It Might Get Loud on the Gibson Guitar Factory Tour
The making of a Gibson guitar is not a speedy process. From start to finish, every guitar that comes out of Gibson’s Memphis factory takes about three and a half weeks to make.
When I made my reservations for the Gibson factory tour, I thought that it would be like most factories – a loud room with tons of machines and a few workers to make sure that nothing went awry. That’s not the case at all. The reason the guitars take so long to make is that with the exception of one computerized step, they’re made entirely by hand.
Even though most of the process is done by hand, there are apparently very few mistakes. Only about four percent of the Memphis factory’s guitars have flaws. Because Gibson is big on perfection (and doesn’t sell factory seconds), any defective guitars are shredded in a big bandsaw.
The 45 minute long tour through Gibson’s Memphis factory follows the making of all of the company’s hollow and semi-hollow body electric guitars. The inside of the factory isn’t as dusty as I thought it would be. It’s kept humid by ceiling-mounted misters that also help keep all of the sawdust on the ground. It also smells good, all earthy and sweet and wet.
I don’t want to give too much away about the process, but I will say that it’s pretty cool to watch the factory’s posse of hipster dudes sanding and assembling guitars. (Fun fact: only six of Gibson’s Memphis employees – the ones who assemble the electronics and string the instruments – are required to know how to play the guitar.)
The factory tours run Monday – Saturday, on the hour from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tickets are $10. No photography is allowed inside the factory, so leave your cameras at home. Also, know that you’ll get to wear some mandatory super sexy safety goggles. Reservations aren’t required for the tour, but they’re highly recommended as there are a limited number of spaces every hour.
145 Lt. George Lee Ave
Memphis, TN 38103