The company was founded in Southern California in 1946 as the L. C. Kiesel Company. As of 1947, the company was manufacturing steel guitars in Gothenburg, Nebraska. Around 1948, it returned to Southern California and moved to Baldwin Park, California in 1949, where the company name was changed to Carvin, from Kiesel's two eldest sons, Carson and Gavin. Throughout the 1950's, 60's, and early 70's, Carvin manufactured guitars and bass guitars, largely from bodies and necks made by Höfner. During this period, they also manufactured amplifiers and steel guitars, and were authorized resellers of other gear, including Fender and Martin guitars, DeArmond pickups and Sonola accordions. In the late 1970s, Carvin began to produce all their own instrument components, and also expanded their product lines to include pro audio gear, recording equipment, lighting and other stage and studio equipment. Later, Carvin switched to manufacturing through-neck guitars, attracting metal players such as Jason Becker.
Carvin developed its own niche in the musical instrument world in the 1980's by offering guitars and basses built to a customer's specifications, based on available body shapes, woods, colors, electronics and other features. This allowed customers to order a guitar or bass guitar that was a made-to-order instrument, versus a mass-produced instrument sold at a retailer.
Currently, Carvin Corporation manufactures acoustic and electric guitars, bass guitars and accessories, amplifiers, and live and studio sound equipment, microphones and lighting gear. Carvin differs from most manufacturers by selling directly to customers. A popular item Carvin offers is their guitar and bass kits, featuring all of the necessary parts needed to construct a guitar or bass, including pre-wired pick guard, pre-drilled neck and body, and instructions. Carvin also still offers custom-made instruments in many varieties, including seven-string, semi-hollow, twelve-string, carved-top and active-pickup models.
Notable Carvin users include: Nicki Kin, Allan Holdsworth, Steve Vai, Bunny Brunel, Craig Chaquico, Alex Lifeson, Jason Becker, Al Di Meola, Yngwie Malmsteen, Willie Nelson, Danny Elfman, Joe Walsh, Shawn Lane, and Tony MacAlpine.