3/4 scale 
Harp Guitar


Fully restored 
to the Nth degree!

There is a lot of interest in "short scale" harp guitars these days - both vintage and new instruments alike.  Players with smaller hands are of course an obvious audience, but many others find them an appealing variation on their full-size instruments.  In contrast to many typical 22-23" short scale guitars, the Knutsen instruments are truly "3/4 scale" - usually 19-1/4" to be exact (as this one is).

I've had two of these distinctive instruments myself - this one, which I restored and eventually sold here, and a nicer one, which I kept (and played on my new CD).  This may be the nicest one yet!  One of the fanciest specimens of this model known, it "appears" to be in fantastic condition, due to having been thoroughly restored.  How so?  Well, because it started out as a "basket case" - one so problematic, that it could either be given up on, or tackled in such a way as to provide a "complete makeover." 

Only a very skilled and very patient luthier would even consider taking on such a project.  Luckily, the owner happened to be one such luthier!  He is Duane Heilman, of Black Bear Guitars & Ukuleles. readers may have run across his beautiful custom-designed harp ukuleles here.  Duane kindly provided me with some before, during, and after photos for The Knutsen Archives, along with a complete run-down on every single repair done.  Prospective customers are encouraged to check out the work here.  You'll see that this instrument has been inventoried for awhile now as specimen # HGS53 (Knutsen Archives code system).  The new owner can choose to remain anonymous or be listed permanently in the Archives as well.

The good and bad news for a prospective buyer:  To my eye (judging solely from the photos, as you are), it now looks as good as a 100-year old previously cracked and warped Knutsen possibly could.  Is is absolutely "ready to go" - more so than the previous one I sold.  The only negative to my mind is that it was re-finished (by necessity), which may be an issue for certain vintage guitar collectors.  I'm one of those myself, but in this case - with Duane's stellar aesthetics and execution - I'd say it's a more than adequate trade off.  It's hard to say how it affects the "value,"  as a Knutsen of this style, in this condition, simply doesn't exist.  None of the now five surviving instruments like this known has stood up to the ravages of time.  Thus, any newly-discovered, untouched all-original specimen is an un-playable, and almost un-displayable, example of an otherwise ultra-rare and important historical harp guitar.  Value is consequently low.  The restoration necessary to give it value may cost more than its final restored intrinsic or market value, so it is often a Catch-22 case of diminishing returns.  

In this case, the owner didn't have to pay to have the work done, he was able to do it himself.  That may be irrelevant, as Duane put significantly more hours into this than are reflected in the price.  He knows that he can't ask what he's invested into it in money and labor.  So if you are as impressed with, and drawn to, the resulting instrument as much as I am, I would suggest jumping on it.

I can't speak to the tone, as it is not on premises, but expect it is at least as good as the other two I've had and played.  The main difference is that it has been completely re-braced, which could affect the sound.  If you're curious about that, keeping the innards of a Knutsen "all-original" for value or integrity is laughable.  Kerry Char (who has restored many of my own Knutsen instruments) often re-braces them, and in doing so, is sometimes forced to change them considerably - as the original placement, configuration and execution can be quite terrible (though it can also be acceptable, and I always have him leave them when he can).

It undoubtedly plays great, other than one (typical) intonation issue Duane mentions in his article.  He's tuned it to standard pitch, but of course, all shorts of stringing and pitch options can be considered.  That's part of why these are so much fun!

Note: this instrument offers full 48-hour approval, and will be shipped direct from Black Bear Guitars.  U.S. buyers only, no overseas sales.

- Gregg Miner, the "harp guitar pope"


  • Original label (code SE1, which denotes c.1906-1908)
  • Cedar top
  • Honduras Mahogany back and sides
  • Walnut headplates and bridge
  • Fancy pearl inlays
  • 5 sub-bass strings
  • 19-1/4" scale
  • 1-21/32 nut width, string spacing at saddle: 2-3/8 E to E
  • Dimensions: 14-9/16" lower bout, 3-15/16" depth at tail block, ~37" total length
  • No case 
  • Strings: See HGS53.  New strings are available here.  If you need help calculating gauges for your tuning on this instrument (or if you would like help with tuning suggestions), just ask!

Price: $4500 SOLD

CDs & 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
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