Gibson giving PLEK a bad name?

Discussion in 'The Custom Shop' started by dspelman, Feb 8, 2010.

  1. dspelman

    dspelman Senior Member

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    Some interesting rumors to munch on:

    At the recent NAMM show, a quiet discussion may or may not have erupted. It may or may not have involved PLEK company officials and the independent techs who own PLEK machines over whether Gibson is ruining the reputation of PLEK because of the way that they're using the machines and the quality of the PLEK jobs that they're turning out.

    These independent techs purportedly noted to PLEK that they've been getting a LOT of factory PLEK'd Gibsons from customers and that the fretwork has been, well, not as good as you'd expect, and that a competent re-PLEK was required to get the guitars to play well.

    Apparently (again, unconfirmed) Gibson's production PLEK setup involves clamping a guitar into a big old fixture that *simulates* string tension on the neck and poking it into the PLEK machine for a run.

    What's different? A normal PLEK run takes a finished guitar, with the strings that will be used, under tension, and plots the neck as is. The tech running the machine will then make a whole raft of decisions (depending on his experience and knowledge) while looking at the "ideal" neck curve and fret setup next to the actual neck curve and fret setup. The guy running the PLEK machine is the most important computer in the process, and will adjust the machine in some subtle ways. For example, where a decision needs to be made to have some frets slightly lower than others (we're talking fractions of a hair), he will skew the machine to put the lower frets up near the nut, where it will make chording easier, while leaving the slightly higher frets down toward the pickups, which will make bending easier. This results in the machine removing the least amount of material in order to get the job done and makes the finished PLEK job even more playable.

    Gibson, however, is, uh, rumored to be taking guitars that have no bridges, no tuners and even no paint, and mechanically bending the necks in the fixture to simulate string tension, and then running the PLEK with a very generalized curve setting, with little regard to the actual needs of the neck. And, as some of you will recognize, a guitar changes after painting, and it's difficult to predict how.

    The results, as both PLEK company officials and independent techs have noted, are less than sterling, and PLEK...may or may not be very concerned with how this reflects on their reputation.

    OTOH, it is providing independent PLEK techs with an opportunity to explain to their clients why one PLEK job may not be equivalent to another PLEK job...
     
    Jer, DarrellV, lunchbox and 3 others like this.
  2. Cpt_Gonzo

    Cpt_Gonzo Senior Member

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    Well, that certainly sounds like Gibson.

    The ones I played in the guitar store were still "hit and miss". Some guitars were really good, some were a horror...talking about 2008 onwards Staadards here.
     
  3. JonMan94

    JonMan94 Senior Member

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    ....id rather have my guitar done by human, professial hands... i think plek is just a novelty...
     
  4. dspelman

    dspelman Senior Member

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    Why?
     
  5. carydad

    carydad Senior Member

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    PLEK is amazing-when done right. My tech says the same thing, Gibson does the minimal, most cost saving thing you can do and call it a plek. Why? Because to do it right takes hours. Also, in the hands of the right guy, the plek isnt just a machine-it is just a tool. It's only as good as the guy running it. How much they take off, how close they can get to where they want to get it-it's all completely up to the tech. Then, when the guitar has had it's 3-5 passes in the machine, the tech still throws it down on the table and goes over it as he normally would. Pretty much as stated above-the tech is everything and makes all the important decisions. Not every plek is perfect. Sometimes you have to decide between taking off a ton of fret, or just making it as good as it can get. I have a guitar that the neck is just too bent. Put on 11-52s, baked it for a week to put more curve it in...just made it. We couldnt cut much at the top side, decisions had to be made to make it as good as we could get it over MOST of the neck. It gets a little dicey above 17 or so.The tech has to make those calls.

    Gibson's use(or lack of) the plek system really dumbs it down to a manufacturing method to cut the frets down to what they think they want. I've watched the whole process, start to finish, and it just aint that great if you skip the pre-measure steps. I'm sure it cleans up the otherwise all-over-the-place frets that gibson is known for, but if you have a competent tech throw a pleked gibby in the machine-I'll bet it needs work.
     
  6. dspelman

    dspelman Senior Member

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    Take an over-$4K Gibson LP from the Custom Shop that has "PLEK" factory-stickered all over it and put it on a good tech's PLEK machine for an analysis and don't be surprised that his eyebrows arch a bit or that his eyes roll heavenward, as happened this past Saturday. The guitar needed a truss-rod adjustment; that much was fairly obvious. That done, however, there were *still* problems. "That's pretty typical Gibson" commented the tech as he pointed at the screen that plotted the actual fret and fretboard to the ideal curve. A few months before he'd set up the guitar for low action and 9's. Wet weather had produced some back bow and some obvious buzzing and it was in for a "tuneup." He hadn't PLEK'd the guitar originally (since it had been done at the factory), but now it was on the machine for some analysis and it became apparent that there were decisions to be made and work to be done. "Go away. Have lunch. Do some shopping."

