On Saturday, July 13 we decided to do a tour of the Gibson factory in Memphis Tennessee and let me tell you it was really amazing! Unfortunately and understandably we were unable to take any photos of the actual tour itself but I’m here to share as much as I can in text. You are guided into a massive open room (the factory takes a whole street block!) where the employees, rather artists, are present working on hundreds of guitars. This factory is specifically designed to make the Hollow and Semi-Hollow guitars such the ES-355 pictured below. Hard bodies, such as the classic Les Pauls and SGs are made in their Nashville factory and their Acoustic guitars in Montana.
The tour showed us how each layer of wood is pressed to form the shape and then sanded by hand to clean up all the edges. Machines these days allow the process to only take a few hours where it could take days by hand. It’s quite amazing seeing how every little thing goes together and each step it takes to make a guitar. One of these Gibsons takes about 6-8 weeks to make though the factory completes about 50 per day.
One part of the tour I had no idea about is the paint trimming. Each body is painted with an airbrush but one things that everyone should recognize about a Gibson’s style is the trim around the edges. See there is no way they can paint only the body without causing some sort of damage to prevent the trim from getting painted. Instead they just spray the entire body and once it is done they get some of the workers with steady hands to use razors and cut off the paint along the edges. This takes around 20 minutes each guitar! Pretty neat!
The guide told us that they average 97% pass rate on their finished guitars. The ones that don’t pass get their electronics ripped out and the wood is chopped up. Tearful site.
If you are a big guitar geek and are in the Memphis area definitely go check out the factory tour! It’s totally worth it!