Knutsen Harp Hawaiian Guitar    

hhw22-side1.jpg (54202 bytes)

Another very nice, fancy harp steel built within Knutsen's last three years.  This specimen was doubly confusing, in that I received information and photos of it from two different owners at different times, and each set was incomplete.  I had actually archived it as two specimens!  When Ben Elder bought the instrument (from Gruhn Guitars) in July, 2008, he noticed that it was like "both" of the specimens.  He and I were anxious to decipher the strange hodgepodge of clues, which I think we did.  Later, when he consigned this instrument to my Harp Guitar Music commercial site, I was able to better photograph and verify all of our conclusions.  A fascinating story!
This specimen is another instrument that was altered not once, but three times.  Some alterations may have actually been done by Knutsen, but the details and quality might indicate later modifications.

As first built, this was a standard 12-course HHW harp steel.  The bass attachment with two strings is original.  The four treble strings were strung from the four existing bridge holes to four pins that were probably just inserted directly into the top, with a thin block underneath for support.  This block is still present.  The four pins would have been located along the bottom edge of the later inlay in the upper right bout.

hhw22-pinblock.jpg (86629 bytes)

Right: The original treble pin block.  The tuning pins were likely inserted directly through the spruce top with no special inlay.  When the trebles were switched to the opposite side, someone - Knutsen or other installed a new decorative piece to hide the old holes.  In this case, it appears to be an actual inlay, rather than the typical Knutsen "puzzle piece."

Later, someone tried stringing treble strings in two alternate locations.  I conjecture that the first change - possibly done by Knutsen himself - was to install then on the opposite side, in place of the bass strings.   This configuration must have had a different bridge - as they used the two bass pin holes, but added two more in between.  These are clearly visible from underneath.  I believe that the current bridge is the original one - retained and later re-installed.

 

These four bass-side trebles must have then been strung to a new puzzle piece in the upper left bout.  As observed on inspected Knutsens, these are almost never inlaid, but full "puzzle" inserts into a hole in the top!  It is possible that Knutsen may have had a blank decorative piece here already, or it may have been solid.  Regardless, whatever the four zither pins were inserted into is now gone, and a new solid puzzle piece inlay resides there.  No evidence of a pin block - even temporary - can be seen.  The work of both added decorative "inlays" appears a bit sloppy even for Knutsen, but then, these were the last years of his life.  Interestingly, they also seem to match the "pickguard" inlay and lower left decorative trim pretty closely - again pointing to Knutsen's shop.  Note that when this left-side treble stringing was initially done, it was likely intended to be permanent, as the right-side pins were removed and the new piece of roughly matching inlay was installed.  When the bass-side treble strings were tried, the bass harp bracket was not moved to the opposite side (as in my own HHW18), as there are no holes matching the spacing.  But there are holes, and that brings us to our third treble iteration!

hhw22-bridgepins.jpg (85617 bytes)
The original bridge was later re-installed and glued down - note the glue filling the two extra treble holes.

hhw22-leftblock.jpg (68759 bytes)

Bass side "puzzle insert" to fill the space of an added-then-removed treble pin bank.

My suspicion is that in the next iteration the original bridge was re-installed, the bass strings were re-installed, and the area containing the left-side treble pins was fitted with the new puzzle piece inlay.  But what now to do with the treble strings?  All the pins have been removed!  The holes were/are still there in the old bridge on the right side....but instead of re-installing the right side body pins, someone (and this is almost certainly well after Knutsen's time) decided to just stick pins into the side of the guitar and run extra-long treble strings up to there!

From the original owners' photos, this appeared nonsensical - the strings could not clear the corner of the top!  But when we ran a straight-edge from the wire saddle to the top of each side pin location, we realized that, in new condition - before the top sunk about 1/8"- each string would have just cleared the guitar body.

Someone was clearly determined to make those four treble strings useful!  Yet in the end, they gave up, plugging these side pin holes and abandoning treble strings completely. 

hhw22-pinholes.jpg (61457 bytes)
Two last endearing Knutsen features: The small dot just above the treble bridge is not an inlay - it sticks into the guitar body almost 1/4" - like he just shoves stuff into the top and then sands it flat!  

The tuners look original, but note how the string holes in the shaft are way down towards the bottom.  It looks like these were the last pair of random tuners Chris had in his drawer, so in order to use them, he thinned down the headstock quite a bit, but then he still had to bevel out the front wood of the headstock so the strings would thread!

hhw22-plug.jpg (74594 bytes) hhw22-tuners.jpg (63824 bytes)
hhw22.jpg (47058 bytes) hhw22-body.jpg (79084 bytes) hhw22-side1-s.jpg (18135 bytes) hhw22-sh.jpg (107620 bytes) hhw22-side2-s.jpg (18050 bytes) hhw22-head.jpg (70641 bytes) hhw22-back-s.jpg (18709 bytes)

Click on  a picture to enlarge
(images copyright Gregg Miner)

Knutsen Archives Inventory Number

HHW22

                 Category

Hollow Neck Hawaiian Guitars

                 Body Style

"'Weissenborn-shaped' Harp Hawaiian"

                 Current or last known owner

Buster Jeremiah <> Dennis Lake > Gruhn Guitars > Ben Elder

                 Year (approx)

1927-1930

                 Label

McDuff Street with harp-uke

                 Label Code LA11

                 Courses / Strings

12 > 8 course: 6 strings on neck, 2 bass, originally 4 treble

                 Frets

inlaid wood

                 Scale length 25"
                 Neck Joint taper begins around the 1st fret

Woods

Top

spruce/koa

Back & Sides

koa or mahogany?

Neck/Head

fir

Fingerboard

koa

Bridge

mahogany

Headstock veneer

none

Binding, trim

Top

rope

Back

rope

Fingerboard

two inlaid wood stripes

Headstock(s)

none

Soundhole

rope

                 Inlay

dot fret markers

                 Pickguard

koa

Dimensions Upper Bout 9-1/2"
Lower Bout 15-1/4"
Body at endpin 3-1/2"

                 Comments

 

 

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