Knutsen 3/4-scale Harp Guitar

Fully restored, plays great, and ready to go!

SOLD

 

 

 

 

I always have a lot of interest in smaller harp guitars, specifically those with shorter scales.  This one is pretty idiot-proof, as it was fully restored by Knutsen guru Kerry Char.

Knutsen's usual "short scale" instruments (he was a prolific builder of this variation) are normally "true 3/4 scale" - meaning 19-3/8" in this case.  The neck width is also slightly narrower to match.

How to you tune such an instrument?  Well, we've had conversations about this for years.  The consensus is that these were designed for women, children, or anyone with smaller hands.  And as such, they still retained standard pitch.  Using the same strings as for a full size guitar simply means that the strings are more slack.  In that case, we imagine that some 1900's players may have tuned them to relative pitch, as the strings would allow, perhaps to suit their vocal range, for instance.

This same short string length enables one to use it as a terz harp guitar if they wish (tuned up a minor third) - that's what I did with mine.  Currently, this is tuned to standard pitch, strung with medium strings, which still feel plenty light.  One minor drawback is that you need a softer touch with a neck like this - you don't want to grip the neck overly hard, which can cause intonation problems in open chords (I'm giving you this heads up, because I myself tend to be heavy-handed). There are also some finger wear depressions in the original fingerboard.

Condition: Though this has obvious wear from age and extensive playing - including severe "washboard effect") under the soundhole from pick wear, I still give it high marks.  It's essentially all-original, with no unsightly repairs, so appearance is "antique" and consistent.  The only inconsistencies are where the headstock was re-French polished, the new frets, and new bone nut and saddle.  These were of course necessary to turn it into a true player's instrument.

And play it does!  Intonation is flawless, thanks to Kerry's re-working of the bridge (the holes are filled, and new ones re-drilled a little lower, so a larger, compensated saddle can be installed; you can just see where the original fretwire saddle was above).  Neck is straight and angle is perfect - this can be adjusted by the L-bracket (note the new extra spacer in there so everything now aligns again perfectly).

Tone is a bit more unique - these smaller instruments don't sound as rich and robust as a full size Knutsen, nor do they sing like a Dyer.  Perhaps a bit more "compressed" with more fundamental.  Still, plenty loud and balanced across the entire range.  Right now, classical nylon strings are on the subs (and sound great), but do not at all match the neck's steel strings.  For all I know, this could sound great strung completely in classical nylon or gut.  For my own instrument, I found silk & bronze (with S&B basses to match) made it sound the sweetest.  In essence, you may want to experiment with tunings and strings, because this is one versatile instrument.

Other repairs: Essentially no work was needed or done on the body.  Inside, only the bridge plate was replaced - to conform a little more to "reality."

Bottom line: Many ask about these vintage small Knutsens to use as a "modern professional harp guitar."  The answer is "not quite" - there are simply obvious differences in brand new instruments and old Knutsens.  But this one is comfortably close enough, and probably sounds as good or better than a randomly-commissioned new small-size or short-scale instrument.  Mainly, it's a playable, usable cool vintage Knutsen!

-Gregg Miner, the "harp guitar pope"

Specifications: 

  • No label: Circa date 1911-1913
  • All original except for restoration listed above
  • Spruce top
  • Mahogany back, sides and main headplates (bass headplate unknown)
  • Fir neck, fingerboard mahogany?
  • Mahogany bridge
  • "Block" purfling in various shades of brown, bordered by pearwood(?)
  • 4 pearl dot markers
  • Original Knutsen mix-and-match tuners, some installed backwards
  • 5 sub-bass strings
  • 19-3/8" scale
  • 1-11/16" nut width
  • Dimensions: 14" lower bout, 4-3/16" depth at tail block, 36" total length
  • No case

Price: $3,750 SOLD


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