894 right when uh orville gibson you know made his first guitar and got some partners to actually start a formal company right and over the years you know the company has evolved originally he was making a lot of uh mandolin inspired instruments and mandolins and guitars built in that mandolin and violin kind of construction so because of that that whole arch top guitar thing was an evolution of that so gibson invented the arch top jazz box guitar we’re here at gibson usa in nashville what yeah what does this factory focus on usa is the high volume electric solid bodies and es models here we have some of the les pauls and some other bodies

0:02:01.2 –>
as we receive them from the rough mill which is across the parking lot so this is what a les paul body looks like when we receive it here [Music] here we have an es body that’s getting ready for binding so this is where we do all the binding operations so we start out by machining that channel around the rim and that’s where that binding will sit in apply the heat adhesive and then start that wrapping process so we take this canvas rope and wrap it all around that body to hold that secure what are some of those rolls that really take a significant like apprenticeship to get to get on the floor the most significant would be scraping the binding that takes an incredible amount of skill and finesse wrapping the binding on the guitar bodies hand rolling necks neck fitting the neck to the body all of those are probably the pinnacle of the craftsmanship all of those tests i just mentioned take a minimum two months to train someone to do those properly

0:03:01.7 –>
then when they’re when they’re wrapped they come hang here to dry yeah they’ll typically dry for about three hours in the case of the es we have the binding on top we’ll unwrap it apply it to the bottom and do it again yeah les paul like we have here same process but it only gets the binding on the top and that binding will stick up a little proud of that surface on on this surface and on the side so when it’s unwrapped and dry then we’ll take it to a stroke sander and sand that smooth so as you can see it’s just a big belt sander we’ll take a les paul body put it in the sander on this moving tray so again if somebody pushes a little too hard on that top you start to lose the contour so this is another one of those jobs that’s probably not anybody on the line can just walk in and do right that’s right it it seems simple but things can go wrong really quick you know there’s a lot of this hand work that goes into our guitars at the rough mill we do that rough machining with a big cnc machine

0:04:01.6 –>
but it can only get it so close as you see and this is why we need to have the skilled craftsman to be able to do this kind of work how long does it take to make a guitar here from like it’s raw wood to it’s getting put into a case and put back into the into the warehouse allez paul as we know it love it is standard gloss finish maple top book match binding all that that’s probably 12 to 14 days and then es you know you have the additional construction time in the body double bound body that’s probably going to be 14 to 16 days so that’s still everything that goes on that’s very very quick two weeks from a log to a finished guitar in the case ready for somebody to pick it up it’s absolutely amazing so after guitars come out of color prep where we do the final sanding and wood filling to prepare them for finishing guitars enter finishing they get their base coats to prepare them for the color coats and the base coat is just a

0:05:02.3 –>
clear sanding sealer lacquer sanding sealer and everything we do at gibson is lacquer genuine nitrocellulose lacquer we feel very strongly about that and that kind of defines what a gibson is it just has a a patina that you can’t get with poly finishes aesthetically and then sound wise it’s a much thinner finish so it’s not going to hamper the resonance which even on a solid body as you know can affect the sound so here we’re going to look at a sunburst getting shot he’s going to start out by spraying that first yellow you know antique kind of color for the base then he’s going to follow up in this case it’s a honey burst so he’ll come back with that shader and he’s going to do that sunburst all around the perimeter and the sun verse incidentally was a gibson innovation a lot of people take that for granted but gibson came up with the sunburst how many people do you guys have here that are trained to shoot i mean there’s

0:06:00. –>
so many sunbursts yeah there’s a lot of sunbursts how many people actually can shoot that finish right now we we actively have about four to six that do it regularly we have a few people in training that’s why i say four to six four key people and a couple in training but uh that’s a lot of guitars for them to spray and a lot of responsibility because it’s not just that muscle memory going around the perimeter of the guitar to get that sunburst on but they have to know what that color is supposed to be and their eyes have to be in tune to know how to compensate for the variance in the color of wood you might have a maple top on one that’s a little lighter or a little darker and they have to know how to maybe lean in and or pull back or whatever the case may be so there’s a lot of that responsibility that falls on them is it a prerequisite that you have to be a guitar player to work here certain jobs where you absolutely have to be a guitar player and that would be like a final inspector because you have to be able to play that guitar or an adjuster because again you have to play the guitar

0:07:00.7 –>
and and a lot of our uh people here you know can cycle through and cross train and and after they’ve been in a department for a given time they may aspire to learn a different skill and you know they can kind of grow that way so we have a lot of people here that uh you know dozens and dozens of people that have been here over 20 years and uh you know many dozen over 30 and you know select uh maybe half a dozen over 40 45 years so there’s a lot of great heritage here now if you’ve been working here 40 years do they take care of those those particular employees with something special we have uh a 20-year guitar so when you make that 20-year milestone you can get a les paul supreme which is kind of the top of the line guitar here so mark after guitars come out of finishing they go to buffing that’s where the finish gets buffed to that high gloss bluster so guitars enter final assembly we have these bins that the material handlers

0:08:01.4 –>
will assemble in a kit so they’ll put all the tuners everything that’s got to get put on that guitar lives in this book it’s that yeah exactly right the final inspector is is the final say on on how the guitar is going to leave the factory they get that guitar they have to give it that that inspection to make sure that all the hardware is correct all the control functions are correct that action is set to our specs and criteria and and fit form and function is all verified here so again you definitely have to be a player to do this job so so here you can see patrick is is giving it an aesthetic inspection once he does that and confirms that there’s no issues there then he’ll he’ll start the playability test and electronic control function test you ever get sick of this stuff i mean you’re around guitars all day you go home you’re around guitars all night you ever get sick of guitars no i don’t get sick of guitars i mean sometimes i don’t

0:09:00.7 –>
get to play them as much but i love working on them and you know i have a shop at home and i’ll work on them all day here i’ll go home and maybe here i’m doing more of the jobs like i said where it’s you know more the cat or you know those type of tasks i get home i like to tinker you know so i’m working on guitars or winding pickups or doing what i do because i just love doing that stuff but it’s a mix of working on them and playing and that’s just what i do that’s all i know yeah you too yeah yeah for more history on gibson or to pick out your next dream guitar check us out online at that does it for me i’m mark ignacy i’ll see you guys again next time from another iconic music destination on the next episode of the scene [Music] [Applause]

0:10:00.3 –>
[Applause] [Music] you

Jerry Cantrell of Alice In Chains Interview

How To Tighten Loose Guitar Knobs and Controls

Dobro Resonator Guitar Tabs

Seven String Guitar Tabs