Modern Gretsch Guitars

Custom Shop..? Shouldn’t the Customer Be Right?


So I inquired as to having a 59/60 CA 6122. single cutaway Gent built. I wanted the build to be done with Hide Glue... So they came back with, "Sure we'll build it but.. No Hide Glue. Historically Hide Glue was used at the original Brooklyn factory in the 50's &60's. I wanted and would happily pay extra for it to be built with Hot Hide Glue.... nope. Gee Gibson Custom & the Acoustic division in Bozeman & and Martin Guitars all use Hide Glue. I would have thought that Gretsch Custom Shop would use it... Well, I'm not going to be ordering a custom built 6122 from them until I can have Hide Glue used. Why am I so adamant about Hide Glue? When it dries it crystalizes and pulls the wood together. White glue(vinyl based) does not do that. It's like sticking a sheet of vinyl between the two pieces of wood and doesn't transfer the string vibrations nearly as well. I guess Fender/Gretsch doesn't need my money that much, but it seems to me that any builder who really cares about building a good archtop style guitar uses Hide Glue. It would also seem to me that the customer should be able to have a guitar built by the Custom Shop the way They want(within reason). Gibson Custom(& the former Memphis div.) as the Acoustic div. and Martin guitars will use it, why not Gretsch Custom..???


Interesting! I wonder why they won't even entertain the idea. I guess a good Gibson ES 330 may be waiting for you.


I wanted the single cut electrotone body(sealed F-holes-white outline) with Trestle bracing but painted in Tennessean red lacquer. Like the one of Stephen Stills' I played in 1971.. I have two Country Clubs with the thin body. My `62 CC has Trestle bracing and sounds amazing, but would rather take a newer guitar to all my gigs instead of the old ones.


nah, just disappointed by their lack of wanting to use it..and disappointed by Stern's unwillingness to use it.


So was there an explanation as to why they wouldn't use it?


This is disappointing. I was compiling specs together for an estimate and hide glue along with unkerfed lining were part of the requirements.


Maybe they don't believe in the myth that hide glue somehow makes for a "better" sounding guitar? And maybe they aren't set up for its use? In any event, having worked in retail for years I never accepted the "customer is always right" mentality (and yes, you wouldn't believe how many times people pull that). If we don't have what you want and can't get it for you, either suck it up or go somewhere else.


If we don't have what you want and can't get it for you, either suck it up or go somewhere else. Says Tim

Unless you never had what they wanted in the first place. You'd be amazed how many people think I should have Parts for a Mini just because I work at a BMW dealer. They actually get upset with me and argue sometimes.


I don't want to speak for anyone or come off like I have any answers but if I were to guess it might be that they know what works for them. Working time is way different and if they haven't tested their process using hide and not wanting to give you a prototype might be one of the reasons. I don't know how may guitar builders that press laminated tops are using hide.

It's a sticky world out there...


I've had my own business for 25+ years & I've played professionally for 48 years. My wife owned and ran a Dog Grooming shop for 30 years before she sold it. We've both had plenty of experience dealing with people. I know you can't make everyone happy, but you should try! Anyway, Here's what they sent:

Justin Gaudet (Fender) Aug 6, 09:56 MST

Hey Don,

Sorry it took a little while. The Custom Shop are not currently offering the option to order a build with hide glue, or any different glue materials.

Feel free to reach out any time.

All the best

Justin Gaudet

Consumer Relations | U.S. Direct Sales Representative


There's no myth about hide glue, joints using hide are stronger than vinyl. Vinyl creeps so there's a bit of a sponge effect on the vibrations. Epoxy could be the best stuff that transmits sound but it's heavy and you'll never be able to take anything apart.


Sadly, this is nothing that hasn't been heard before. As good as the Gretsch CS skills might be, the range of specs available to the paying customer seem very limited, unfortunately. You can choose between only two neck shapes/profiles for example. Since the historic guitars differed a lot between models and years this seems a bit odd to me.

Instead we see many rather weird looking show guitars every NAMM. I wonder who buys those. Grrrr...



I guess you ordered your Custom Shop guitar through a Gretsch dealership? In fact, I don't think that there is any other way to get one......unless it's used, of course.

Did the dealer give you a spec sheet of what you wanted as well as a disclaimer text that the Custom Shop would have to agree to the materials and construction before your deposit was paid? If so, then, while I understand your disappointment, then there is clearly a reason for the rejection.

