Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Vintage Guitar - Weissenborn Style 4

Check out Vintage Guitar magazines "Classic Instruments" feature on the Weissenborn Style 4, by George Gruhn and Walter Carter! Featuring a Tony Francis Style 4!

Read it here!

Walter Carter Photo.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Solid-Neck Weissenborn - Part 2

Part 2 - The Master Template.

Unlike the regular production models I make, the new Solid-Neck model is the first to be made without an instrument I own or have had through the shop for restoration or repair. Typically, I have my patterns and notebook which have the details and specifications for each model, and then the master template - the vintage guitars themselves which are a constant reference in terms of musicality and feel.

However, with this instrument I am extremely honored to be collaborating with Tom Noe, who has put together a remarkably detailed set of plans, and comprehensively photographed the instrument, which have been made into working patterns and molds.

During the process of patterning the instrument, I asked Tom about this special and exceptionally rare find, and how he acquired it;

"I tuned the solid-neck Weissenborn up and played it only once because it looks like it just came out of Weissenborn's shop and doesn't have a mark on it, and I want to keep it that way. It sounds beautiful! I bought it from Red Bower, a vintage guitar shop owner in Idaho in 1992. He had the guitar for over 15 years and occasionally displayed it, but never let anybody touch it. I had heard of "Red's Style 4" and many had tried to buy it from him. I was told that he would part with it. But Red and Dan Most were good friends, and Dan had bought a few Knutsen harp guitars from Red. We were over there one day, and Red decided to sell it to me. That and a Style C Weissenborn that he had. The story on the solid neck was that an elderly lady had brought it in to Red's one day. Her husband bought it when he returned home from WWI. He couldn't get the hang of finger picks and the flat bar in vogue those days, so the guitar went into the back of a closet where it sat for over five decades. That's why the guitar is so special to me. Other than showing it in the book, I keep it hidden away and don't show it to anybody. Until now.

From the attached photos, you can see its vibrant colors. Some of the detail was lost in the book photo because I took the photo with a film camera and then had the print scanned."

And so, its with great privilege that I share these wonderful images from Tom, with you-

Circa 1928 production model and pre-1920s Solid-Neck compared. As Tom mentioned in his book, the Solid-Neck is a much smaller instrument overall.

Front view.

Back view.

Profile view. You can see here that the Hawaiian vault is almost non existent, yet remains very graceful as the body forms into the neck. The body is only 2.5 inches at the tail block.

Knutsenesque 'bow-tie' bridge.

Peg head face.

Waffle end slot head tuners.

Part 3 Coming Soon.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Lap slide lessons on Youtube

For anybody who is new (or old) to lap slide guitar, one of the first things people notice is that there is not a lot of instructional material available for this style of instrument. Daddystovepipe - one of Youtubes most beloved maestro of the blues and nicest persons one could hope to meet, has put these great free lessons on Youtube!

Lesson 1

Lesson 2

Lesson 3

Lesson 4

Lesson 5

Daddystovepipe plays a Tony Francis Style 4 Hawaiian made in 2007. Tab for this lesson is also available through Daddystovepie's website.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Solid-Neck Weissenborns - An Introduction

The first time I saw a Solid-Neck Weissenborn was in Tom Noe's wonderful book. These guitars are the rarest of the rare – even more so than the Teardrops, which now number in the high teens. And were the original top of the line model prior to the factory in 1923. So when Tom sent me this incredible picture, courtesy of Dave Ogden, with Mrs. Weissenborn playing one of the Solid-Neck Hawaiians, it gave a rare insight into Weissenborn's early years - circa 1922.

And so we begin simply with the picture – and I'll let Tom take over from here. -TF

It is now well established that when Hermann C. Weissenborn began crafting his famous Hawaiian steel guitars, he borrowed heavily from Chris J. Knutsen. Several very thin Weissenborn steel guitars exhibiting Knutsen’s distinct features, such as headstock and bridge shapes, as well as the use of a green dressmaker’s seam tape to join back plates, have now surfaced. Knutsen built teardrop-shaped steel guitars and ones with solid necks as early as 1909-1912, as evidenced in Isami Uchizaki’s Tony Ku Collection.

While Weissenborn waited until late in his career to build nearly identical teardrop-shaped guitars, he built several steel guitars with solid necks during his experimental years of 1916-1922. It appears the earlier solid-neck instruments prior to about 1920 were fairly thin, like their hollow-neck counterparts. They have only a 2.5-inch body depth, are smaller overall but still have a 25-inch scale length, and have the Knutsen-type bow-tie bridges. After about 1920, they were built with a 3.5-inch body depth and nearly production type bat-wing bridges. All are Koa wood throughout We can find no evidence showing production after 1922 since none of those in existence have the burned-in brand, but rather have the Weissenborn picture label.

And so the solid-neck Weissenborns are extremely rare. In fact, only six are presently known to exist, and one of those came to light just recently. In addition, a photograph of Mrs. Weissenborn playing a solid-neck Weissenborn was recently discovered by Dave Ogden of Clear Creek Recording. While all of the existing solid-neck Weissenborns have Style 4 appointments, the one Mrs. Weissenborn is playing, the whereabouts of which is unknown, has Style 3 appointments (rope binding around the top only).

The recent emergence of newly-discovered solid-neck Weissenborns coupled with the photo of Mrs. Weissenborn playing one, has inspired Tony Francis and Tom Noe to collaborate on the reproduction of solid-neck Weissenborns. Tom used his solid-neck Weissenborn with a 2.5-inch body depth to create a rudimentary set of plans, which Tony transformed into working drawings and molds. Tony is busy assembling the woods and parts to commence construction in his shop of what hopefully will be first of many solid-neck instruments. -TN