Every now and then, you pick up a guitar and realize you’re holding magic in your hands. Welcome to the Collings CJ-45 T.
The inspiration is obvious in a slope-shouldered design that harkens to the J-45, Gibson’s wartime answer to Martin’s big pre-war dreadnoughts. Like that classic, Collings’ guitar is a no-frills instrument that’s all about playability and tone.
In Collings’ world, the “T” stands for “Traditional” and indicates select woods, era-correct scalloped X-bracing, and extra-thin nitrocellulose finish. With the CJ-45 T, players have a choice of Sitka or Eastern Red spruce top with scalloped spruce bracing along with mahogany sides and back.
Like many a Collings, the CJ-45 T is oh-so light. The body is downright graceful while the Honduran-mahogany neck is hefty and substantial but still finely crafted, with a mortise-and-tenon hybrid join. The 24.875″ scale and full-C shape are robust and no-nonsense, like the banner-head Gibson it’s based on. Waverly nickel tuners with ivoroid buttons and simple ivoroid body binding are typical appointments, and everything about the guitar and its finish is beautiful; the deep, rich sunburst is like a spectacular summer sunset, topped by a faux-tortoiseshell pickguard.
But it’s when you get your hands on it that you realize how stunning the CJ-45 T truly is, because this guitar is all about the sound. Play it soft and it whispers. Play it hard, it booms. The responsiveness is lovely and the tone is exceptionally dry, warm, and woody, with crystalline highs and a robust, deep bass. It’s an impressive tonal range.
With the CJ-45 T, Collings is not simply copying a classic. Instead, it’s using history as inspiration and proving we are living in another golden age of lutherie.
This article originally appeared in VG’s February 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.