Knutsen Harp Steel Guitar, c.1930
SOLD ON EBAY 4/29/2012 for $3851
Please note that I am doing a rare listing on eBay (starting 4/22/2012) for a couple reasons. 1) I am offering this instrument "as is" in need of extensive restoration (and while eBay does poorly with fine offerings, it does better with items in disrepair); and 2) I need a quick sale to replenish my now-overdrawn cash coffers (my own impulsive-but-necessary eBay purchase!).
I'm starting low, have my reserve at my cost, and will do a Buy It Now for $5k, if anyone wants to ensure they don't lose out on this once-in-a-lifetime find.
I was planning to first do a blog on this (and still will), but needed to list it first.
So why is this so Knutsen harp steel (aka Harp Hawaiian guitar) so amazing?
Well, you spotted the back already, right? I know...it's really cool. It's only the second example with the amazing floating back found, the first being Ben Harper's in the Claremont Folk Music Center museum - Knutsen Archives specimen HHW16, probably the fanciest Knutsen ever seen.
This one does his one better by having the back piece rope bound. Other than that, it's similar, if not quite as fancy, and certainly not as pristine.
The other important thing is that this had all the original hardware, including the original treble tuners, the first time we've seen these on a Knutsen, and one that solves the mystery of the Claremont instrument (and perhaps a few others).
I believe the back and sides are koa, while the back piece - which stands off 1/4" to allow the back to resonate while in the lap - is mahogany. Almost everything is rope-bound, the top, the fingerboard (inset), the back, the second back...just amazing. Top is spruce, and the inset pieces may be koa (the top portion probably rosewood). Has fancy fretboard snowflake markers, which are sprinkled throughout the rest of the instrument as well.
It has the final Los Angeles McDuff St. label, covered by an added brace by the fellow who penciled in "Repaired by ... in 1960.
It also has its original trapezoid-shaped case.
I was fully preparing to restore this - while involved, I know exactly what I would have done, and how - but alas, won't get to see that. I did put it back together enough to string up so that I could photograph it for the Archives.
Issues: Photos should give you the full story. Some cracks and separation in the lower back edge area and tail; two (repaired) top cracks, and a few missing pieces of rope. Treble tuners (mandolin 4-plate) work, one of the 2 bass tuners needs gear and post. Finally, Mr. Repairman added a hefty 1/4" thick supporting piece under portions of the top and unknown extra bracing, and then decided to add a coat of some sort of tan-colored varnish. In the bottom right photo, you can see some of this filling a height gap where the top meets the rope edge (I've chipped some away).
Regardless, truly a diamond in the rough and as rare as unusual as Knutsen Hawaiian guitars get.
- Gregg Miner, the "harp guitar pope"
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