A lot of folks ask me "what is a Collings Clarence White guitar and what makes it so special?". Hopefully this page will answer the majority of your questions. For details of each instrument, please visit the CW Data page.
There are two basic Collings Clarence White (CW) guitar models, the CW-28 and the CW-18.  Ive organized the specs into body, neck, peghead, mods and interesting variations.

CW-28

Body:

The CW-28 is built using Brazilian Rosewood back and sides, Red (Adirondack) Spruce top. The top and back of the body are bound in grained Ivoroid. The heel cap is also covered in grained Ivoroid. Herringbone purfling is inlaid in the top. The large soundhole rosette is inlaid with strips of TS and end-grain Ivoroid. The bridge is made of Ebony with a long or through bone saddle. The CW-28 has no Popsicle brace as was standard on prewar dreadnoughts. Ebony bridge pins are standard, although most folks change them out with bridge pins made from Fossil Walrus, Elephant or Mammoth Ivory.

The wood used for the back and sides is from John Holmans personal stash of old growth Brazilian Rosewood. The early guitars were built from red and brown Brazilian Rosewood, while the more recent models were built with Holmans dark brown Brazilian Rosewood, which according to John was cut sometime between 1958 and 1961 or 62. CW owners refer to this Brazilian Rosewood as the Dark Wood. Although some of the red Brazilian used on CW-28s may come from trees older than the Dark Wood, much of it wasnt cut as early as the wood from the Dark Wood tree. Consequently, the guitars made from the Dark Wood may sound more mature earlier in their life cycle than the brick Red Brazilian Rosewood guitars. Holman feels this has more to do with the amount of time the wood has been exposed to the environment and had time to be at equilibrium, rather than the actual wood itself. As all of the CWs mature this will probably become less and less an issue. Many of the early red Brazilian CW-28s sound incredible! Except for Bryan Kimseys guitar <beg>

Most CW-28s have a leopard or Dalmatian pickguard. I do not know when John started using this material for the CW pickguards, but it has become very popular and is very frequently ordered on other Collings guitars by owners with discerning taste! <bg>

Neck:

The neck is made from Mahogany and has a slight V shape. The Ebony fretboard is bound in grained Ivoroid. The fretboard standard width at the nut is 1 23/32" at the bone nut, although some are listed as slightly wider or narrower in the data page (those are supplied by the owners) the fretboard width at the nut is probably 1 23/32", which was standard according to John Holman and Bill Collings.

Peghead:

Most CW-28s have ebony peghead overlays, but there are several CW-28s with Brazilian Rosewood peghead overlays and one guitar with a Snakewood peghead overlay (3011). The Collings logo is inlaid in Mother of Pearl into the peghead.

The stock tuners are Waverly, although Kluson and Gotoh tuners were used on early CWs (prior to 1993) before Waverly tuners were available. All CW-28s have a volute. The shape of the new volutes has changed from the rounder volute on the older models to a sharper joint on the newer models.

Mods:

Although the stock nut and saddle are bone, most owners use fossil or fresh ivory. John Holman frequently replaced the stock bone nut and saddle with Fossil or fresh Ivory when he felt the guitar would benefit from the material.

Interesting variations in the CW-28 model:

7 Sunburst CW-28s.

2 CW-28s are 12 fret models.

1 CW-28 with Snakewood peghead overlay.

There are two #646s.


CW-18

Body:

The CW-18 is built using Mahogany back and sides, Red (Adirondack) Spruce top. The top and back of the body are bound in faux tortoise shell (TS). Most CW-18's have the heel cap covered in faux TS. The top is inlaid with black/white/black purfling, although a few CW-18s have herringbone purfling inlaid in the top. The large soundhole rosette is inlaid with strips of TS and end-grain Ivoroid. The bridge is made of Ebony with a long or through bone saddle. The CW-18 has no Popsicle brace as was standard on prewar dreadnoughts. Ebony bridge pins are standard, although most folks change them out with bridge pins made from Fossil Walrus, Elephant or Mammoth Ivory.

Neck:

The neck is made from Mahogany and has a slight V shape. The Ebony fretboard is bound in TS. The fretboard width is 1 23/32" at the bone nut. One of the most visually striking aspects of the CW-18 is the inlay between the fretboard binding and the fretboard. The fretboard has a strip of end grained Ivoroid inlaid between the outer TS binding and the ebony fretboard. The most dramatic TS binding Ive seen on the CW-18s is on #2071.

Peghead:

Most CW-18s have an Ebony peghead overlay, although many have been built with a Brazilian Rosewood peghead overlay. I dont know of any CW-18s with peghead overlay wood other than Ebony or Brazilian Rosewood. The Collings logo is inlaid in Mother of Pearl into the peghead.

The stock tuners are Waverly, although Kluson and Gotoh tuners were used on early CWs (pre-1993) before Waverly tuners were available. Some CW-18s have a volute and some do not. The shape of the new volutes has changed from the rounder volute on the older models to a sharper joint on the newer models.

Mods:

Although the stock nut and saddle are bone, most owners use fossil or fresh ivory. John Holman frequently replaced the stock bone nut and saddle with Fossil or fresh Ivory when he felt the guitar would benefit from the material.

Interesting variations in the CW-18 model:

Two CW-18s were made from Quilted Mahogany, but only one of the Quilt CW-18s is sunburst (5256).

There are 3 Sunburst CW-18s.

Serial number 473 is the first CW-18. It belongs to the same gentleman who owns the #5 CW-28 (266).

There were 5 CW-18's made in December of 1998 (4508, 4509, 4510, 4524, and 4525).

 

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