New Knutsen Design

This is a strange one!  Yet another experimental model by Knutsen, this looks like a hollow arm harp mandolin that stopped growing at a certain age.  Or a multi-direction “teardrop”?  I don’t know, but the experiment didn’t stop there.  Rather than a normal inlaid pickguard, Chris added another inlaid rosette there, with a separate piece of similar wood with a celluloid dot center.  Interesting, to say the least.  Should I even give it an “HM” (Harp Mandolin) inventory code?  Or perhaps “WM” (for “weird”!)?

This is owned by Dick Fiscus of the old Red Fiddle shop in Tacoma, photos kindly donated by Kerry Char.  Dick was one of the few sources of Knutsen harp guitars in those first days of discovery and research that I began with the late Dan Most about 20 years ago.

A strange heel support added after the fact

This makes no sense to me…

The label is code SE4, which is the harp guitar label SE1 with the bit about the “11-strings” and tuning cut off.  It doesn’t specifically with the time frame, other than the typical Knutsen mandolin “c.1910.”

  1. Darrell Says:

  2. Gregg Says:

    I KNEW it looked familiar!

  3. Dave White Says:

    If that were made in more modern times I’d say the “second rosette” was an extra soundhole that didnt work and was filled in – the hole in the centre being where the pivot went to cut the circular infill piece and was then filled with the celluloid dot.

  4. John Bushouse Says:

    I’d go with the “oops” soundhole theory. Or maybe he salvaged the top from a different instrument he was building: he took one look at the top, said to himself, “hmmm… it’s decorative!” and went from there. It seems like he was a master at never throwing away or getting rid of any piece of wood if he didn’t have to.

  5. Darrell Says:

    I agree. So much of Knutsen’s aesthetic is rooted in obsessive frugality – I’m convinced a lot of his more unusual inlays were less about decoration and more about excising cosmetic flaws or otherwise making up for material limitations. Heck, I think that’s why all of his instruments are basically one-offs – each one was shaped according to whatever usable piece of wood he had available. You get the feeling he might have been searching for what to use as a pickguard, and he figured, “Well, I already have the circle cutter in the drill press, I have plenty of hardwood scrap, what the hell!” Judging by the amount of pickwear on this instrument, I’m guessing he abandoned this idea pretty quickly.

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