Check out the Gibson Repair & Restoration interview below with Jonathan Blocker, Director of Aftermarket Services at Gibson Brands:
What is the purpose and mission of the Gibson Repair & Restoration Service?
Gibson R&R is here to service player’s guitar needs through the lifetime of the instrument. We strive to be the foremost authority on servicing Gibson instruments, regardless of the issue. Our role is taking care of players first and foremost, followed by superior care of our instruments once they are in the hands of our fans.
Where is Gibson Repair & Restoration (R&R) located?
Gibson R&R has its own space in Nashville, TN which is also our HQ, but we offer free shipping and insurance for all instruments shipped to us from out-of-state. Even if the player is not in Nashville, they can still take advantage of our services.
What is the difference between Repair and Restoration tasks, if any?
A “repair” typically is an acute issue, like a plane, and re-fret job. “Restoration” typically happens with very old vintage instruments that have been found, or neglected guitars that need to be brought back to life for whatever reason.
How many people work at Gibson Repair & Restoration? What kind of qualifications, backgrounds, and experience do they have?
Gibson R&R is a truly unique place. Our techs have been with Gibson R&R for decades and come from both the Gibson USA factory and Gibson Custom Shop. Many of our techs are from other companies all over the world, and some have been making their own guitars for years. There are many different backgrounds and methods of repair, what makes Gibson R&R unique is that our leadership team challenges everyone to learn from each other and adopt the best method of repair. We have 10 full time repair technicians that work exclusively on consumer guitars, and we have about 15-20 technicians that refurbish guitars through our Gibson Demo Shop on Reverb: https://reverb.com/shop/gibsondemoshop
. It’s not easy to join, and we handpick all of our staff through a rigorous interviewing process. A typical Gibson R&R Tech will have significant guitar repair experience which is different from new guitar build experience. Gibson R&R Techs have typically worked in the industry for 10+ years and know their way around new and vintage instruments. A typical skillset surpasses just a fret level and dress, or pro-setup. Most of our team members are fluent in full and complicated guitar restorations: neck resets, a broken headstock (yes, that is easy to fix), full acoustic structural repairs, and carbon fiber, is handled by our team.
Are the Gibson R&R repairs guaranteed? Is there a warranty on the work?
Yes, all repairs from Gibson R&R are covered for the lifetime of the guitar. We are about to release a special card that will go out with all of our Gibson R&R repairs that states this, and we’ve always guaranteed our work at Gibson R&R.
What kind of specific point process do the Gibson R&R craftspeople use to analyze and repair incoming instruments?
First off, we determine the size and scope of the repair. We help guide players through what the next steps should be for their instrument. Sometimes the cost of the repair is larger than the value of the guitar, but most of the time there is a real need for repair. Either way, we make sure the consumer is fully informed before shipping. Once we receive the instrument, we will do a deep dive inspection into the specific needs of the guitar. Gibson performs an inspection of 30-35 different points to make sure we capture everything; we use this same point process for the Gibson Demo Shop on Reverb.
Are most of your customers famous musicians, or regular players?
I think of everyone as a player. But yes, most of our customers are musicians. We do have a few famous regulars and the occasional uber collector that wants their 1959 Gibson Les Paul tweaked a little. Our team is accustomed to handling all levels of instruments, from the highly valued $100k+ to Les Paul Studios from 2015.
Have any famous guitars come through Gibson R&R?
Yes, we get famous instruments. We did work for Garth Brooks on a Gibson that he learned on as a kid; when his Dad passed away his Mom gave him the guitar. We also worked on Jason Aldean’s guitar that was left on stage for a week after the terrible shooting incident in Las Vegas.
What are examples of some of the more challenging projects Gibson R&R has worked on? How did you overcome those challenges?
Splintered vintage acoustics are always a challenge. Certain team members are trained to fully deconstruct vintage acoustics and reassemble them using specialized fixtures that we have built over the years. Gunshot guitars are always interesting, as well as anything that requires us to rebuild a structure where one does not exist, but anything is possible with Gibson R&R.
Do you ever see any forgeries come through Gibson R&R – instruments that the owners believed were genuine Gibson guitars, but turned out to be fake? How do you handle those situations?
