Collings Guitars

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Collings Guitars
IndustryMusical instruments
Founded1973; 49 years ago (1973)
FounderBill Collings
United States

Collings Guitars is an Austin, Texas based stringed instrument manufacturer. The company was founded in 1973 by Bill Collings (August 9, 1948 – July 14, 2017). In 2008 it was called "one of the most recognized and respected names amongst aficionados of modern acoustic instruments".[1] Their acoustic guitars have been highly regarded for decades.[2] In addition to acoustic guitars they also make electric guitars, archtop guitars, mandolins, and ukuleles.

Company history[edit]

001M guitar

Bill Collings attended Ohio University as a pre-med student in the early 1970s, but dropped out to work in a machine shop for five years.[3] At the same time he built his first guitar. In 1975 he moved to Houston, Texas, where he worked as an engineer with a pipeline and oil field equipment company by day and a guitar builder by night. Three years later he met musician Lyle Lovett, then a college student, who interviewed the budding guitar builder for the school newspaper, Collings told Texas Monthly. Lovett was impressed with the sounds of Collings guitars and purchased the 29th guitar he built.

In the early 1980s, Collings intended to move to San Diego, California, but never made it further than Austin, Texas.[3] He started out sharing work space with fellow luthiers Tom Ellis, a builder of mandolins, and Mike Stevens. A few years later he continued on his own and took the craft more seriously, moving into a one-stall garage shop.

George Gruhn, a vintage-guitar collector and seller in Nashville hired Collings to make 25 guitars in 1987. Collings soon received considerable attention from other guitar stores as well as magazines for his guitars. Two years later he hired his first employee and the company began to grow.[3][4]

At the 2006 summer NAMM show, the company moved into the electric guitar market, releasing three models: the I-35, the CL (City Limits), and the 290.[5]

In addition to acoustic and electric guitars, the company makes mandolins and ukuleles. Their mandolins are highly regarded; they "more or less rule in the bluegrass market" in the United States.[4] As of May 2012 the company had about 85 employees and manufactured six to seven acoustic guitars, three electric guitars, two mandolins, and two ukuleles per day.[3]

In 2014, it was announced that the company would be making a guitar based on a currently popular Depression-era design. These guitars are sold under the "Waterloo" brand.[6]


14-fret acoustic guitars[edit]

  • D Series: The square-shouldered 14-fret dreadnought is the most popular steel-string acoustic guitar body shape in the world. Collings D Series guitars are often employed by bluegrass flat pickers who must compete with inherently louder instruments such as banjos and fiddles.[7]
  • OM Series: The 'OM' (for Orchestra Model) is a 14-fret model that is popular with fingerstyle guitar soloists who choose to play on steel strings. The OM is also used in flatpicking.
  • 00 Series: With a short scale the 14-fret 00 series is a smaller and often more comfortable alternative to the OM that manages to provide similar volume and range.
  • 0 Series: With the exception of the Baby, the 0 is Collings' smallest guitar and is offered with the same shorter scale found on the 12-fret 00.
  • Baby Series: Collings' smallest guitar, approximately a 3/4 size version of their OM. 12 1/2 inches wide in the lower bout with a 24 1/8 inch scale.
  • CJ Series: The Collings Jumbo is their version of the classic slope-shouldered dreadnought.
  • SJ Series: The SJ is Collings' version of what is commonly called a small Jumbo. Although the 16 inch lower bout is slightly wider than a dreadnought, and the sides almost as deep, the tight curve at the waist creates in a very different sound chamber. SJs, especially examples in maple, typically have a more pronounced midrange response when compared to a dreadnought.
  • C10 Series: Based on parlor guitars first introduced around the same time as the OM, the Collings C10 is a leaner alternative, with the narrow waist and small upper bout.

12-fret acoustic guitars[edit]

  • DS Series: The original 12-fret dreadnought shape.
  • 00 Series: Collings offers the 00 in its original, 12-fret configuration. This guitar shape was first designed around the time of the Civil War. Its dimensions are similar to a typical classical guitar, with a slotted headstock and small pyramid bridge.
  • 000 Series: The 12-fret 000 has the same general appearance as the Collings 00, but in a larger size with longer string scale. Although it's the same width and depth as the OM, the longer body typically produces more bass and overall volume.


