The great Gibson guitar war

There’s quite a bit of debate among guitar players about where their instruments are made.

A lot of manufacturing of guitars and amps goes on overseas in China, which a number of prominent guitar players are not happy about, and it’s primarily the reasons Eddie Van Halen and Steve Lukather went to Music Man, which manufactures their guitars here in the States.

Recently on Lukather’s website, the guitarist tweeted, “The illegal guitar wood issue is FINALLY getting some attention.”

He was referring to the recent news story about Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz telling Fox News that our current administration wants more guitars built overseas. (Gibson has its factory in Nashville, Tennessee).


Juszkiewicz said the factory had been raided by the feds in 2009 over “suspect wood shipments from Madagascar,” claiming it was a violation of export laws.

But Juszkiewicz insists he was told there wouldn’t be problems if Gibson did more work overseas. According to court documents, the wood in question was ebony wood from India, which Gibson often uses for their fretboards. Exporting it for fingerboards is reportedly prohibited, but you can bring over veneers that have already been worked on.


Newt Gingrich even weighed in on all this, in an article on called “Out of Tune and Out of Touch,” noting, “The government’s actions are so outside normal behavior, so lacking in common sense and an outrage against the freedom of every American that it sounds like a scene from a dystopian novel,” adding, “With 14 million American unemployed and another 11 million underemployed and dropping out of the work force, the Obama administration is trying to pressure Gibson Guitar into moving its wood-finishing jobs offshore. It is insanity.”


There are other issue as well of course, as to why some only play American made guitars, other than the craftsmanship, which can be very inconsistent in Korea. There’s the wood rarity issues that have been brought up with the Gibson raids, and the Martin and Ibanez guitar companies have also turned to using cherry wood with their guitars as well.


Yet in some countries, like Japan and Spain, guitar craftsmanship is a tradition that goes back hundreds of years.

One of my personal favorite guitar companies is ESP, who originate from Japan, and as Matt Masciandaro, the company’s president and CEO, says “Japan has been making guitars longer than most, and the level of skill in guitar making is unsurpassed almost anywhere in the world. There are still people that say, ‘My guitar has to  be American made,’ and that’s wonderful if that’s how they feel, but they’re not always getting the better instrument.”