Kona Style 4 Hawaiian Acoustic Guitar , c. 1923

Kona  Style 4 Hawaiian Acoustic Guitar ,  c. 1923

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Item # 6876
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Kona Style 4 Model Hawaiian Acoustic Guitar, c. 1923, made in Los Angeles, California, natural varnish finish, koa wood body and neck.

One of the 1920s' most distinctive and unusual instruments, the Kona Hawaiian Guitar has a somewhat twisted history, involving several fairly well-known names in Los Angeles lutherie of the 'teens and 'twenties. While this particularly beautiful top-of-the-line Kona was built by Herman Weissenborn, he neither designed nor sold the guitar, and the instrument has many differences from the standard Weissenborn creations.

While most Weissenborn-style instruments have an integral hollow neck, the Kona guitars have a short, V-profile solid neck with metal frets...theoretically it is possible to play the Kona in either Spanish or Hawaiian style, although most folks are satisfied using them as a steel guitar! The Kona guitar is a unique-sounding instrument as well an extremely attractive one!

The "Kona" trademark belonged to one C. S. Delano, who was one of the first instructors of the Hawaiian steel guitar in the continental United States. Delano claimed to have studied with Joseph Kekuku, billed as the inventor of the Hawaiian technique, and opened his own teaching studio in Los Angeles in the early 1910s. As with many other teachers, it soon occurred to Delano that it would be a smart idea to have custom instruments for sale to students to supplement the studio's income.

At some point, Delano had come upon the work of incredibly creative if highly eccentric Seattle luthier Chris Knutsen who was experimenting with a "convertible" guitar which could be played in either the Spanish or Hawaiian styles. Knutsen's design involved an adjustable neck with a screw bracket to change the fingerboard angle, but either he or Delano soon realized that an adjustment of the nut height was all that was really needed.

The first few known Konas were built by Knutsen, who moved down to Los Angeles around this time. Despite his creative genius, Knutsen's craftsmanship was eccentric at best and he was never interested in getting involved in quantity production, so his designs are now mostly remembered by other names. After having some of his distinctive Konas built by another Los Angeles concern, the Schireson Brothers, Delano eventually settled on Herman Weissenborn as the supplier of his custom brand instruments.

Weissenborn's name is now associated primarily with the hollow-neck Hawaiian guitars that bear his stamp, but these were also originally designed by Chris Knutsen. Around 1923 Weissenborn organized a large workshop for the production of these instruments and that appears to be when he took over Kona production as well. This guitar has all the stylistic hallmarks of a Weissenborn-made instrument, with the original plain Kona label used from 1923-25. Although visually similar (at least from the front), the styles of koa wood Hawaiian guitars from the Weissenborn workshop have notable differences. The typical Weissenborn-brand Hawaiian guitar has a relatively thin body with a hollow neck; the Konas compensate for their solid neck by having a much deeper body. The Kona guitars in general often have a darker, richer tone, while the Weissenborns have a lighter, airier sound.

Kona guitars in general are somewhat rarer than Weissenborns, as they were distributed only through Delano's studio. While Konas do not have official style designations, this guitar is the highest grade offered and corresponds to the top-of-the-line Weissenborn Style 4. The sound hole and all the front edges including the fingerboard and headstock are bound with Hawaiian style "zipper" binding and the fingerboard has shaped pearl inlay. The koa top and back have an amazingly beautiful figured grain pattern. Whoever C. S. Delano sold this one to, it didn't get a lot of use and has come down to us in a spectacularly well-preserved state!

Overall length is 37 1/2 in. (95.2 cm.), 13 1/4 in. (33.7 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 4 1/4 in. (10.8 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 25 in. (635 mm.). Width of nut is 1 7/8 in. (48 mm.).

This Kona remains in beautiful, all original condition, with just a few old repairs and no alterations or finish work. There are three repaired back cracks along the koa grain as is typical of Weissenborn instruments. The tuners and even the bridgepins appear original. The ambered varnish is generally well-preserved with some typical checking and scuffing, mostly to the back, but overall this instrument is about as nice as these come! Excellent sound; a super example of this fairly rare 90+ year old instrument. Excellent - Condition.