Collings first started offering varnish finishes on their mandolins back in 2004. In 2005 Collings introduced this option on their acoustic guitars. The reviews for their varnish finish guitars have been off the charts. The tone is big and complex. The guitar plays with an amazing sensativity and power. Heavy handed flatpicking just booms out without breaking up at all while it is still incredibly responsive to lighter touch playing.
Varnish goes on much thinner than laquer and is a softer and more flexible finish material. This allows the top of the guitar to vibrate more freely, thus giving the guitar a more resonant and "broken in" tone. Basically, it sounds like a vintage guitar. Unlike lacquer, the process for applying varnish is not conducive to "finish touch-ups", meaning the builder cannot control minor imperfections such as small pinholes, bubbles, or sinking. While Collings takes great pride in their exceptional standards for fit and finish, it is very challenging to apply and buff varnish to the level of cosmetic "perfection" consistent with their lacquer finish instruments. The varnish finish has a beautiful, rich luster, and resembles the color of a well aged vintage guitar (without the finish checking) and gives a much more yellow hue.
A varnish finish is not as hard as lacquer so some argue it is not as protective to the guitar as a lacquer finish. This can be true on brand new instruments, but the varnish will cure over time, giving the finish much more durability and in this case the instrument has had 13 years to cure & the finish will continue to harden as the instrument ages. The varnish finish allows the instrument to vibrate more freely and can produce a more responsive instrument with a greater depth of tone.
This is truly a time capsule guitar and unless you have a specially equipped DeLorean with an enhanced flux capacitor this is your best chance to get one that just happens to already be aged to perfection!
All photos are of the gear itself and are not stock photos.
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