Gibson responds to reports of Murphy Lab model finish flaking issues

Gibson Murphy Lab
(Image credit: Gibson)

Earlier this year, Gibson unveiled its Murphy Lab family of electric guitars – a 50-strong series of six-strings that treats some of the brand’s most iconic models to an innovative, artificial aging process for period-accurate relic'd aesthetics.

Not long after the release, though, a handful of buyers who managed to get their hands on the luxurious-looking axes reported that the finish on their guitar had begun to flake soon after they received it.

Those who experienced the issue flocked to a number of online forums to share stories and trade tales, where it became apparent that those who had purchased Light Aged Les Paul models with cherry backs were most likely to be affected.

Now, Mat Koehler, the company’s Senior Director of Product Development, has responded to the reports, saying the issue is a “storm in a teacup”, and that the finish flaking issues may be down to inadequate acclimation periods.

“I’m not aware of any issues relating to ES models,” Koehler told (opens in new tab), “just a few Les Paul Standards that were ordered with very dark red aniline dye back.

“The oversaturation made them a little more brittle, which made them more susceptible to severe checking when not properly acclimated,” he continued. “We have an acclimation notice on the outside of our boxes. 

“It is especially important that our dealers and fans fully acclimate their instrument in its case when changing climates/temperatures... I would say at least five hours, minimum. Just like you would with vintage 1950s instruments.”

The Murphy Lab collection introduced four distinct aging categories – Ultra Heavy-Aged, Heavy-Aged, Light Aged and Ultra-Light Aged – which were carefully curated by reverse-engineering the original nitrocellulose lacquer Gibson used on its guitars in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

“I used to deal vintage guitars so I’ve seen it time and time again,” Koehler continued. “I think the majority of cases are just customers not quite accustomed to the behavior of the vintage lacquer formula. 

“We’ve got an original Burst and an SG in our Gibson Vault that have some flaking and chipping over the aniline dye as well… but the average buyer is not going to have a lot to compare. 

“In any case, we are making the acclimation notice more prominent in a few different ways and educating our dealers and fans as much as possible.”

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.