In 2004, Collings became one of the first modern guitar builders to experiment with varnish finish. Famously used on legendary Stradivarius violins, Varnish finish was also used on Lloyd Loar-signed F-5 mandolins of the '20s, so Collings initially tried varnish on their mandolins. Varnish goes on much thinner than lacquer, and it is a softer, more flexible finish material. This allows the instrument to vibrate more freely, or as players usually put it, varnish lets the instrument and the wood "breathe."
While Varnish adds a hefty chunk to the price tag, it is well, well worth the expense. Every Collings instrument is exceptional in its own right, but the Varnish finish option takes their instruments into the stratosphere.
Clearly demonstrating the virtues of the Varnish option, this 2015 Collings D1A Varnish (serial #24760) has big, complex, and nuanced tone. It is deeply resonant with the "broken-in" qualities of a treasured prewar guitar. It has amazingly sensitive response, and when you push it, it provides all the power and presence you could want.
- Body: 14-Fret Dreadnought
- Top: Adirondack Spruce
- Back & Sides: Honduran Mahogany
- Neck: Honduran Mahogany
- Finish: Varnish
- Body Binding: Tortoise with b/w/b/w top purfling
- Bridge: Ebony belly-style with 2-1/4" spacing
- Fingerboard: ebony w/ MOP long dot inlays
- Fingerboard radius: 14" - 26" compound
- Bridge pins: Ebony w/ MOP dot
- Nut: Bone, 1-3/4"
- Saddle: Bone, drop-in
- Neck Profile: Modified V
- Neck Joint: Tortoise & tenon hybrid
- Truss rod: Fully-adjustable
- Frets: Medium 18% nickel-silver
- Tuners: Nickel Waverly
- Scale Length: 25-1/2"
- Brace Material: Adirondack Spruce
- Brace Pattern: Prewar scalloped X-brace
While many folks assume Varnish is more delicate than lacquer, this 2015 Collings D1A Varnish would suggest otherwise. It's very clean cosmetically, and it is free of severe dings, bumps, and scratches. The only noticeable wear is minor finish blemishing on the binding edge of the lower bout, near the end pin (see photos). Apart from that and a strap button on the heel, the guitar looks as if brand new. Its setup is low and inviting with minimal fretwear, too.
This 2015 D1A Varnish is a monster dreadnought with a lot to offer. It includes a humidity-tight fiberglass case from Crossrock rock. Such a fine guitar is well-worth protecting with a heavy-duty case.