    A couple of hours later the guitar was ready and the results could be seen on the PLEK's monitor (because the machine exaggerates the difference, it looks pretty dramatic) and felt in the hand. The decision-making process alone requires experience and competence -- we know of at least one guy who purchased a PLEK machine in Sacramento as a money-making venture, but who's turning out junk PLEKs by simply accepting defaults across the board. The "human, professional" knowledge required makes this simply a tool, like any other, that can produce outstanding quality or mediocrity.

    In Gibson's hands, it's apparently doing more of the latter (if the rumor is true).
     
  7. DRF

    DRF Senior Member

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    I have no experience with Plek whatsoever. However one of these and a great luthier should produce an awesome neck. As a matter of fact I totally have to buy one.
    [​IMG]
     
  8. dougk

    dougk Senior Member

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    Another thing to remember is Gibson is doing the plek process really early in the "guitars life" so to speak. Before any string tension has been applied and allowed the neck to stablize.

    Then on top of that the guitar is shipped god knows how many miles, seen significant climate and environment changes then hung on a wall for months possibly.

    At that point the neck has probably gone back and forth between back and upbow numerous times frankly negating any real advantage the original (sloppy and rushed) plek job might have been.
     
    guitarsmith and rabidhamster like this.
  9. Jason

    Jason Senior Member

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    PLEK is a tool, nothing more. Would you say that the electric drill is just a novelty?
     
  10. River

    River Senior Member

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    A real Plek treatment is both - hands and machine. Check the poll thread about it - not a single person who's actually had it done has anything negative to say about it. It'll only wind up in the dustbin of history if people equate the Gibson factory treatment with the real thing.

    I think they should be concerned. It's one thing to have the Luddites among us refusing to consider it. It's another to have even youngsters poo-pooing it because they've played a Plek'd guitar and been non-plussed. Never give a gun to ducks.
     
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  11. dspelman

    dspelman Senior Member

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    These are a good start. There's a really lengthy (and very well done) thread in this very forum, called, "Complete Setup - Fretboard Scrape, Fret level, Bone Nut Carve, Intonation " (just run a search for it) that'll get into some considerable detail about doing your frets -- that radius sanding beam is just the starting point for good fretwork. A good tech (a luthier is the guy who builds the guitar, a tech is the guy who works on it thereafter) can do a great fret dress and setup without a PLEK machine. But the PLEK machine is designed to do it more quickly, more precisely and with the absolute minimum of material loss.
     
  12. Victory Pete

    Victory Pete Member

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    I have a new SG 12 string with a horrible PLEK job. I called Gibson and they sent me a replacement bridge, I thought I would file the grooves to my liking but to my surprise the bridge was already PLEKED! So they actually run the machine on bridges even before they have a specific guitar for it. That is a shame!

    VP
     
  13. ddroz60lp

    ddroz60lp Senior Member

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    My G0 was factory Pleked and the action is perfecto.I have never played a Pleked or nonpleked guitar with better action. I HAVE played pleked with worse.
     
  14. River

    River Senior Member

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    I'd be surprised to learn that a bridge could be Pleked unless it was attached to a guitar, and can't imagine them mounting it, Pleking it for that guitar, then sending it to you for your guitar. :confused:
     
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  15. chrisuk

    chrisuk Senior Member

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    +1

    It's just a pre-slotted bridge - not actually pleked.

    Back to the original thread '91 standard went off to be pleked last year and it plays great now.
     
  16. Lysol

    Lysol Senior Member

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    Gibson always do the absolute minimum and sell it for the absolute maximum.

    Common knowledge really so why would you expect more.
     
  17. Dave M

    Dave M Senior Member

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    Werd.
    The PLEK is just another tool, as is a drill, file, or CNC machine. It's success can only be realized when a person utilizes it in a successful way.

    Unfortunate (too common) reality.
     
  18. smorgdonkey

    smorgdonkey Senior Member

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    As long as the frets are level and the nut is cut accordingly to the proper height, that's all that anyone needs.
     
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  19. Victory Pete

    Victory Pete Member

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    I am not sure what was done but they sent me a bridge that is already slotted. How can they pre slot a bridge without a guitar to mount it to?

    VP
     
  20. chrisuk

    chrisuk Senior Member

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    They just slot the centre of the saddles.
     

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