My Philosophy: The Process
Precision is the foundation of a Gilbert guitar. I work to close tolerances. I think of .015 inch (about 1/64”) as coarse. I routinely hold tolerances of 0.002 inch for numerous parts of the instrument. The idea here is consistency. I am striving to build instruments of consistent quality and sound. Every instrument that I build is held to these standards. This is why it is hard to produce an inexpensive model, because it is difficult to do poorer work for the sake of speed. Many assembly procedures are dependent on the accuracy of prior steps. It is like rethinking the whole instrument. I don’t think a customer wants to have an instrument where the guiding principle was “what corners can I cut?””
I record over thirty pieces of data for each instrument. How can I know where I am going, unless I know where I am and where I have been? I am always seeking to improve. Just because something works well does not mean that something else might not work better. Having data allows me to keep track of changes and allow for consistency and reproducibility. By controlling such variables as neck shape, string spacing, action height and a host of others I can make the instruments share a family nature or feel while remaining unique, while also maintaining playability.
I build guitars one at a time. Though I may work on certain common subassemblies like necks in multiples, the instruments are not built in “batches”. I prefer to devote my time to one instrument and perform each task one time, rather than have to do an operation twice or more times in a row. I am not operating an assembly line; when I only have to do a task once, I believe I am much more inclined to do a quality job.