A powerful slope-shoulder jumbo with a big sound and vintage feel.
by Teja Gerken
May 20, 2019
Built in the Collings Guitars shop in Austin, Texas, the Waterloo Guitars imprint is one of the final projects undertaken by Bill Collings. Inspired by budget guitars from the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s, Waterloo instruments take their cues from vintage brands such as Stella, Oscar Schmidt, and Regal, offering a different sound and vibe than flattops in the Gibson or Martin mold. With simpler features and stripped-down appointments, Waterloo guitars cost significantly less than Collings instruments, but they’re built with high-quality materials to the same high standards of craftsmanship Collings instruments are known for. We recently had a chance to check out the largest model in the Waterloo line, a WL-JK Jumbo King, courtesy of Gryphon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto, California.
The WL-JK’s slope-shoulder body is a touch wider at the upper bout than most slope-shoulder dreadnoughts, and Waterloo says the shape was inspired by a Regal jumbo from the 1940s. The standard-model WL-JK comes with mahogany back and sides, but our demo guitar was built with richly colored and beautifully striped Indian rosewood, an option that is available for an additional $50. The guitar has a spruce top, and its sunburst finish had beautiful shading. Waterloo made a somewhat unusual choice by giving the instrument an ebony bridge and rosewood fingerboard (most steel-string guitars use the same wood for both). One distinguishing element of this guitar is the generously proportioned neck shape with a distinct V profile. This is definitely one of the chunkier necks I’ve seen on a new guitar, but Waterloo’s perfectly even fingerboard surface, great fretwork, and excellent setup make the neck very playable.
The WL-JK has a big sound and rich accompaniment voice, especially when strummed. It’s great volume also helps single-note lines stand out, and while it sounds best with a heavier attack, it also has a strong fingerpicking voice. The WL-JK could fit into many musical settings, but I suspect that it would be most at home in singer-songwriter and accompaniment roles. Overall, with its variation on the slope-shoulder body shape, big neck, and attractive, stripped-down look, the WL-JK is a very cool guitar.
SPECS: 14-fret slope-shoulder jumbo body. Spruce top. Indian rosewood back and sides (mahogany is standard). X-bracing. Mahogany neck. Indian rosewood fingerboard. Ebony bridge. 25½-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. 2⅜-inch string spacing at saddle. Golden Age Restoration tuning machines. Made in USA. $2,550 list. Waterlooguitars.com
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