October 26, 2009

Touring Collings Guitars

Filed under: Music,Places — Cory @ 9:49 am

For a few years now I’ve dreamed of owning a Collings mandolin. I first learned about Collings Guitars shortly after I bought my Taylor, about 5 years ago. If Taylor is the Lexus of guitars then Collings is the Rolls Royce (the comparison in relative price differences holds up too).

I recently discovered the Redbone Guitar Boutique in San Antonio, pretty much by accident. I walked in and talked with Scott Stephens for a while and learned that they carried Collings (as well as G&L!). Scott told me that he personally drives up to the Collings facility outside of Austin to pick up each instrument, so that they never have to be shipped. After I left I started thinking about how neat it would be to custom order a Collings mandolin and be able to personally pick up my instrument from the people who made it. I spent a few more days thinking about whether I wanted to make the financial commitment and once I had I went back to Scott and ordered a Collings MT-O mandolin.

A couple days later Scott called back to tell me that he was arranging a private tour of the Collings facility for Redbone customers, and wanted to know if I was interested. Although Collings normally offers public tours on two Fridays per month, but I had never made time for it. This time I wasn’t going to miss it.

Not including Scott there were only three of us on the tour, which was really nice. Our tour lasted about two hours and we were able to see the entire process from raw wood to finished instruments. I’ve never seen a company so focused on producing perfect products. Everything they do is calculated, yet each instrument is a unique work of art. Every detail is considered, even down to shaving off six thousandths of an inch of finish where the bridge meets the top.

The other thing that struck me while I was there was how honest Collings is as a company. Never once was I told not to take a picture of something, and I even asked (my pictures are here). They are proud of the entire process and welcome you to see it. In order to produce a product of such high quality they have to stay honest. Even home grown innovations such as the machines that Bill Collings built himself are explained to visitors. Most businesses protect their trade secrets and proprietary processes for competitive advantages, but Collings doesn’t need to since the instruments speak for themselves. Even prototypes are destroyed so that no instrument with the Collings name on it goes out without being 100% perfect.

They also aren’t willing to sacrifice quality for quantity. Only about 1500 guitars are produced here per year, and about 500 mandolins, and 500 electric guitars. That comes out to about 7 guitars per day, 3 mandolins, and 3 electrics. And before you think “that sounds like a lot”, consider that is with nearly 70 people working full time – for 13 instruments per day. I think it is awesome that artists produce instruments for other artists.

I would certainly recommend this tour to anyone who lives in South Texas. Even if you aren’t a musician, the tour is fascinating because of the craftsmanship and level of attention to detail they give to every aspect of their work. And at the end a beautiful guitar or mandolin is the result. I can’t wait to pick up mine. :)

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October 24, 2009

Visiting Amsterdam for the Big Three-O

Filed under: Events,Friends,Places — Cory @ 4:30 pm

This past summer as my thirtieth birthday began to creep up on me I decided that I wanted to have something fun to look forward when the day finally arrived. I decided that I wanted to celebrate the occasion in Amsterdam.

Prior to this trip I had only spent one day in Amsterdam, when Jason and I visited there in June of 2006. I remembered that the city was beautiful and the people there were very nice.

By way of VRBO I found this great place to stay in the heart of the city called the Amnesia Apartment. It’s a standard Amsterdam style house – tall and thin. The Amnesia is five stories with a room per floor and a jacuzzi on the top floor. There is a tiny, tiny staircase in the back of the building that goes from the kitchen in the basement to the 4th floor bedroom.

Tate and I arrived on Monday morning, October 12th, and Sandy arrived the next day. Once she joined us we starting seeing the sights and eating at some great restaurants. Tate created a Google map of the places we visited during our stay. Here’s a rundown:


  • Sama Sebo – This is incredibly good Indonesian food. The guy who picked us up from the airport was half Indonesian and recommended that we eat here. Here’s a picture of us with the spread.
  • Japanese Pancake World – This is where we ate dinner on the night of my birthday. It came highly recommended from a friend of a friend who lives in Amsterdam. He was right, this place is amazing! Pictures here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
  • d’Vijff Vlieghen – This was a more upper scale Dutch restaurant that Sandy had heard about. Evidently Franklin Roosevelt, Walt Disney, Elvis Presley and many other notable people have eaten here (and they can now add us to the list as well). The food and service were both fantastic. Pictures here, here, here, and here.
  • Belgisch Restaurant Lieve – On our final night we ate at this Belgian restaurant near our apartment and it was incredible as well. Tate and I ordered beer pairings with each course. I still think Belgian food is my favorite of all. Pictures here, here, here, and here.


Other stuff we did or saw while we were there:

The trip worked out even better than I could have planned it. The weather was wonderful for almost the entire week we were there, and the apartment turned out to be exactly what we wanted and in an excellent location. Amsterdam is such an incredible place. Everyone is so friendly, the city is beautiful, and it’s very easy to get around and communicate with people. All the pictures from the trip are available in my gallery.

Great friends, great place, great time!

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