Kalamazoo vs Nashville plant

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There's this reverb add for a '81 custom that quite stresses the fact it's a Kalamazoo made custom. ( https://reverb.com/item/37002127-1981-gibson-les-paul-custom-silverburst-kalamazoo-made-all-the-special-80s-parts )

I quote: " Why choose this silverburst? Because it was made in Kalamazoo and has the special 80s parts! You can tell it is KZ-made by the Made in USA stamp being verticle and by the last 3 digits in the serial number being 499 or less.

If you're new to buying vintage guitars - the first Gibson factory was established in Kalamazoo, Michigan. This is where all the guitars from the early 1900s until 1975 were made. The Nashville plant opened in 1975ish and slowly less and less guitars were made in Kalamazoo until it closed in 1984. Kalamazoo employees were generally older and more experienced and you can usually tell that just by the way a KZ Les Paul feels as compared to a Nashville one. Both are great - but KZs always have just a little something extra to them and are built to a higher-standard. Not many silverbursts were made in KZ - the two biggest features that make them stand out are the black back of the headstock and the HUGE volute. "

I never knew this was a thing (Kalamazoo vs Nashville)? Is it?
I guess there are some facts in here:
- last 3 digits of serial number 499 or less
- stamp is vertical (does he mean the made in USA stamp? can't see in his picture)
- Nashville opened in 1975 and gradually took over production from Kalamazoo plant until that closed in 1984
- bigger volute? No bursts on back of the headstock?

And some salespitch I suppose:
- generally older and more expierenced employees at Kalamazoo? And thus a bit better quality?

Please enlighten me! :)

--------------
FYI: I already read this in the FAQ Norlin History thread but it doesn't adress everything

1975 - Nashville plant starts building LPs in conjunction with Kalamazoo.
...
1984 - final production at Kalamazoo in June
...
Between 1974 and 1984 production of Gibson guitars was shifted from Kalamazoo to Nashville, Tennessee. Early Nashville-built guitars suffered from both inexperienced workers, and climate-control problems in the humid South. The Kalamazoo plant was kept going for a few years as a custom-instrument shop, but was closed in 1984.
--------------

The pot code is kinda strange. It ends with 53. There is no 53rd week of the year.
 

jk60LPTH

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You guys are complaining about $8k?
try $11,479.40AUD!!
It makes it sound really bad when you say it that way, but $8,000.00 USD = $10,968.00 AUD currently... so $511.40 AUD more ($311 USD), a bit more, yes. (Based on today's exchange rate of $1 USD= $1.37 AUD)
 

blues4jesus

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Thanks for the replies. I'm not interested in the guitar, nor do I want to start a discussion on the price :Ohno:

It's just the fact that the add stresses the higher quality of the Kalamazoo output that made me wonder. How many LP's did both sites produced each year, is that something that is known? Was one model exclusively made at one or the other site (i'm thinking the Heritage 80 perhaps, as it is a bit of a rare bird)?
Don't let the bitterness of these guys towards Kalamazoo steer you in wrong path, Many of old timers all master craftsmen didn't transfer to Nashville but stayed building under a new Company called Heritage, Now the main gripe these guys make is The ugly head stock but i can bet some of them own a Jackson or B.C Rich right? (not all) Who cares about a head stock which btw they fixed that angle etc which is to this day a weak area on Gibson's Henry Jerk refused to fix that instead ran a great company almost to the point of extinction in debt. Anyway they are the same builders who were there during the glory years Holy Grail guitar's that people are paying 100.000 and upwards for those guitars, Nashville at best is a copy of those guitars and techniques Not close IMO as I've owned a 59 and the R series is well close but not the deal, So at Heritage atleast before the older guys retired who are still active with the company they kept all the tools old wood etc that those 57-60 masterpieces were built on and still to this day with a few modernization's the say way they did in the day, You can get a guitar used built by these craftsmen the same guitar basicly except for the head stock change due to Gibson copywrite, same wood ,neck angle tweaked a bit for around 1200-2000 so do the math an original 59 going on Reverb right now for 260g plus, So Heritage built same methods same tools same guys just a tweak in the head stock used under 2g or one they built in 59 260g plus..LOL I personally like everything about Heritage I also "if" I ever buy another Gibson it will be pre 83 or before the Henry J era, not many epic guitars coming out of Nashville but the revered ones all come out of Kalamazoo. So to each their own they can decide I guess.
 

jamhandy

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Well... the 1980 Artisan in my avatar was made in Kalamazoo... during the "Norlin Years" which are probably some the most crap years for Gibson guitars ever. I still have the Artisan as it was a present from my mom.

