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Discover the Legacy of Gibson Custom Shop

It's rare that an instrument receives so much attention that it's as much a piece of art as the music it will one day create. This maxim does not hold true at the Gibson Custom Shop. Each guitar is meticulously crafted from processes that take time to yield their richest results. It's through this slow-burn philosophy, however, that Custom Shop guitars have come to represent the pinnacle of accuracy, authenticity, and attention to detail available under the Gibson brand.

Black and white image of a close up person playing drums

Overview

Established in 1986, the Gibson Custom Shop is based in Nashville alongside the Gibson USA factory. The workshop produces three main lines of guitars.

These are similar to Gibson USA's Modern, Original, and Artist categories, though extra care is taken with them to ensure they are immediately recognisable as an instrument of unparalleled looks, tone, and playability. Once you've played a Custom Shop, they say, you can never go back.

Gibson Custom Shop Lines

The Gibson Custom Shop produces three main lines of guitars.

The 'Modern' Custom Shop line represents the state of the art when it comes to Gibson guitars. They match the highest quality materials and components with every hard-won innovation developed at the Custom Shop over its decades-long history. These are not the pedestalled instruments of yesteryear, they are the apex of Gibson's extensive guitar-building repertoire.

The Vintage Original Spec (VOS) Reissue line reproduces the setup, sound, and sustain of original vintage instruments.

This involves painstaking research of images, spec sheets, and surviving examples from the period. The result is a range of instruments that come as close as humanly possible to replicating the feel and tone of the golden era of Gibson guitars.

The Signature Series recreates the instruments of Gibson artists. These might be the workhorse guitars they've played on specific albums and tours, with their characteristic modifications and setups. Alternatively, they could be a design collaboration in which the artist brings their extensive knowledge to bear crafting their dream instrument.

Alesis Electronic Drum Kit

Gibson Custom Shop Finishes

Nowhere is the Gibson Custom Shop's rare attention to detail more evident than on its finishes. These can be broken into three main categories.

Nitrocellulose gloss is typical of modern Gibson USAs. This is a 'fresh from the factory' look found on Custom Shop 'Modern' guitars, the Axcess series, and select reissues. Nitrocellulose ages beautifully, so a gloss finish will slowly become matte over time, allowing you to stamp your character and playing habits on the instrument.

Nitrocellulose Lacquer VOS (Vintage Patina) is matte with a little bit of shine. It is found on most Custom Shop Reissues and some artist models.

This represents a guitar that was made in the golden era of Gibson guitars, but has since been sitting in a time capsule and is therefore unblemished by playing or atmospheric conditions.

Murphy Lab finishes add the wear that an instrument picks up after years of playing. They come in four grades ranging from 'rarely played' to 'near-constant use'. Under the guidance of master luthier Tom Murphy, the Lab has elevated the aged process to an art form, rendering instruments that look like they're on loan from a guitar museum.

Check out examples of the Murphy Lab finishes below.

Murphy Lab Explained

Started in 2021, the Murphy Lab is a dedicated guitar aging department within the Gibson Custom Shop. Headed up by master artisan Tom Murphy and his team of experts, each guitar that comes out of the Murphy Lab is a handcrafted, individual instrument. Murphy himself developed new aging techniques and processes that have resulted in the most authentic recreations of vintage Gibson instruments ever seen. Below you can see the four different aging types offered by the Murphy Lab.

NOS Fender Custom Shop Stratocaster

Ultra Light

Ultra Light Aged has lacquer checking (a pattern of faint cracks where the nitrocellulose has shrunk) but is otherwise unscathed as though it has been sitting in a case since purchase.

Closet Classic Fender Custom Shop Telecaster

Light Aged

Light Aged features the same lacquer checking as well as small dings from playing or changing the strings. It also has light wear like scuffing sustained through regular practice.

Journeyman Relic Custom Shop Stratocaster

Heavy Aged

Heavy Aged has lacquer checking, more substantial dings, and prominent wear in the front, back, and neck of the guitar as though you've been gigging with it for half a century.

Relic'd Fender Custom Shop Stratocaster

Ultra Heavy Aged

Ultra Heavy Aged has lacquer checking, more and deeper dings, and significant wear on the body, neck, and headstock like it's been on tour since before Neil Armstrong first stepped foot on the moon.

Chat to Us About Your Dream Guitar

We hope that this guide has helped shed some light on the option-filled world of Gibson Custom Shop guitars. If you have any questions about the best selection for your setup and playstyle, be sure to talk to our Gibson experts in store.

Check out our Gibson Custom Shop range online.

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