Weissenborn Guitars History
During hawaiian guitars boom, emerged de hollow neck guitar, improving tone and volume because of its larger sound chamber that extended to the neck of the guitar. The instrument was very succesful until the late ´20s, when resonator instruments like Nationals and Dobros made their appearance. Hermann Weissenborn died in 1936 amidst debts and declining business for his shop. Weissenborn´s instruments receive all types of ovations these days, but his luck declined on his latter days. He worked until 3 weeks before his dead in 1936. He died leaving a legacy of a year´s back renting for his shop. He probably couldn't have imagined that the name Weissenborn would be regarded as magic half a century later
It is not sure anyway, who really was the inventor of the hollow neck guitar, but the two most important names are the very Hermann Weissenborn and Norway borned Chris J. Kutssen. Knutsen is today accepted as the developer of hollow necks, and influenced Weissenborn on his early designs, but Hermann C. Weissenborn perfected and made the superior instruments. Knutsen didn´t pay so much attention on quality of sound and finishes.
Hermann C. Weissenborn emigrated from Germany around 1902 and first settled in New York as a violin and piano maker and repairer until 1910. After this, he moved to Los Angeles, where he followed with his activity. A few years later, he extended to guitar making, including ukes and steels as hawaiian music gained popularity in the mainland.
(Left picture shows a kona style 3 guitar on an edge view)
Weissenborn built the finest hawaiian instruments. Even seeked today by many artists, including the teardrop and Kona guitars, wich are atributed to Mr.Weissenborn. Two features set his guitars apart from other period instruments: (un-scalloped) X-bracing on the tops, and tapered bodies that curve from bottom to top. Ladder-braced imitations have more parallel tops and backs.
Opinions regarding the quality of Weissenborns' construction vary. Many players dismiss Weissenborns, with their visible saw marks, rough braces, and glue squeeze-out, as badly made. "They're not made badly," retorts David Lindley, "they're made simply--sometimes a little bit crude, but a fantastic, superior design. They all sound good."
"Not fine-sanding the saw marks doesn't hurt the tone," says Ben Harper. "He left an edge like music needs. If you take too long with anything, it loses its effectiveness. He took the right amount of time."
Light construction is the blessing and the curse of Weissenborn guitars. It gives them their tone and volume but makes them susceptible to ravages of time, environment, and overstringing. That's why many surviving Weissenborns need braces and bridges reglued, cracks fixed, or seams rejoined.
The value many of the original instruments today can only be understood for the legend around them but also, their unique tone cannot exactly be equaled as the woods used in their construction, the hawaiian koa wood, is today protected.
The net result of Weissenborn's innovations and adaptations is an instrument that was ideal for the music of its era and is adaptable three generations later. "What's cool about the Weissenborn," says Greg Leisz, "is that you can play it in a variety of different styles of music. It isn't really genre-specific as long as you give it room for the sound to come through the track."