MT2-O mandolin

Collings began producing mandolins in 1999, and offers A-style and F-style mandolins as well as mandolas. In addition to making the A and F body shapes, Collings also makes f-hole and oval hole mandolins. Collings mandolins are one of the most highly regarded brands of quality, US built, mandolins and mandolas.

Electric guitars[edit]

  • 290: Named after the highway where the Collings factory is located. Features two hand-wound P90 pickups from Jason Lollar.[8]
  • 360: Similar in shape to a Gibson Les Paul, the 360 is slightly thinner and lighter.[9]
  • CL and CL Deluxe: the City Limits is crafted from seasoned maple and Honduran mahogany. It is lightweight, contoured for comfort and style, and features a hand-set mortise and tenon neck joint.[10][unreliable source?]
  • Collings I-35: Named for Austin's infamous traffic artery, the I-35 is aesthetically reminiscent of a Gibson ES-335. The body is pared down slightly at 15" wide, and it has a slightly more angular shape that comparatively reduces its size and weight.[2]
  • SoCo Deluxe: Named after Austin's funky and eclectic South Congress Avenue, the SoCo Deluxe brings in elements from both the I-35 and CL models to create a unique hybrid.[1]

Archtop guitars[edit]

  • Standard: Collings Archtops come with a lower bout width of 16-inch, 17-inch, and 18-inch. Based on the earliest American f-hole archtops of the 1920s, the 16-inch archtops are a rarity among modern archtop models in that they are designed to be played as acoustic guitars.
  • CL Jazz: Built with a fully hollow one-piece Honduran mahogany body, carved European spruce top, and modern stylings.[11]


Collings began producing ukuleles in 2010, and offers a variety of models in both concert and tenor sizes. Collings ukuleles are made in 3 main "trim" levels UC1, UC2, UC3, and UT1, UT2, and UT3. UC= Ukulele Concert, UT=Ukulele Tenor and the trim level is higher as the number goes higher. Collings either ceased or slowed ukulele production around 2014 when, it was rumored, they shifted resources to produce the new line of Waterloo guitars. Collings has maintained that they will resurrect ukulele production at some point and is still doing some custom orders. Collings ukuleles are very highly regarded for their impeccable, light build quality which produces a marvelous tone.

Notable users[edit]


  1. ^ a b Feser, Phil (April 2008). "Super Semi-Hollow, The Collings SoCo Deluxe". Vintage Guitar. Retrieved October 22, 2014.
  2. ^ a b Nobles, Tony (November 2006). "Soul in the Details". Vintage Guitar. Retrieved October 22, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d Hall, Michael (May 2012). "The Working Life: Bill Collings, 63". Texas Monthly. Retrieved October 23, 2012.
  4. ^ a b "Interview: Bill Collings". Acoustic Guitar. November 2008.
  5. ^ Marten, Neville (November 2006). "Collings I-35 Deluxe". Guitarist.
  6. ^ "Waterloo by Collings Guitars - Handmade in Austin, Texas". Retrieved April 15, 2018.
  7. ^ "Collings D1 AV Review". Acoustic Guitar. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
  8. ^ "Collings 290". Premier Guitar. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
  9. ^ "Collings 360 Electric Guitar Review". Premier Guitar. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
  10. ^ "Collings City Limits (CL) | Guitars, Reviews, Tabs, Gear on". Archived from the original on July 30, 2012. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
  11. ^ "Collings CL Jazz (CL Jazz) | Guitars, Reviews, Tabs, Gear on". Archived from the original on July 31, 2012. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
  12. ^ Kemp, Mark (January 2016). "Robert Earl Keen: Confessions of a Front-Porch Picker". Acoustic Guitar. Retrieved July 10, 2018.
  13. ^ Kreps, Daniel (October 18, 2018). "Prince's Last Concert-Used Guitar, 'Electric Ladyland' Master Tapes Head to Auction". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 14, 2020.

External links[edit]