Over the weekend guitar forums, both in the US and the UK are all reporting that Gibson Murphy Labs guitars appear to be having some finishing issues. And in extreme cases, it would appear that these faux-ageing or relic finishes are falling off the guitars.
Gibson Murphy Labs finish falling off?
If you head over to the My Les Paul, TGP or thefretboard guitar forums, you will see posts uploaded by owners of some Gibson Murphy Labs guitars, and they claim that their Custom Shop aged guitars have some serious finish flaws.
It would appear that in some cases the Gibson Murphy Labs aged finish is becoming brittle and falling off the guitars that have been affected, which mainly seems to be the lightly aged models with cherry backs. Though, there are also images of a Gibson dealer in the UK with similar finish issues on the front of the guitar.
Just wanted to check in here with anyone who has purchased a Murphy Lab guitar. Has your finish started flaking off?
I am now on the third one that needs to be returned due to the finish lifting up and flaking off. – caliene, user on the TGP forum
Over on the TGP forum, one user who goes by the name CALIENG has had to send back multiple guitars affected by the same problem. This seems unfortunate and must be very frustrating, as these guitars are not exactly cheap and can cost many thousands of dollar more than a non-aged model from Gibson.
The Murphy Lab uses a hard nitro formula. They also rapidly freeze the guitar and then quickly warm it up to crack the finish as I understand it. Other shops like Historic Makeovers use a similar process but with much better success so it seems Gibson needs to adjust the nitro formula or the cracking process.
I am not seeing it so far on my heavy aged guitars where the finish is thinner than the others like the ultra light aged. – caliene, user on the TGP forum
Then below there is an example of a finish that has fallen off between the controls on another Murphy Labs aged model, and this one was for sale at a UK Gibson dealer and the image was taken from their site and shared on My Les Paul forum over the weekend.
Potentially, this could well be a small number of isolated incidents and maybe just teething problems of a new nitrocellulose lacquer formula that the Gibson Murphy Labs has been using. Hopefully, it will get sorted out very quickly and I have read from some owners that Gibson has been accepting no quibble returns to fix these finishing issues.
What to do?
If you have bought a Gibson Murphy Labs aged guitar and have experienced any of these finishing flaws then contact Gibson either directly or via your original place of purchase. As I’m sure they will want to get it rectified for you. I would imagine that this is just a temporary blip, though slightly embarrassing one, for the Gibson Murphy Lab and that they will want to get it rectified for any users affected.
I reached out to CALIENG over on the TGP Forum and he had the following information to add;
The issue with the finish is an unexpected reaction with the dark red cherry pore filler (not light red or dark back or other colours). It seems to form a residue layer between the nitro finish and the wood that is grey-pink in colour that prevents the nitro from properly adhering to the wood. The flaking of the finish is not always seen immediately but can occur over days or even weeks before it is noticed.
Tom Murphy is already aware of this and they have apparently corrected the formula of the pore filler (via second-hand info from a large Gibson dealer).
The brittle finish only serves to worsen the issue but is not the primary cause.
I purchased 15 Murphy Lab guitars. All the ones with dark cherry backs had to be returned for finish defects – 6 in total. None of the other 9 guitars had any finish issues. None of the 15 guitars had any finish issues on the top.
The example of the finish coming off the top is unusual and may not be in any way related. It could just be an individual finish defect.