Specs and Options: Collings – Varnish vs. Lacquer – How is the varnish finish option different from the standard lacquer finish?


Varnish is a softer and therefore more flexible finish material. While there are sometimes generous tonal advantages to the varnish finish, this option is not for everyone. Unlike lacquer, the process for applying varnish is not conducive to "finish touch-ups", meaning that Collings cannot repair some minor imperfections such as small pinholes, bubbles, or sinks. While they have always taken pride in their high standards for fit and finish, they cannot produce varnish instruments to the level of cosmetic "perfection" as with our lacquer finish instruments. The varnish finish has a beautiful, rich luster, but may include very small imperfections when put under close examination.

Additionally, the softer finish is not as protective as the harder lacquer finish. The alkyd resin-based varnish finish is very slow to cure and can be relatively soft on new instruments. The finish will continue to harden as the instrument ages, but new varnish instruments can be vulnerable to scratches, dings, and imprinting. By its very nature, varnish can shrink, wrinkle, and/or dull over time and is not likely to maintain a "new" appearance as well as lacquer instruments. With that said, the varnish finish allows the instrument to vibrate more freely and can produce a more responsive instrument with a greater depth of tone.

Click to view PDF of Collings Varnish Document (Ships with Varnish Guitars)

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