Not that I could ever afford one of these (and I’m very happy with my collection of Ibanez, Takamine and Fender guitars), but I thought it interesting that the company that makes one of the standards for singer/songwriters – the good old Canadian Garrison acoustic guitar made in Newfoundland – has been sold to Gibson Guitars Corp.
Gibson grooves on Garrison’s guitars
From Thursday’s Globe and Mail
July 5, 2007 at 3:51 AM EDT
Build a better guitar and the music world will beat a path to your door.
St. John’s entrepreneur Chris Griffiths was banking on that logic when he sketched a revolutionary acoustic guitar design on the back of an airline napkin in 1995.
On Tuesday, industry giant Gibson Guitar Corp. of Nashville announced it had acquired Garrison Guitars, the company Mr. Griffiths started when he was 19.
But Mr. Griffiths has no misgivings about a hollowing out of the Canadian hollow-body guitar industry.
“I just don’t see how we could have grown as exponentially as we’re about to grow by just continuing on in our current path,” he said, pointing to Gibson’s plans to increase production fivefold over the next 12 months to about 60 guitars a day.
The current path, however, has already put Garrison guitars on shelves in 35 countries and in the hands of big-ticket bands such as The Tragically Hip, Blue Rodeo and Rush. Garrison recently reported annual sales close to $5-million, but would not comment on its current financial performance or the terms of the Gibson deal.
With the acquisition, Gibson is buying into a unique system that uses injection moulding to build a single-piece guitar frame which is 40 per cent glass. The remainder of the moulding is comprised of what Mr. Griffith’s called his “secret sauce.”
Mr. Griffiths started playing the guitar at age 12, and in his teens started a business repairing and handcrafting the instruments. After touring various guitar makers’ facilities in 1995 to learn about how the instruments were made, on the flight home Mr. Griffiths had an epiphany: “Wouldn’t it be more efficient if we could make all the braces out of one piece?”
And since carving an entire guitar out of a single block of wood would never do, the idea of using synthetic components followed.
“This was the first time anybody had tried to strictly make the bracing system out of man-made material and allow the rest of the product to be made out of wood,” he said.
After securing patents for the design in 2000, Mr. Griffiths raised the $3.5-million needed for a facility in St. John’s, complete with lasers and robotics. With Garrison’s method, it takes all of 45 seconds to complete a guitar frame, as opposed to the two hours required to individually machine and assemble the 30-plus wooden pieces that make a traditional frame.
Gibson will produce its new line of Garrison guitars out of the same plant, and will add 40 workers to the staff of 65, including Mr. Griffiths, who will stay on as general manager.
According to a Gibson release, the acquisition “will further Gibson’s expansion in the acoustic guitar market, offering a new series … aimed at the median price point.”