M.wilson

Writer & Editor

The Art of Handmade Guitars

Does the musician approach his/her instrument differently when it comes to the Collings style of guitar making? Manufacturing from start to finish – created exclusively by the practiced dexterity and skill of human hands? Nestled within the pulse of the Austin, Texas music scene USA, the handpicked raw wood technique employed at the Collings workshop links the brand with craftsmanship not seen since the turn of the 20th century. Owned by music greats such as Joan Baez and Keith Richards, the Collings approach to guitar construction makes it distinctive amongst its peers.

It is often said of the Collings OM2H T acoustic model for example, that warmer voicing is present; the low-mids are more complex, and that along with the texturally pared highs, result in a compelling singular sound that’s brilliant for solo playing. According to the NY Times, the entire line of production, carried out by a team of 20 artisans, only takes place during 35 working days per year, creating “six acoustics, three electrics, two mandolins and two ukuleles” on each of those days, which amounts to 3,000 instruments produced annually. Various, seemingly insignificant conditions associated with handcrafted guitars, such as the onsite temperature for example, are highly impactful. For that reason, the Collings facility maintains a daily 72 F temperature / 48% humidity climate controlled environment.

High Quality Performance

The clean, meticulous construction of Collings guitars as well as the feel and tonal performance make these instruments the guitar of choice for many. Everything is handmade without outsourcing overseas. The Collings team of craftspersons institute and maintain its many characteristics of quality by using only one machine, the CNC, to achieve the best braces. Collings creates most every other component of the guitar, the trim, scallop, and the final taper by hand. The company also has a reputation for using the finest tools. Moreover, each member of the Collings facility team is a guitar player. One of the reasons Collings chose Austin as a location in the first place is because, as it happens a great many people in Texas and especially Austin play the guitar.

What type of wood does Collings utilize to make these superior instruments and that you cannot purchase in the store? Apparently, the secret, Collings says is not only finding the strongest most suitable wood for an instrument but also knowing exactly how to manipulate that wood, and that this is what provides the instrument the platform it needs to provide high-quality performance.

The Golden Age of Steel String

The 1930’s pre-war Martin and Gibson era of The Depression is commonly referred to as the Golden Age of steel string guitar, as well as the establishment of the fundamental features and conventions of modern acoustic guitar as we know them today, says Music Radar. Before the Collings CJ, vintage-style flattop model of the 21st century was the vintage Gibson J-35 and the J-45, described by the minimalistic ornamentation, which was paired down for depression era musicians who were most likely low on cash.

Weightlessness  The lightness of the instrument makes it an effortless conduit of sound that begins reverberating right out of the case. The structural improvements to the design of the CJ35 include the string separation and placement as well as the more refined articulation of the instrument. This enhances to an even greater degree the vintage Americana sound. Some say that due to the stiffer non-scalloped Adirondack bracing with its more significant dynamic headroom , the CJ35 may not be the first choice for delicate strummers. However, the payoff is the larger bombastic sound one achieves with just that little bit of additional effort.

Collings Solidbody

Does the Collings talent for acoustic sound carry over to their solid-bodies? Collings first began producing electric guitars 2006, which was nearly 27 years after the company first opened for business in 1979. Despite the delay, it quickly earned an excellent reputation. The City Limits Deluxe, for example, made with custom ivoroid “top hat” pickup rings and knobs, is one of their most popular lines, known for its tonal complexity and sustain made possible from the handset mortise and tenon neck joint. It’s a lightweight mahogany model electric guitar and often compared to the Les Paul mold of construction.

The semi-hollow Collings SoCo I-35 double cutaway, named after Austin’s hip South Congress Avenue – has translated its loving artistry into the electric realm of guitar making and resembles an ES-335. It’s a hybrid design that depending on one’s personal playing preferences makes it spectacular for both jazz and blues-rock guitar playing.

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