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truss vs. aluminum strips

aa New York City✭✭✭✭
what are the differences between a collins guitar (neck re-enforced with three aluminum strips), and something like a dupont md50 (trussrod?)
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  • mmaslanmmaslan Santa Barbara, CANew
    Posts: 87
    You should really talk to Michael Collins about this. My impression of the history is this (others can correct me if I'm wrong):

    When Selmer adapted their classical guitar design for the jazz model, they added metal strips inside the neck to compensate for the additional tension of metal strings. This was before the introduction of trussrods; American guitars of this period had necks of all wood, usually maple or mahagony. Selmer necks were also made of three pieces glued together: heel, neck, and headstock. Martins also had glued-on headstocks in those days.

    Michael's necks are like the originals. Most other luthiers of Selmer-style guitars now make one-piece necks. Dupont makes a three-piece neck for his premiere model, the Vielle Reserve, which goes for twice the price of a Collins guitar. Most also now include trussrods, although John Le Voi, a highly regarded luthier, uses a non-adjustable steel rod and offers an adjustable trussrod as an upgrade. Many also make their necks of mahagony rather than walnut.

    Michael believes the original design is superior. He thinks that over time it keeps a more even surface on the fingerboard than a neck with an adjustable trussrod. These necks are certainly very stiff. Walnut is a very hard wood, and the glued joints are actually stronger than the wood itself. (This was confirmed for me even before I contacted Michael when I considered buying a Park with a repaired neck on Ebay: Paul Hostetter and Shelley herself told me that the glued headstock joint would be stronger than the original.) Michael's necks also have the original chunky Selmer profile, whereas some luthiers now provide a sleeker neck in accordance with modern tastes.

    Can it still bow? Absolutely--any neck can. But Michael says it's pretty simple for an experienced tech to straighten using steam. Since I'm on the West Coast, I can take mine up to Paul Hostetter in Santa Cruz if I need to. (He's my Selmer guru.) But I'll probably be doddering by then.

    Let me just add that I love the neck on my Collins oval hole. It fits my hand like a glove.

    Hope that's helpful.
  • aa New York City✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 800
    anyone else play a collins? i'd like to hear more about how it compares to dupont.
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  • marcieromarciero Southern MaineNew
    Posts: 120
    I ordered my Collins in July. Back then I was only vaguely aware of some of the design details regarding Selmer-style guitars. I coulld not comprehend that a modern builder would build guitars without adjustable trussrods. It was just inconceivable to me. For one thing, with other types of guitars, one often has a desired neck profile that is a matter of taste. On Selmacs, you pretty much want it arrow straight. Also, my experiece with old non-adjustable Martins is that they either had had a neck re-set or they needed one.

    Michael Collins assured me that 1. These necks will not be bearing that great of a load with only .010 or .011 strings, and 2. He warrants his instruments "for the lifetime of the builder ".

    I would imagine that building non-adjustablle necks requires much greater care and is much more labor intesive. You have to get the profile just right. If you don't get it right you will be doing a lot of warranty repairs. The neck on my Collins is indeed "just right". It's the cleanest fretting Selmac I've played; all up and down the neck.

    I always thought it was funny how we often want to exactly replicate design elements that might have originally been a matter of expedience or some other consideration that had nothing to do with sound or function. But there is a certain amount of serendipity in the greatest designs. That is, all the choices that the designer made, some functional, some not, came together in wonderful ways that he did not fully anticipate. Les Paul never imagined what happened with the Les Paul, which was designed as a jazz guitar.

    Maybe this is getting off track, but...

    Anyway, these design elements somehow all make perfect sense when you play and hear a fine instrument. My girlfriend still makes fun of the fact that I play a "plywood" guitar! Again, it seems to make sense.

  • aa New York City✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 800
    did you get your collins with four horizontal sound boards (like django)? was your guitar laquered on the inside?
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  • scotscot Virtuoso
    Posts: 519
    a says:
    four horizontal sound boards (like django)?

    What in the world are you talking about here?

    Mike makes a good point about serendipity in design. I'm sure it carries over into a lot of different kinds of work. I know from my own experience that if you give a creative person some resources and tools, there's no telling what they'll come up with.

    Something I always wondered about, is this: many of the guitars etc considered to be the best of their type - pre-war Martin D-28, Gibson AJ and F5, 1958 Les Paul Standard, Selmer petite bouche, early Fender amplifiers, etc - were not made in small shops by highly dedicated and skilled luthiers. They were made in factory workshops by people who were working there because they needed jobs. According to Charle, the guitar shop at Selmer was made up of employees from other parts of the plant, some of who went back to their old jobs when the guitar shop closed up.