1) Evidently in the Norlin mentality it was "O.K." not to dry the wood properly (or something) as this beast weighs 13lbs 6oz. The best I could figure was that it was a way to cut corners and cut costs and speed up production by not allowing the wood to kiln dry for long enough. ???

2) When it was brand new it had terrible problems where the fretboard met the body. The fretboard came unglued and was pulling up off the body so bad I could stick a guitar pick in from either side.

3) Sent the guitar back to the woop-dee-doo wonderful lutheirs in Kalamazoo TWICE for warranty service and they never did fix the problem. I gave up trying that route. After moving to L.A. in around 1983 I met a REAL luthier who fixed the problem once and for all and it has never had that issue since.

IMHO the Norlin era was a black eye to the brand.

Then I have to sit through someone describing their Heritage Guitar Company guitars... made by the guys who didn't want to leave Kalamazoo and started another guitar company making pretty much the same model guitars... with a huge price tag. Some old timers I imagine were there pre-Norlin, but I am guessing plenty of Norlin era folks who learned to make guitars during this black-eye season for Gibson. And now they advertise super duper quality, blah blah, blah... Except a thinking person would do the math and any of the original guys making guitars in the 1950s are most likely dead now... but what do I know?

Somewhere around 2006 I visited the store that was 2 floors above one of their factories in Nashville. They had a brand new Flying V on display and when I saw it, I thought I'd try it out. The sales guy gave me a cord and pointed me to an amp... I was about ready to play something, anything... when I noticed how crappy the final setup (2 floors above the factory) was on this guitar. There had been none evidently... the pickups were both hitting the strings making the guitar impossible to play. LOL. I had to take it back to the sales guy and tell him about it so he gave me a screw driver to adjust the pickups myself. I thought was pretty F-ed up considering the store was that close to final setup downstairs.

But now... I found a 2013 Les Paul Traditional Pro II at GC In Plano, Texas on a super deal because it for some reason never sold... the gods made this one... I suppose from Mt. Olympus in Nashville. Spotless, beautiful, toneful, and a gorgeous Merlot finish to die for. To date, one of the most awesome Les Pauls I've ever owned. I have another one just like it on layaway at a local shop right now. 2 x push/push switches for coil split, a 3rd push/push for a 10dB boost. Not your grandpa's Les Paul I suppose, but you can pry it out of my cold dead hands when I'm gone... unless of course I were to die in a house fire, of which you will probably only find the strings that didn't burn in the house fire left dangling in my skeletonized body, unless I was completely incinerated, LOL.

But my most loved Les Paul will always be my Artisan. With all its foibles in won my heart. I got it in 1980 as a graduation from high school present from my mom, who made minimum wage as a receptionist at a vet clinic and was by no means wealthy. Brand new with tax and everything the Artisan I have was $925.60 out the door. Now with Gibson's cocaine stained snorter pricing this guitar would most likely be in the $10,000+ range due to the hearts and flowers inlays. Labeled "Linited Edition" and surely stamped "Custom Shop"... haha. Thinking more "Gibson" maybe it would be more like $25,000 to do a re-issue Artisan... oh, or give some no-name nobody young kid THREE Epiphone endorsement signature models with the hearts and flowers inlay for $800 bucks each (i.e the Lee Malia signature Epiphone Les Paul, Explorer and RD...WTF?????)

I'll never figure out the strategies some of the guitar builders have, or some of the bumbling idiotic statement they make to the press... like Fender's CEO stating Taylor Swift being “the most influential guitarist of recent years.” I guess Joe Bonamassa should just sell his entire guitar collection and go into custodial engineering...(Not a Joe fan...).

