Collings MT2

Posted on Updated on

8 collings mt2 headstock inlay composite In 2003, on February 12th, Collings completed work on an MT2 mandolin.  This particular instrument was shipped to Medley Music in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, where Hugh bought it to further his career.  This mandolin, #231, made history on the Pork Chop Circuit, as Hugh rose to the top of his genre, playing with great and rising stars of bluegrass.

A dozen years later, while Hugh remains sprightly and twinkling of eye, his MT2 exhibits the years of hard living.  Bright lights, billowing clouds of tobacco, and spilled beer by day.  Juke joint basements, chicken coops, and the occasional horse trailer by night.  A rough life for any instrument, especially for one with pedigree like Collings.

Love, kindness, and sympathy was all the MT2 needed.  It arrived as an instrument loan.  This editor wanted a decent mandolin on which to learn.  Hugh wanted a serious mandolin player in the bluegrass circle.  18 months adoption was arranged.  I got to work.

We tried new strings and a little buffing with Novus.  Decent effort, but frets were still severely potholed.  Major surgery would be required.  Outpatient, true, but invasive none the less.

Strings discarded.  Tuners and peg-head bushings off.  Bridge and tailpiece removed.  Fingerboard taped.  Frets sanded with 220 grit emery paper around a custom oak block.  Again, with 320 grit.  Level, finally!  A concave diamond fret file followed.  More fret attention with 400, 600, 800, then 1,000 grit emery paper.  Finally, nine Micro-Mesh sanding sticks. 1,500 grit up to 12,000!

10 collings mt2 time to reassembleGentle buffing of the spruce top and ebony headstock overlay with Novus.  Tuner bushings made a trip to a bench grinder outfitted with buff and compound.  Bushings and tuners installed back on the headstock.  A new nickel cast tailpiece, direct from Collings, replaced the previous stamped tailpiece.  New strings carefully wound back on.  We allowed them to slowly stretch their length.  Interminable minutes as correct bridge placement was established.

Finally, a simple tune.  What a treat!  Frets no longer catch one’s fingers.  Smoother than the water slide at Hershey Park!  String action lower than I’ve ever seen, with no fret buzzing anywhere on the neck!  And warmth!  What body & fullness of tone.  That cast tailpiece certainly contributes.

She again looks the 20-something.  Happy, playful, energetic, serious.  With a refreshed perspective on the world.  Ready to give us what we want, from buttercups swaying in a breeze to buffalo thundering across the plains.

8 thoughts on “Collings MT2

    American Toolbox responded:
    September 26, 2015 at 10:32 am

    The Pork Chop Circuit was a vaudeville expression. Performers would leave New York or Philadelphia, and make their way up into New England. From there, they would run west as far as Ohio. Down through Kentucky, into Tennessee. East to the coast, and back up through the Carolinas and Virginia. Home again. Traced on a map, the route looked like a pork chop.

    Early ’90s Santa Cruz Guitar « American Toolbox said:
    November 8, 2015 at 7:32 am

    […] all the work I put into Hugh’s MT2, I thought his problems were over.  An Instrument Rescue, an intervention of sorts, had brought […]

    Ziploc • S. C. Johnson « American Toolbox said:
    November 22, 2015 at 8:40 am

    […] an amateur luthier, I find Twist’n’Loc containers especially valuable in keeping parts safe during repairs […]

    Collings MT2 O Mandolin « American Toolbox said:
    October 16, 2016 at 3:13 am

    […] get better with age.  So can manufacturers.  Hugh Mason’s 2003 MT2 sounds and plays a certain way.  The latest offerings from Collings?  At times […]

    Behlen Fingerboard Oil « American Toolbox said:
    November 27, 2016 at 3:54 am

    […] good things come to an end.  The 18 month loan of Hugh’s mandolin reached an inevitable conclusion.  Lavish attention restored his battered and worn […]

    Old Fiddlers’ Picnic « American Toolbox said:
    August 14, 2017 at 6:32 am

    […] mandolin and nothing planned, it was the perfect opportunity to fail spectacularly.  Hugh’s Collings MT2 is *showing its age* (stage whisper).  The frets are durn low, and while she sings a tune better […]

    Nicholas Gellie said:
    September 30, 2019 at 1:21 am

    I enjoyed reading your article on the Collings MT2. Hiw is it going since you lovingly restored it?

    My only comment is that the first seven or so frets looks like they need to be refretted.

      American Toolbox responded:
      September 30, 2019 at 7:25 am

      Thank you! The mandolin was eventually returned to its owner, where it sits in his study, its memories permeating the room. I’m hoping he gifts me the Collings before arthritis ends my playing days.

      If it was mine I’d send it up to Pat DiBurro of New England for refretting and possibly a new nut. The fingerboard would likely take a beating during fret removal, so I’d ask, ahead of time, to plan for filler and leveling of the ebony as well. Add in aggressive buffing of the top and a few careful layers of very thin nitrocellulose, and it’ll be like getting a new mandolin.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s