Knutsen Hawaiian Guitar

This one is strange!  Though placed here and given an "HW" inventory number, I consider it "in limbo" for the moment.  I expect additional photos, but until then, I simply am not sure.  At first glance, it appears to be some new "solid neck" form of Weissenborn-shaped Knutsen steel guitar.  It may have had a convertible bracket - or more likely "brace" - as I doubt the neck could possibly have been shifted.  Most convertibles have the "scooped out" joint area, so that the neck/fingerboard can flex.  At least one has a very thin butt joint.  This one seems to also have a butt joint, but a bit thicker.  It has raised metal frets, which makes me think that it may have been played exactly like the convertibles - but with only one set action.  In other words, one would play lower position standard fretted chords, or play on the lap with a slide - being a bit more careful with pressure.  So technically, a "non-convertible" convertible!  Strange, but then, this is Knutsen we're talking about!
The other problem with classification is: though it looks a bit odd from the side - not at all like a "hollow-neck" - it actually has as much or more hollow "neck" area than some, such as HW23 and HW25.  Those simply have the more normal beveled, carved transition, not this simple butt joint.  More photos might provide more details....

NOW - let's talk about provenance.  Here's what the owner tells us:

"I was born and raised in Santa Barbara, CA.  My grandfather Kem Weber had this guitar and a lute that apparently he played.  He died in 1963 and was a famous Moderne (sp correct) industrial designer who came to the U.S. after helping design the German section of the Panama-Pacific Exhibition in San Francisco in 1914.  In his youth was apprenticed to the Royal Cabinetmaker in Potsdam, Germany and became a Journeyman.  He then entered the Academy of Applied Arts in Berlin in 1908 and studied there und helped design and supervised the German section of the Panama-Pacific Exhibition.  He stayed in California at the outset of World War I and married, raising a family and doing a lot of interior, architectural, furniture, house wares, set design and product design work.  I was 10 when he died and about 15 years later the guitar was given to me by my grandmother."  - Peter Edwards, Nevada City, CA

As all Knutsen Archives readers probably know by now, the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition (PPIE) was the largest event to highlight Hawaiian music.  Personally, I believe Knutsen developed his "New Hawaiian Family" label "line" of instruments specifically to coincide with the PPIE event.  But wherever he lived during the "Lost Years" of 1914-1916 (presumably with his daughter and son-in-law in Los Angeles) - we all concur that he must have frequented the Hawaiian events to sell his instruments.  Some of us even wonder if he might have had a booth there at some point.  Regardless, here is another curious coincidence of someone being in the right place at the presumed time to obtain an instrument we circa date to have been built just prior to that event.  Once again, how I long for that time machine!

(images copyright Peter Edwards)

.Knutsen Archives Inventory Number

HW33

                 Category

Hollow Neck Hawaiian Guitars

                 Body Style

"Weissenborn-shaped"

                 Current or last known owner

Peter Edwards

                 Year (approx)

1909-1914

                 Label

SE3

                 Courses / Strings

6 strings

                 Frets

raised metal

                 Scale length unknown
                 Neck Joint butt joint, at around the fifth fret

Woods

Top

spruce

Back & Sides

unknown

Neck

unknown

Fingerboard

unknown

Bridge

unknown

Headstock veneer

unknown

Binding, trim

Top

black/ivoroid

Back

none

Fingerboard

ivorioid

Headstock(s)

none

Soundhole

rope

                 Inlay

fancy fret markers

                 Pickguard

none

Dimensions Upper Bout  
Lower Bout  
Body at endpin  

                 Comments

 

 

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