Nashville vs Kalamazoo? I think the real competition now is Indonesia. They've been doing hand made woodworking in Indonesia for centuries, long before there was a Leo Fender or Orville Gibson or Paul Reed Smith (do we always need to include his middle name, is it OK to just say "Paul Smith"???). Such as many of the Epiphones I have that were made there that are of stellar quality. The only thing holding them back from blowing the USA made guitars out of the water is that... the upper management of Gibson that makes the decisions, decides to continually only allow the guitars made there to use lesser quality hardware, lesser quality electronics, and lesser quality woods... thus limiting the quality ON PURPOSE... just to cheapen the guitar and make it no so competitive to the USA models they sometimes charge ridiculous stupid prices for. (For basically the same instrument they've made the same way since the 1950s).
 

HardCore Troubadour

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LMAO...the only "bitterness" I see, is in this post......
Don't let the bitterness of these guys towards Kalamazoo steer you in wrong path, Many of old timers all master craftsmen didn't transfer to Nashville but stayed building under a new Company called Heritage, Now the main gripe these guys make is The ugly head stock but i can bet some of them own a Jackson or B.C Rich right? (not all) Who cares about a head stock which btw they fixed that angle etc which is to this day a weak area on Gibson's Henry Jerk refused to fix that instead ran a great company almost to the point of extinction in debt. Anyway they are the same builders who were there during the glory years Holy Grail guitar's that people are paying 100.000 and upwards for those guitars, Nashville at best is a copy of those guitars and techniques Not close IMO as I've owned a 59 and the R series is well close but not the deal, So at Heritage atleast before the older guys retired who are still active with the company they kept all the tools old wood etc that those 57-60 masterpieces were built on and still to this day with a few modernization's the say way they did in the day, You can get a guitar used built by these craftsmen the same guitar basicly except for the head stock change due to Gibson copywrite, same wood ,neck angle tweaked a bit for around 1200-2000 so do the math an original 59 going on Reverb right now for 260g plus, So Heritage built same methods same tools same guys just a tweak in the head stock used under 2g or one they built in 59 260g plus..LOL I personally like everything about Heritage I also "if" I ever buy another Gibson it will be pre 83 or before the Henry J era, not many epic guitars coming out of Nashville but the revered ones all come out of Kalamazoo. So to each their own they can decide I guess.





No, it has nothing to do with "they did not dry the wood properly"....that is just a silly statement made from not reading and researching, but just deciding that you know why that guitar is heavy....the best you could figure, is incorrect.

Hell, wouldn't it have dried out and lightened up by now????

It is wood density, plain and simple.

1) Evidently in the Norlin mentality it was "O.K." not to dry the wood properly (or something) as this beast weighs 13lbs 6oz. The best I could figure was that it was a way to cut corners and cut costs and speed up production by not allowing the wood to kiln dry for long enough. ???


@elephantrider By August of 75, it could have been either plant...are there any other charistice that you find might point toward KM?
 
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mudface

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Don't let the bitterness of these guys towards Kalamazoo steer you in wrong path, Many of old timers all master craftsmen didn't transfer to Nashville but stayed building under a new Company called Heritage, Now the main gripe these guys make is The ugly head stock but i can bet some of them own a Jackson or B.C Rich right? (not all) Who cares about a head stock which btw they fixed that angle etc which is to this day a weak area on Gibson's Henry Jerk refused to fix that instead ran a great company almost to the point of extinction in debt. Anyway they are the same builders who were there during the glory years Holy Grail guitar's that people are paying 100.000 and upwards for those guitars, Nashville at best is a copy of those guitars and techniques Not close IMO as I've owned a 59 and the R series is well close but not the deal, So at Heritage atleast before the older guys retired who are still active with the company they kept all the tools old wood etc that those 57-60 masterpieces were built on and still to this day with a few modernization's the say way they did in the day, You can get a guitar used built by these craftsmen the same guitar basicly except for the head stock change due to Gibson copywrite, same wood ,neck angle tweaked a bit for around 1200-2000 so do the math an original 59 going on Reverb right now for 260g plus, So Heritage built same methods same tools same guys just a tweak in the head stock used under 2g or one they built in 59 260g plus..LOL I personally like everything about Heritage I also "if" I ever buy another Gibson it will be pre 83 or before the Henry J era, not many epic guitars coming out of Nashville but the revered ones all come out of Kalamazoo. So to each their own they can decide I guess.
I got nothing against Kalamazoo made Gibson's....... I just don't believe that they are better than Nashville made Gibson's.