I do believe that the Custom Shop should have been more forthcoming on why they wouldn't use hide glue but they may have decided that would take them down an endless road of explaining why you can't have a plastic body on walnut or some other bizarre idea.

On the bright side, at least you got a response up front.

A buddy of mine ordered a Gibson SG 1961 Custom replica in their "Made to Measure" program nearly two years ago and STILL doesn't have it. Seems they can't get the white finish to adhere to the body like they did back then.


To me, a "custom" shop makes what the customer wants - hence the title of the work done - not choosing from a highly limited list of features being offered. That being the case, Gretsch should call their facilities the Limited Custom Shop. A custom build is just that....exactly what the customer requires and requests; no limitations.


Hide glue is illegal in California. PETA rules.


To me, a "custom" shop makes what the customer wants - hence the title of the work done - not choosing from a highly limited list of features being offered. That being the case, Gretsch should call their facilities the Limited Custom Shop. A custom build is just that....exactly what the customer requires and requests; no limitations.

– Windsordave

I agree to a point.

A custom shop should make any neck profile and thickness available to meet the customers wants. Most important spec IMO.

Same with body, wood type, and hardware options. Mix and match whatever Gretsch body just the way you want it.

Where I disagree is the "glue issue" that is being discussed.

A shop is either set up for hot hyde glue or it's not. Builders are either trained to build with it or not.

It is a totally different build process than using a non hot hyde glue process.

I have to assume that to just offer it to the few that may want it, would be very costly for above reasons.

The process is way more than just mixing the powder with water, bringing it to temp, maintaining the temp, and using it on a build. It's a special process within a special build process.

Question? How much would you pay for the "hot hyde glue" build option on a custom shop Gretsch? $500? $1k? $1.5k?

That's probably why it isn't even offered. Disappointing for some, and an option that most would pass on, just due to the price adder.


NJ Bob,

If that's true, and I have no reason to disagree with you, then it's a communication problem at the California Custom Shop. Just tell Don that's it's a legal restriction. End of story.


Any custom shop should have the ability to say no if they don't want to build or is out of their production schedule. There are a couple CS guitars that I wish they would have said no.


I don't know exactly which glue they are using, but having worked with DuPont, I can tell you that there are over 100 types of glue that have been developed specifically for wood. Again, which one they use is anybody's guess.


I thought custom just meant different from the main production run. So a few little changes here and there makes it custom. Look at Fender's custom colours. Nothing earth-shattering, just colours they wouldn't normally use. And in car customising, at least from the factory, there are very few radical options. Just shiny bits they can bolt on to charge you more. Ford isn't about to built you a custom Viper.

If a guitar shop is all set up to build guitars in a particular way - as they all are - then I wouldn't expect them to change the way they build things for a custom order. Where does that end? If I was to order a custom Gretsch it's because I want a Gretsch, made the way a Gretsch is made but with a few different bits or maybe a non-stock colour. I wouldn't expect them to change the way they made guitars. Yes, old Gretsches were built with hide glue - because that was how they were built using currently available technology. That was 50 years ago. Different factory, different EPA laws, different workforce, different states! Guitars are built differently now. In a lot of ways they are possibly made better now than they were then. The nitro lacquer is different from the nitro they used to use. The wood is probably more kiln dried than air dried. Different species are used in some areas because of availability. The insulating lacquer on the pickup wire is different. The electronics are all different.

Still great guitars though!


And at the end of the day (and the end of the dram o' the Glen Livet), I really would like to be able to do a blind test.

Two Gretsches (or two of almost any well made guitar), same model, same woods, finish, same routing, blocks, etc, etc etc. Same posts, PUPs and wires, etc. Essentially as close to twins as modern CCD manufacturing can get EXCEPT....

For the glue.

One is secured with hide glue, and the other is assembled with for lack of a better term, "carpenter's glue".

With no hints, clues or signage, have the client play both instruments through the same amp at the same amp settings, but allow them to play with every control on the instruments to their heart's content, then ask him/her "which one is the Toni?, hide?"

I wouldn't be surprised at all if the results were inconclusive. Not at all.


Another option is to go to a Luthier. Martin Gore from Dépêche Mode doesn’t tour with his vintage Gretsches. Instead he has had a luthier hand build custom replicas. I’m sure it isn’t cheap and I’m not sure how they get around copyright infringement issues, but they look stunning and are made to order.

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