    So what is the real truth? If the legendary guitars are as good as we imagine they are, wouldn't that suggest that a factory is actually the best place to build great guitars? Or is the whole "vintage guitar" thing mostly about legend and mojo?
  • aa New York City✭✭✭✭
    edited March 2005 Posts: 800
    you are right
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  • scotscot Virtuoso
    Posts: 519
    I'm confused. There are many times more musicians around today, with much more money to spend. Dell Arte alone has produced more guitars now than Selmer ever did. The standard of playing among amateurs is much higher than ever. So are you saying that the quality of factory guitars is better now or worse today? With the high expectations that people have today, I think that the quality of guitars across the price range is generally better. You still have to pay a lot to get a real good guitar, though.

    What really puzzles me are the "four horizontal soundboards" on Django's guitar. I've never seen this guitar in person but in photographs it looks just like any other guitar with one soundboard. Please explain.
  • aa New York City✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 800
    i don't know much about this, but django's guitar had one less. don't know how much of a difference that makes...
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  • mmaslanmmaslan Santa Barbara, CANew
    Posts: 87
    A is referring to the soundboard BRACES I assume. He's just a little confused about vocabulary. The Collins web site points out that
    Django's Selmer guitar has only four horizontal soundboard braces whereas the later models had five.

    but does not specify whether a Collins oval hole has four ladder braces or five. I have one of these guitars, but I'm not sure of the answer myself. This is the sort of question that is best addressed to the luthier. I do know that my guitar has a lacquered interior just like the original Selmers.

    I don't know about anything about quality control standards in guitar factories today v. yesteryear. The whole process has changed dramatically. I have heard a tech at my local guitar store complain about shoddy workmanship on newer Gibsons. Of course they're a certified Martin dealer. In my limited experience, Martin continues to make superb intruments. The quality of imported guitars has improved enormously since the seventies when I got my first guitar, an absolutely punishing Yamaha.

    It should be recalled that Selmer was and is a maker of very high quality wind instruments. I was recently told that a new Selmer alto sax runs about $7,000! I can only assume that they employed highly skilled craftsmen in their guitar workshop, even if some were new to guitar bulding, and that they held their work to high standards. They had a reputation to protect. Good instruments don't get made by accident.

    A guitar with five soundboards would certainly be challenge to build and to play.
  • Ted GottsegenTed Gottsegen Rowayton, CTModerator
    Posts: 615
    Hi All,

    I think there is some confusion here. Soundboard is the designation for the guitar's top. The inner structure is usually referred to as tone braces, or tone bars. I have heard the rumor that Django's guitar is missing one brace, but I can't remember off the top of my head whether or not Charle mentioned this in his book. Since he's been over that guitar from head to toe, his word is gold.

    I have heard some great things about Michael's guitars, and I look forward to playing one someday soon!

    Suffice it to say, there are those who believe there is a profound difference tonally between the two. I played a Jacques Favino that didn't have a truss rod, and one that did and couldn't tell the different between the two. They both sounded like Jacques Favino guitars! We live in a modern age and the level of lutherie is so high, as is the understanding of acoustic instruments. They are so much broader than it was 70 years ago why bother sticking with a good, albeit somewhat flawed design?

    On the subject of metal reinforcement. There is another maker who makes guitars with the option of metal braces as opposed to a trussrod. He swore up and down that his necks wouldn't need adjustment, and sure enough, my friends guitar did need one. When it was sent back to be repaired, something happened to the top of the guitar during the repair and owner ended up selling the guitar.

    I don't know how many of you have actually played a Selmer, but there is nothing special about them. In fact, they are pretty primitive and rickety old guitars and are in no way worth their current prices on the use market and I think that some contemporary luthiers are making guitars which surpass Selmers in every respect. I played one about two or three months ago, a mint condition Modèle Jazz from 1947, and it was ultra bright with no midrange or bass and didn't even play that great.

    Both my guitars have trussrods. I like having the ability to tweak the rod if necesary, and have had several occasions over the last year to tweak it on both guitars. I would never go back to a guitar without one. In short, I say that if you want a historically accurate guitar, than go for the classic design. If you want something that is a little more adaptable to your needs and user friendly, while still getting the same sound, go for the trussrod.


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