SJ: Was Hermann Weissenborrn the originator of the hollow-necked steel guitar?   TN: The first hollow-necked steel guitar as we know it was created by Chris Knutsen in approximately 1909. Knutsen was known for his amazing resonant harp guitars, which had a hollow arm projecting from the upper bass bout and supporting sub-bass strings. Knutsen realized that if he “straightened” the harp arm and made a hollow box-like structure for the neck, he could make a steel guitar with improved sound quality. Weissenborn's name is now associated primarily with the hollow-neck Hawaiian guitars that bear his stamp, but these were originally designed by Chris Knutsen. Around 1923, Weissenborn organized a large workshop for the production of these instruments and that appears to be when he took over Kona production as well.

My research shows this guitar is likely circa 1920 as that’s the date showing Knutsen’s shop at 1542 Temple St, Los Angeles, the address printed on the original label pasted inside the soundhole.

However, this same guitar was listed circa 1914 when Emerald City Guitars had it. https://reverb.com/item/288963-chris-knutsen-hollow-hawaiian-1914-natural In 1914, Chris’ son-in-law lived at 1413 Temple St.. Chris may have set up his shop at 1542 Temple as early as 1917, but that address wasn’t found mentioned until 1920. His shop was listed there until at least 1927, ’27 being the year Chris moved in with his daughter. He lived with her until his passing in 1930.

24 7/8” scale. Body length – 37”. Body depth at end pin – 3 ¼” tapering to 2 ½” at neck. Width, at lower bout – 14 15/16”, upper bout – 9 3/8”.

This guitar with its well aged woods is quite lightweight at 3 lbs. For comparison, my Weissenborns weigh from 4 lbs 1 oz to 4 lbs 12 oz. a caveat is the Weissenborns I’ve kept are larger wider bodied.

The top is Spruce. Back and sides, Koa. Neck, Fretboard, bracing and Bridge, Mahogany.

The tone is famous. Think Stradivarius. Only well aged tone woods can impart such deeply resonant tones. Made by the originator, a renowned craftsman who the better known Weisenborn hired and copied; This guitar is in exemplary original condition. It plays & sounds dreamlike.  

It comes with a hard bodied fitted case covered with ballistic cloth.

A bit more history - The 'Kona' trademark belonged to C. S. Delano, who was one of the first instructors of the Hawaiian steel guitar in the continental US. Delano claimed to have studied with Joseph Kekuku, billed as the inventor of the Hawaiian technique, and opened his own teaching studio in Los Angeles in the early 1910's. As with many other teachers, it soon occurred to Delano that it would be a smart idea to have custom instruments for sale to students to supplement the studio's income. At some point, Delano had come upon the work of incredibly creative if highly eccentric Seattle luthier Chris Knutsen who was experimenting with a 'convertible' guitar which could be played in either the Spanish or Hawaiian styles. Knutsen's design involved an adjustable neck with a screw bracket to change the fingerboard angle, but either he or Delano soon realized that an adjustment of the nut height was all that was really needed. The first few known Konas were built by Knutsen, who moved down to Los Angeles around this time. Despite his creative genius, Knutsen's craftsmanship was eccentric at best and he was never interested in getting involved in quantity production so his designs are now mostly remembered by other names. After having some of his distinctive Konas built by another Los Angeles concern, the Schireson Brothers, Delano eventually settled on Herman Weissenborn as the supplier of his custom brand instruments.
Chris Knutsen was a harp guitar, harp mandolin, ukulele, and steel guitar maker living in Port Townsend, WA between the years of 1895 and 1900. He then moved to Tacoma through 1906 when he moved to Seattle. 1914 places him in Los Angeles, CA. He was at the forefront of harp guitar making at that time and also a pioneer in Hawaiian steel guitars, influencing  and his design of Hawaiian guitars (famously played by David Lindley, John Fahey, Bob Brozman, Rusty Young, Tom Noe, Ben Elder, Jon Kellerman, Kevin Fairfield & Gregg Miner as well as others with an appreciation for such full-bodied resonance that full hollow bodies with select aged woods can depart). While in Port Townsend,  showed us a pamphlet on Mr. Knutsen. She already knew of our interest in harp guitars; but we also found harp ukuleles and harp mandolins had been made by Mr. Knutsen.

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Product Specs

Condition:
Excellent (Used)
Brand
Knutsen
Model
Hollow-necked Steel Guitar - (Hawaiian)
Categories
Resonator
Year
1920
Made In
United States

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Guitar Vintners
Joined Feb 2013
Saint James City, FL, United States

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Knutsen Hollow-necked Steel Guitar - (Hawaiian) Circa 1920
$3,995
+ $64 Shipping