It's the player that makes the guitar great,..... not the other way around.

;)
 

mudface

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I can make them all sound like shit buddy, and don't you forget it!!

:cool2:
Before I took up the guitar I was deep into learning the drums,.... I thought I could play rather well..... then I got a chance to play with working group who needed to replace their drummer due to an accident.

After an hour of rehearsal I soon realized I did not have the skills required to do this.... nor would I ever.

The guitar came to me so natural and my attention went into developing that skill.

Though I have a high respect for percussionists and the physical mastery needed.

My hat is off to you amigo.:cheers:
 

ARandall

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1) Evidently in the Norlin mentality it was "O.K." not to dry the wood properly (or something) as this beast weighs 13lbs 6oz. The best I could figure was that it was a way to cut corners and cut costs and speed up production by not allowing the wood to kiln dry for long enough. ???
I'm sorry, but this forum is better than the silly guesswork that this nonsense is based on. Especially given you know very little about wood.
I've gone through this with other people before, but all you have to do is look at any guitar body blank supplier to see differences of up to 4lbs on the same size and same species of blank. Stewmac's website is a good place to start looking as they have weights as well as stock blank sizes.
Then you have branched out to pure tabloid magazine-esque fiction with this not drying the wood stuff and attributing this to cutting corners.

At the very least, if you are going to continue with random guesswork as your method of 'logic', educate yourself first as to what went on (and goes on) in typical luthier scenarios. That way you might make some sensible inferences that have at least some likelihood of reality.
 

kakerlak

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Good thread. I personally wouldn't throw a single extra dollar at something because it was KZ-made. Honestly, Gibson QC was pretty consistent throughout the Norlin era, in my experience, with the exception of whatever was going on with the routing and goof rings (although I've personally owned a goof-ring Special that had perfectly tight routes underneath).
Fit, finish, and fretwork stayed really quite good throughout the seventies, much more consistently so than Fender's did. I think all the shade thrown at that era is more spec changes -- pickups didn't sound as good, various angles and profiles were different, the clownbursts were ugly, even though they were well-shot finishes, etc.

I've had my hands on plenty of Gibsons from both factories from the years they overlapped and I just don't notice any sort of quality trend.
 

Reflect_ion

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Yes interesting quality discussion, thanks for all your inputs sirs.

I will keep an eye open on the different bodyshapes (and if they were Nashville only) as I am really intrigued by it. I mean, who comes up with the idea of lightly reshaping a (also then already) legendary model, using a slightly shorter body and different horn shape. What's the point of it? Now I think of it, same goes for the different headstockshapes they used along the way.
 

ARandall

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^ There are certainly some interesting and iconic design features from this timeframe. The SG had the differing bevels and neck joint, Fender changed the Strat and Tele with the oversized headstock and body cutaways in this period as well.


I think much of the period was about 'improvement' from the post war designs. Bold new shapes were being developed all throughout these decades. And guitars not only had new fashion and musical trends to inform design change, but the supply of natural product as a constraint.
Other changes were for convenience. Pancake body blanks came from thinner SG body wood being used. The larger shapes for the headstock meant you kept 1 shape no matter whether it was a bound Custom or a Deluxe/Standard. The thicker cutaway binding for all models after 1975 was for the same streamlining effect.


But Gibsons weren't the 'legendary' model back then either, such that the shape was sacrilege to alter. It was only the advent of the early to mid 80's that saw the start of shift back toward vintage being the modus operandi of all the iconic models. But the Les Paul was a dying model in the late 80's even after the changes of the early 80's, and only got a kickstart due to GnR in 1988/89. And even then it took until 1993 for the 3-piece top to be phased out completely, and the vintage logo shape to return for example.

So its only by applying hindsight that the late 70's features look like a blip.
 


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