What evidence do you have that the custom shop is the reason Gibson's USA build quality has declined (if indeed it has)? Exactly how are those two things married? Gibson wanted to get into lower end markets. So they started coming out with "shortcut" guitars in order to meet a certain price point and provide an easier entry into the brand. Faded finishes, no binding, etc. It wasn't that long ago that an old school Studio was that guitar, but they wanted to lower the point of entry even more. None of that has much if anything to do with historics. Example of Gibson's inherent problem: Gibson custom comes out with a pretty cool modern double cut for $4K -- and I am convinced if this exact same axe was being built by some small shop in France at this price point there would be some small luthier worship going on -- but the reaction to it? Yuck, ugly, overpriced, etc. So they try come out with a 24 fret, easy high fret access, comfortable heel, fresh thinking, anti-Les Paul guitar and it won't get any traction. They are trapped.