Knutsen Harp Hawaiian Guitar 

Updated, June, 2008

One word: WOW!
This harp-Hawaiian guitar is exquisite – from its condition, to its craftsmanship, to its unique and startling features.

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

hhw16side.jpg (30581 bytes)
I have to start with the most striking feature: an original "floating back" stand-off panel, attached and held away from the back by three points and presumably created to support the instrument on the lap or a table without dampening the vibration of the back. An inlay matching those on the top in style and materials verifies the authenticity. Made of mahogany and nicely bound. What a fascinating new Knutsen (or customer-commissioned) feature!
hhw16back.jpg (20335 bytes) hhw16backpc2.jpg (37968 bytes) hhw16back3.jpg (15218 bytes) hhw16back2.jpg (24018 bytes)
The next most obvious feature is the spectacular decoration: a spruce top adorned with inlaid areas of mahogany (strangely grained) and "ebonized" walnut. These are further inlaid with new Knutsen designs of flowers and acorns of pearl and abalone, along with other pearl designs. The fingerboard features similarly extravagant inlays.
hhw16inlayul.jpg (38861 bytes) hhw16inlayll.jpg (15145 bytes) hhw16fb.jpg (29373 bytes) hhw16inlayur.jpg (28308 bytes)
The back & sides are (believed to be) made of cypress - a rare choice - as is the neck/headstock. And look at how thin the headstock gets!
The size is also a bit unusual: the large body size of 16" wide, with a slightly shortened 24" scale, makes this a dramatic, large, but short and squat, instrument.
The bass arm tuners are the rarer (but more practical) "buck tooth" geared tuners.
hhw16left.jpg (19578 bytes) hhw16head.jpg (31180 bytes) hhw16headside.jpg (18035 bytes) hhw16.jpg (22252 bytes) hhw16headside2.jpg (18317 bytes) hhw16headback.jpg (23543 bytes)
Finally, we have a strange situation with the (missing) treble strings. The typical 4 pin holes near the bridge look right (authentic) – and there is a mark from a little mini-bridge as is seen on some specimens. But there are no matching tuner holes at the other end. Instead, there are 2 screw holes on the side of the upper bout – as if Knutsen had a second arm to hold the trebles, similar to the typical bass arm. There is a chance that the trebles were added later by someone else, but I suspect they were original. It certainly wouldn’t be out of character for Knutsen to come up with the "second harp arm bracket" option.  

Update, June, 2008:  In fact, it is becoming more likely, with the discovery of HHW22 and HHW23 - nearly identical specimens, each missing the treble tuners section.  They could have a replacement insert where the tuners were - but one also has mysterious screw holes on the side of the neck.

hhw16holes.jpg (20576 bytes)
The label has been covered with some sort of chord/fret position "cheat sheet" – underneath is a label of the same dimensions as the McDuff St. label, a good candidate – as the instrument shares much in common with the other fancy McDuff-era instruments (HHW7 & HHW8).

Knutsen Archives Inventory Number



Hollow Neck Hawaiian Guitars

                 Body Style

"'Weissenborn-shaped' Harp Hawaiian"

                 Current or last known owner

Folk Music Center, Claremont, CA / Ben Harper

                 Year (approx)



unknown - possibly McDuff address label

                 Label Code LA11?

                 Courses / Strings

12 course: 6 strings on neck, 2 bass, 4 treble (missing arm)


inlaid wood

                 Scale length 24"
                 Neck Joint hollow, square, taper begins at about the fourth fret



spruce with mahogany and walnut inlays

Back & Sides








Headstock veneer


Binding, trim










double rope


see text above


see text above

Dimensions Upper Bout 10-3/8"
Lower Bout 16"
Body at endpin 3-7/8"




To Hawaiian Guitars


To Next Instrument

[Biographical] [Instruments] [Historical Photos]
Credits] [FAQ] [Bibliography] [Updates] [Links] [Contact]
Home (Knutsen Archives)] [Home (

All Site Contents Copyright © Gregg Miner, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005,2006,2007,2008. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright and Fair Use of material and use of images: See Copyright and Fair Use policy.