This is a decent, solid "bass-guitar" (aka: "kontragitarre"), likely from Mittenwald, Germany during the first few decades of the 20th century.
It is being offered "as is" at a very affordable price. Like many vintage European harp guitars, someone long ago decided to string it with steel. Luckily, the stiff wooden rod inside the instrument prevented the top from caving in - it only has slight dishing, and the bridge (screwed down) is fine. The neck has bent some, so that there is a lot of relief - more on the treble than the bass side. I had two repairmen look at this - one suggested trying a heat-and-bend procedure to straighten it out more, another thought the fingerboard should be re-planed flat and re-fretted. There is no clock key adjustable neck on this and the fingerboard is attached to the top. Therefore, we leave this potential restoration up to the buyer. The good news is that, once I re-strung it with nylon, it's actually playable as is. Intonation is fine, and the action is not that bad - 1/8" at the 12th fret for both outer strings, with an extra 1/32" bow on the high E at the middle of the neck. Still, it plays nearly perfectly in tune (nylon strings stretch, so are much more forgiving than steel). Regardless, it is priced so that all issues can be taken care of in the future, and still keep total investment safelyunder a grand.
Essentially, I wanted to see if it could be used "as is" for awhile as a first "practice harp guitar." The answer is yes. Now that it is strung, I can also report on tone. Not bad! The neck strings are surprisingly resonant and balanced. The subs - all nine of them - sound consistent and clean. They are slightly quieter than the neck's low E string, so not as robust as some players like, but certainly fine for an inexpensive instrument. The tuners should be lubricated, but all work fine.
The post may have contributed to some cracking on the tail block, that looks like it's been there for ages. There are two cracks on the back about 3" and 6", and both look easily restorable. The wood end pin is chipped. I don't see any other cracks, repaired or otherwise, on the top or sides, jsut normal, light playing wear. Not sure if the black paint of the headstocks and necks is original, but it may be. The fingerboards appear to be rosewood.
Curiously, there is an extra slot in the sub-bass nut (original). Perhaps this gives the player an option to move the string bank closer to or further from the neck?
Bottom line: These kinds of instruments are offered almost weekly on EBay, usually from Germany - but are all but impossible to judge as far as quality, playability and tone. So they are extremely risky to bid on, which is a shame, as they are a "best kept secret" for harp guitarists looking for a nylon string sound, or novices wishing just to try the sub-bass idea before investing in a better instrument and/or steel string. Expert Benoît Meulle-Stef always has some available at BMS Guitars in Belgium, as do a few other reputable European dealers from time to time.
For Americans, choices are to pay extra shipping from these sources, roll the dice on EBay, or check out the occasional listings here. I'll always be happy to make these available.
-Gregg Miner, the "harp guitar pope"
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