Carvin Electric Guitars: The Bolt Plus-C

Carvin Bolt Plus C

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Carvin: It doesn’t have to be custom

Originally, Carvin advertised in the back of publications such as Popular Mechanics and sent out one-sheet product information at customers’ requests. In 1954, the first Carvin mail-order catalog was produced, establishing the direct-to-customer business model that is still used today. – Carvin Website

As a guitar, amplifier and pro audio manufacturer, Carvin has a long standing reputation for providing quality custom gear. In recent years, guitar gods like Steve Vai and Joe Walsh have frequently been seen playing Carvin instruments.
But for those mere mortals who are thinking about buying a Carvin, it is not necessary to order a customized axe. Online Carvin has a number of fully equipped six-string electrics readily available, including the Bolt Plus-C.

In the beginning

Founded in 1946 by Lowell C. Kiesel (1915 – 2009), Carvin began making guitar pick-ups and branched out later as a luthier using Harmony, Kay and Hofner parts during the 1950s and 1960s. As the company website  explains, Carvin became so successful the business had to move several times in order to accommodate its growth:
“The company relocated several times – original moving from Baldwin Park (outside Los Angeles) to Covina, California in 1956, then to Escondido, California in 1968. The company would relocate to a larger facility in Escondido in 1975, where they would remain until the move to the current factory location in San Diego in 1995.” The present Carvin facility occupies 80,000 square feet.

The Bolt Plus–C

Carvin Bolt Plus C
The Carvin Bolt Plus C - Click To Enlarge

Right away, the Floyd Rose locking nut and Sperzel locking tuners signify you can hammer this mahogany solid body to no end and it will still stay in tune. Fenderites will love the tone and sustain provided by the Plus-C’s solid bolt-on 22 fret maple neck.


The Bolt Plus–C is available in a jet black finish with a Tung oiled, Rapidplay™ Birdseye maple fingerboard. The Tung oil, also called China wood oil, is known for its extra hard clear finish when exposed to air. It is often used to treat fine hardwood furniture and floors.

Perhaps most intriguing is the Bolt Plus’ “reverse pointed angled” headstock, which is somewhat reminiscent of a Jackson Dinky. The headstock, which matches the body finish, is plain natural wood color on three sides.
Rear body contours and a deeper arm cut add contemporary elements to the ergonomic expertise of Carvin’s smooth Bolt Plus–C design.


The pick-up configuration on the Bolt consists of C22 humbuckers at the neck and bridge and an optional AP11 single coil in between, which is a bit more revved than a comparable Fender product. The five way selector switch allows for mixing and matching of the Humbuckers with the AP11.


The Bolt Plus–C, which weighs in at 8.2 pounds, has a scale length of 25.5″, a 12″ fingerboard radius and is 1.69″ wide at the nut.

The price

Direct price of a Bolt Plus–C from is $1169; however, look for frequent sales where it sometimes drops to $1019, always plus shipping.

A guitar case, necessary for all Carvin shipments, is sold separately in black Tolex hardshell, priced at $69 or vintage tweed for $89.

Taking into account the craftsmanship and American made quality of Carvin’s Bolt Plus–C electric guitar, its cost is a reasonable investment considering today’s retail market.

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Paul Wolfle

As a vintage and contemporary music enthusiast, guitars dominate Paul’s life. He plays slide in open tunings on a National Steel Tricone resonator and electric blues, in standard tuning, on an assortment of other instruments including his white Fender Stratocaster.

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