We sometimes do, but it is very rare. Most of our customers know their instrument is genuine, and the good fakes are not as common as people think. We do offer services to identify and certify genuine Gibson instruments. We understand that many times our fans purchase instruments that do not have a Certificate of Authenticity and need to be certified, so we offer that service when needed.
I understand you also offer authentication and valuation services. Is that service usually requested for insurance purposes, or do potential buyers and sellers have instruments authenticated fairly often?
A Certificate of Authenticity is typically used to increase the value of the guitar for sale and/or insurance purposes. This service is relatively new for us to offer as an external service, but we are well-versed in it since we have tools at our disposal that most shops do not even know of. To authenticate and evaluate, we will review the age, condition, build quality, and materials used versus the time period of the guitar.
What instruments do you work on, and what types of repairs can you handle? Do you work on instruments from other manufacturers outside of the Gibson Brands family?
All kinds of guitars are welcome. Guitars, basses, banjos, Dobro’s, and mandolins–all types, electric and acoustic, and all brands, not just Gibson. We can handle any repair thrown at us including neck resets, full restorations, finish needs, broken headstocks (carbon fiber). We can do just about anything; you would be very surprised at how many guitars we repair that have been victims of a gunshot. We offer the same price and rate for non-Gibson products. Obviously, we want our fans to play our instruments, but we support the craft of guitar playing first and foremost.
Do you service and replace electronic components / do refrets / new fretboards / neck resets / headstock repairs / and paint/refinishes?
Yes, electronics can be more complicated than people realize, especially a double neck with four pickups, two switches, two tones, two volumes and a blend—yes, we’ve had one. We have multiple Gibson R&R Techs that specialize in electronics repairs. Re-frets, new fretboards, headstocks, and neck resets are very common. We have a separate, dedicated finish and painting services and we can match various types of genuine factory finishes and period-correct nitrocellulose-sprays depending on the age of the guitar.
Have you ever lost or damaged an instrument that was in Gibson R&R?
Gibson R&R has never lost a guitar. Instruments can easily get damaged in shipping if they are not packed correctly, therefore, we offer comprehensive instructions on how to pack the instrument before it is sent in, plus if the player needs it, we can provide them proper packing materials before shipment which costs around $50. However, all shipping to and from our facility is free, and when the consumer ships using our services, they are also covered under our insurance, so they can have peace of mind that their guitar is in good hands.
Why did Gibson decide to create a repair and restoration facility, and what was behind the decision to open up Gibson R&R services to instruments from all brands?
Gibson has always recognized that it needed to have a service for post-purchase care. Around mid-2020 we decided to deeply invest in and expand the R&R services with capital, and a vision for the future. Gibson is more than just a manufacturer of beautiful instruments, we are responsible for the experience our players have with our instruments, and we are custodians to the quality of our instruments through their entire lifecycle. Gibson had not been clear about that position in the past.
What are the most common types of damaged instruments that you see, and what can owners do to try to prevent damage?
Broken headstocks are fairly common, along with finish and environmental damage. My biggest advice is to service your instrument often, especially if they don’t get played much. Be aware of the environment you are storing your instrument in, especially acoustic instruments. And properly support your headstock in the guitar case when storing your instrument. Some people say to de-tune it to be safe, and that’s a good idea for traveling, but the headstock can still break if not properly supported.
How long has Gibson been doing R&R?
The current version of Gibson Repair & Restoration has been around since 2002. However, the original repair shop was around since the early ’90s focusing mostly on warranty repairs. All warranty repairs (consumer and dealer) come through our building. Consumer warranty repairs specifically go through the 10 Gibson R&R Techs. However, to start a warranty repair the consumer must get in contact with Gibson customer service.
Have the customers been happy with the final results?
Customers are happy when expectations are managed correctly. If you have a vintage acoustic from 1959 that’s been a victim of flooding or sitting in the sun for 10 years, don’t expect it to look factory fresh again for a reasonable price. However, we can bring it to life and get it playing well again and ready to pass down as a family heirloom.
What is the most satisfying aspect of the work you do at Gibson R&R?
I am just a team leader, so I can’t speculate how cool it would be to actually work on the instruments. As a leader it is very, very rare to work on a team of people that love what they do as much as this team. I’ve had the honor of helping build this team from only 6 people to the 25+ that we have now. Every person on the Gibson R&R team eats, lives, and breathes guitar perfection and excellence. It’s incredible to see the effectiveness of a group with such talent.