Modern Gretsch Guitars

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


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.

– Kevin Frye

It appears that you've already decided.

There are many things that go into guitar building that you might not recognize initially, kinda like a good soup. You might not know all the parts but for some reason this soup is better than anywhere else in town. It's a sum of its parts that make up all those tiny nuances that you might not be able to put your finger on.

I do know for a fact that a neck set in hide sounds different than vinyl. I know this because of a customer changing their mind after it was set for a month in Titebond. The guitar came back to be reset in hide. And then there was the guitar that I set in hide but failed because the neck block was soft, we went with epoxy and there was no detectable difference in that one.


Yavapai; I didn’t order it, I was inquiring with Gretsch as to having one built with Hide Glue. Why would it be illegal in Calif? It’s not a petroleum based glue, it’s animal based and has been used for 100’s of years by instrument makers. The folks at Gretsch Custom were very nice to me and Todd Krause who runs Fender Custom is a friend of mine as we both work on Robin Trower’s gear. I do know PRS Guitars uses epoxy to-glue fingerboards onto their necks. My friend Ren Ferguson spent a number of years trying to get Hide Glue used in Montana. He started the Gibson Acoustic division from the ground up. Took him 6 years to get Hide used. Now almost all of the Custom Shop Gibson Guitars use Hide Glue and quiet a number of the acoustics do as well. And Martin will do any guitar with Hide for an extra $1000. Why not Gretsch Custom. I had a White Falcon LTV and a 6120 LTV that didn’t sound anywhere as good as my 1962 & 1964 Country Clubs do. I did a few side by sides before selling the new ones..


Stephen Stern is the lead person for the Gretsch Custom Shop.

I'm not sure what the answer is but are other builders using laminate tops using hide in that process or are they limiting it to the neck joint?


I know I was personally devastated when I found out that the Gretsch Custom Shop wouldn't offer a Lemon Pledge finish OR custom gold piping on cases...


I would think they could find some price for hide glue.

If it means setting up a shop in another state and moving a luthier there temporarily, shipping the guitar back and forth several times.


But to say no...

Just have Gretsch send the parts to Curt.


A few years back, for my 40th, I ordered a custom 00 Martin. I didn't (and still don't) care for all the appointments that some folks put into their custom creations - to each his/her own. Instead, I requested full Hot Hide Glue construction. I figured I'd put my money in "performance" vs looks. Well two things:

  1. If memory serves, Martin charged approximately $1500 for Hot Hide Glue construction.

  2. The guitar fell apart after 13 months of ownership. No joke. The purfing along both the top and back joins "de-gassed" and pulled away from the guitar. The top shifted. Martin covered everything under warranty. However, and this may be Martin specific, local dealer charged me $170+ in insured shipping to Martin. Martin then had the guitar for, wait for it, 9 months. I received a call from the dealer stating that the warranty covered the work, but that Martin would be charging me $150 to "set-up" the guitar; essentially re-string it. The guitar was built using a T-bar v. a truss rod, and no saddle/nut changes needed to be made. They also wanted $200 in return shipping. So, I drove to the Martin Factory and picked it up instead. When I picked it up...I went into the little room off the main foyer, was shown the guitar, signed a form, and left. Nothing from Martin or a rep regarding any type of, "Gee, we're sorry your $7k guitar lasted 13 months." I was ticked.

Moral of the story (just my .02) sometimes, modern tech (like wood glue) may just be a "better mousetrap". I'd owned 3 previous Martins, at varying price points, and never had a single hiccup with any of those. ymmv.

  • And yes, all of my guitars (all instruments in my home) are in properly humidifed environments and 99% of the time are case kept (with appropriate humidity control in them as well).

"I had a White Falcon LTV and a 6120 LTV that didn’t sound anywhere as good as my 1962 & 1964 Country Clubs do. I did a few side by sides before selling the new ones.."

There are lots of factors as to why you may have preferred the old Gretsches over the new ones - But you decided the glue was the reason? You may be right, I sure don't know. But I suspect that 50-odd years of playing might have something to do with it!

I guess I'm lucky - I often prefer newer guitars over older ones. And as old original single-cut 6120s are extremely rare where I live and crazy expensive whenever they are available I am more than happy with a recent SSLVO. Compared to my old '60s Gretsches the feel is very similar but they sound a lot better for what I do. I much prefer the sound of the single cuts over the doubles because of the bracing differences - and I've never had the chance to play an original single cut 6120 other than a '56 about 30 years ago! And it obviously had Dearmonds rather than my preferred Filter'trons.

I do have an '18 Gibson R9 Les Paul which has some bits glued with hide glue. I really love the sound so who knows - maybe the hide glue is the reason I like it so much?


I don’t get it. If they hide the glue, how can the builder find it when it’s time to use it? I can understand the additional cost, if the glue guy has to run around looking for the glue every time. Maybe Martin hid it too well and that guitar didn’t have ANY glue. I’m surprised it held together 13 months!

My wife’s always hiding the glue too. Makes me nuts.


I’m reading about fish glue....l don’t know about all this sounds kinda fishy to me.

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