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Richard Johnston

Guitar, mandolin, and ukulele manufacturer. It was founded in Houston, Texas, in 1976 by Bill Collings (b 1948), who had moved from Ohio to Texas following a failed attempt at medical school. After building a few guitars and some banjos, Collings moved to Austin in 1979. His background as a machinist led him to emphasize precise jigs and fixtures even when he was working out of a small single-car garage. Demand for Collings guitars, specifically for updated versions of Martin and Gibson flat-top styles from the 1930s, prompted his move to a 1,000-square-foot shop in 1989. Two woodworkers were hired, including Bruce Van Wart, who is still in charge of wood selection and top voicing on the firm’s acoustic guitars. By this time, production had increased to a level that allowed sales to a few retailers.

In late 1991 the company relocated to a much larger facility on the outskirts of Austin, and the number of Collings guitar models, and employees, began to grow. Bill Collings was one of the first flat-top guitar builders to offer fully carved arch-top models as well. These deluxe jazz guitars were quickly accepted as the equals of those from premier American builders, and they sold for similar prices; but only a few were completed each year. Collings was also one of the first small, independent guitar companies to incorporate CNC (computer numerical control) carving machines for building both guitar parts and the precise tooling to aid in their assembly, which is still done by hand. One of the signature differences between the Collings models and the Gibson and Martin originals that inspired them is that Collings uses an unglued bolted mortise and tenon neck joint, rather than a traditional dovetail....

Article

John Barnes, Charles Beare and Laurence Libin

Faking musical instruments can involve such acts as creating an entirely new deceptive object, rebuilding an instrument with intent to deceive, conflating parts from different sources to form an instrument with a fictitious history, or forging an inscription on an instrument (and producing false documentation) in order to associate it with an advantageous name or period. A successful faker needs to know what customers want and the extent of their historical knowledge. Fakes can thus shed light on those who were deceived as well as on those responsible for deception. Partly to discourage misrepresentation, during the Middle Ages European trade guilds began to register makers’ marks and require their use on products; bells were perhaps the first instruments to bear such identification. Despite continuing efforts to suppress the practice, and improving methods of detection, faking and forgery, especially of valuable instruments sought by collectors as investments, continue to flourish.

Instruments of the famous Ruckers family, enlarged and redecorated to satisfy contemporary taste and musical requirements, were in demand in the 18th century, particularly in Paris. Since the alterations concealed much of the original material and involved replacement of many parts, it was not difficult for those engaged in this trade to satisfy the market without actually starting from an original Ruckers instrument. Several workshop inventories taken for legal purposes refer frankly to counterfeit Ruckers harpsichords....