Weissenborn | Kona Style 1 | 1920’s | 8 (our database)
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- Model: Kona Style 1
- Year: 1920’s
- Back and sides: Koa
- Body Length:10.5″
- Upper Bout: 9.5″
- Lower Bout: 13.5″
- Body Depth Neck Heel: 3 2/16″
- Body Depth Tail Block: 4″
- Scale Length: 25″
- Nut Width: 1 7/8″
- String Spacing: 2.5″
Kona guitars were built for a Mr Charles S. DeLano from approximately 1915. He was a self styled “instructor of Hawaiian steel guitar” and like the other slide guitar purveyors, likely sold instruments alongside his instructional material. Although initially built by 2 seperate luthiers: Norwegian born Chris Knutsen and German born Hermann Weissenborn. Knutsen, the older luthier was born in 1856 and moved from Seattle to Los Angeles in 1916. Weissenborn was 7 years junior and initially started in New York but also ended up in Los Angeles around 1910.
Knutsen was born Johan Christian Kammen June 24, 1856 in Norway and is best known was an innovator, building most of his guitars with spruce tops, lateral bracing and cruder building techniques such as his use of screws, brackets and unusual shaped nuts. He is best known for his harp guitars which feature a large hollow arm for sub-bass strings.
German born Weissenborn had a more standardised, refined building philosophy and his guitars featured mostly x braced koa tops and several different “styles” with increasing levels of ornamentation. After around 1923, Kona guitars were built exclusively by Weissenborn.
The levels of ornamentation in 1930 were:
Style 1: Plain (retail price $40)
Style 2: Above plus rope purfling around the soundhole. (retail price $56)
Style 3: Above plus rope purfling along the fingerboard. (retail price $67.50)
Style 4: Rope purfling around the soundhole, top, back, fingerboard and headstock and fancy fretboard inlays. (retail price $79)
In general, increasing figure in the Koa with increasing style numbers.
Kona guitars differ from the more common “Weissenborn” style in that the neck in a Kona is partially built in the spanish style and partially hollow, whereas the “Weissenborn” guitars have an entirely hollow neck. Additionally, they had slightly deeper bodies, narrower bouts and the short solid neck had bone nuts and wire frets.
The owner comments: “ Early 1920’s Weissenborn built Kona style 1 Hawaiian guitar, Koa back and sides-Spruce top with white band around body and fretboard, older paper label, batwing bridge with the usual old string wear, metal saddle and steel nut. This came to me having had two mismatched tuners (I replaced) and all the fret wires were removed. I found an inch long piece inside the guitar and attempted to put new ones in, after installing one (carpenter- not luthier) I came to my senses! Leave this for a pro.
The fretboard and slots are in good condition and whomever removed them, didn’t pry them out. I will send the new ones along to the buyer. The white binding is loose on one side at the neck, spot on back that has been glued, one of the pegs looks melted, original finish cracked with ageand a few minor dings and scratches, and one small crack in seam near neck on back. Overall pretty nice guitar. I put new steel strings on it and it has a booming volume.“
Classic Instruments, Weissenborn Style#4, By: George Gruhn and Walter Carter, vintage guitar magazine, 3/13/2009
Christiaan Oyens, Weissenborn Knutsen the Hawaiian Steeel Guitar
Pictures kind courtesy of Randy Troxel
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