About to begin a new series of guitars but still thinking

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About to begin a new series of guitars but still thinking

Postby Mark Wybierala » Thu Sep 21, 2017 12:03 pm

It begins with an idea or a challenge... ...A ramble but there is a point.
Why does a really well worn Fender from honest years of service look great while a well worn Gibson looks sad and neglected and even a little scary when it comes to setting it up or needing service?
I have great respect for both sides of the fence but as a guitar maker, I want to try and capture some of the aspects of why I feel the way I do about vintage Fenders. I know that a lot of people aren't going to have this perspective but a few might and maybe they can shed more light on what exactly I'm feeling here. I just look at a well used strat or telecaster as an instrument that wants to be played. They feel eager and friendly. To be honest, I'm not a talented guitarist but I know mojo when its on my bench. Is it the simplicity and lack of detailed craftsmanship? I try to put integrity into my guitars and the idea that they will still be great and cherished instruments in 50 years is a large part of my initial concepts. I want durability and the ability to age well. I'm not a fan of guitars that are made to look old and the silly practice of relicing.

What are some of the basic aspects of design, function, and finish, that lend toward what I'm describing? Maybe I'm having a senior moment ;)
Mark Wybierala
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Re: About to begin a new series of guitars but still thinking

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Thu Sep 21, 2017 4:54 pm

One thing I see when I look at an older Gibson, or other brand with binding on the body, is that is where the wear shows first.
The corners of the body, and the edge of the neck show wear first. Worn bindings simply look bad.
Maybe that is where the difference is. A Strat or Tele can have all kinds of wear around the edges and it just looks like it has been played hard, adding to the mojo.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
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Re: About to begin a new series of guitars but still thinking

Postby Freeman Keller » Thu Sep 21, 2017 10:03 pm

I'm going to stick my neck out and make a couple of generalities. In general I hate generalities (and I realize that you can find lots of exceptions) but....

Fenders and Gibsons are antithesis of each other. I have the greatest respect for Leo Fender as an engineer and marketing genius but he was neither a luthier nor a player. Fender guitars were designed from the get-go to be cheap and easy to manufacture - everything about them is focused on assembly line production. Slab bodies made out of cheap wood, painted with automotive paints, rounded edges, routed cavities in the top with a plastic cover (call it a pick guard), single coil pups, screw on neck with no binding and plastic dots (and in some cases, integral maple neck/fretboard). When Gibson started making hollow and then solid bodied electric guitars they brought a rich heritage of beautiful wood, arched tops, lacquer finishes (and lovely sunbursts), bound bodies and necks, pearl inlay, necks set at the angle required by the carved top. By about 1957 they had humbucking pickups and even when they started making slab guitars (LP Jr, SG's) much of that tradition carried over.

A wag once said "A carpenter can build a tele, it takes a wood worker to build a Les Paul". FWIW I have built LP and L-5 and tele clones, when I finish playing the LP or L-5 it goes back in the case, the tele can stay out on the stand.

Like you I hate relic'd guitars but its funny, I've seen lots of relic'd Fenders but never a relic'd Lester. Mmmmmm...

Gibsons cost sever times what the "equivalent" Fender does, you almost never see a 16 year old playing one, nor do you see "protected" by a gig bag. They often (but of course not always) play different music on a Stat or a Lester - I certainly associate certain genres of blues and jazz more with Gibbies but there is a lot of cross over.

OK, so maybe its like comparing a pickup truck to a sports car - they both have a use and a purpose, but you baby the sports car and don't really mind if your pickup is a little beat. Or when I took my mountain bike into the shop and apologized for it being dirty - the mechanic just rolled his eyes and said "its a mountain bike".

So bottom line, they are different animals and we treat them totally different.


(Freeman puts on asbestos underwear and prepares for the comments)
Freeman Keller
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Re: About to begin a new series of guitars but still thinking

Postby Barry Daniels » Fri Sep 22, 2017 12:01 pm

I'll be on your side in this street fight, Freeman!
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Re: About to begin a new series of guitars but still thinking

Postby Matthew Lau » Fri Sep 22, 2017 4:58 pm

I'm with Freeman on this as well.
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