Knutsen all-koa Harp Guitar, c.1913
An un-restored "diamond in the rough"?
Those of you familiar with my "public service announcement" on shopping for Dyer harp guitars probably know by now that my motto is "A Dyer in the hand is worth two in the bush." Here is just such a case - on the positive side of things.
There would simply be no way to know exactly how valuable the "good" qualities are of this particular specimen without having it in hand. Similarly, all the "negatives" can be accurately addressed without all the endless hidden "gotchas."
This one is priced for playability, originality, solid condition...and tone. Sound is loud and proud! Maybe a 9 out of 10? Clean, balanced and medium-bright with killer bass. Very reminiscent of Stephen Bennett's great-grandfather's in tone - clear and piano-like, with less overtones than usual.
But before I go too much further, the boo-boos: All should be easily seen in the various photos. Top:: I believe this is the original finish, which was colored somewhere between a natural color and the very dark orange of Stephen Bennett's instrument. You can see the natural color at the pick-wear area. There is a small, splotchy finish repair (I assume) below the bridge. There are a few normal dings here and there and the center seam below the bridge has been re-glued. Most noticeable, but not at every angle, are two long rectangular finish artifacts from some previous taped or attached something-or-other (Autoharp pickups?). These have not been touched, but if you're super-particular, you might consider re-French polishing (blending or "re-constituting" - not re-finishing) the top. Me, I'd leave it. There are some older repaired cracks in the bass headstock veneer, along with some long finish "crazing" lines. That discoloration on the bridge could likely be re-"ebonized." Plenty of scratches on the sides and back, but virtually no cracks - just one old minor glued one on the back.
All in all, moderate wear and tear, but super-solid body that doesn't appear to have ever had much work (other than the minor top seam gluing, the previous owner's repairs included gluing a crack in the bridge plate - that's it!).
The soundboard has the least amount of bridge "bellying" I think I've ever seen - almost none. The top and fingerboard bend down after the 12th fret as nearly all specimens do. In this case, I don't think there's any need to touch it. Playability is otherwise fine, with action at the 12th about 1/8" to bottom of E strings. Neck otherwise very straight and frets all true (old partial re-fret?).
Original neck tuners are fine (which is typical), except for 1 loose (but working) button. The subs are original as well and not a joy to use (also typical - you'll be constantly tightening the friction peg screws to hold your tuning). I'd highly recommend swapping them out for 4:1 banjo tuners as nearly all owners who play these are doing at this point.
Nice (for most) radiused fingerboard. Though the nut width is typical (1-15/16"), string spacing is a bit less (1-17/32 on E centers) - some of you may love this, or of course the nut can be finessed in either direction (full dimensions are listed on the Harpguitars.net downloadable Dyer Table of Measurements Excel spreadsheet.
Nice original (and legible) label. On the old Hartman list, #877 is "c.1919" - on my three alternate Timelines, it is still close (c.1918 in each case). Dating is still largely theoretical guesswork, even with all the latest analysis (see my brand new, extensive update here).
A homemade hardshell case is included (a bit tricky to stuff back in), or feel free to explore other case options here.
Bottom line: I'd call this a solid, desirable player's or collector's specimen - definitely "blessed." Dyers are still the most popular vintage harp guitar bar none, and the prices continue to climb. Everyone wants one - and, if you're reading this, I know you do!
-Gregg Miner, the "harp guitar pope"
DVDs by Stephen Bennett, John Doan, Muriel Anderson, Andy McKee,
Stacy Hobbs, Tom Shinness, Dan LaVoie, James Kline, Larry
Berwald, Bill Dutcher, Gregg Miner, Pasquale Taraffo
All Site Contents © 2006,
2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
PO Box 573155
Tarzana, CA 91357