Wood and Weissenborns!

One of the advantages to being a wood geek is that  you develop the ‘wood-eye’. If there is freshly cut wood on the ground within 50 feet, I see it. I once spied several large hunks of wood in a overgrown lot at dusk and knew instantly that they were cherry. I don’t know why – I just knew. Those logs are some of the most beautiful wood I have ever found. They had been bucked-up into 3 foot lengths and left to rot. Go figure.

Last week, I was looking at an apartment complex across from Harris’ house. I noticed what looked like a bunch of trimming along the power lines. On my way home, I pulled in to have a look. Laying nearby, amidst a lot of trash and abandoned liquor bottles, lay a gorgeous sycamore tree. I have been looking to get some more sycamore for a long time. I was excited! The tree was about 30 feet long and 21 inches in diameter at the base – perfect for a specific project I have in mind.

This beautiful creature is a Hawaiian steel guitar. It is played sitting down with the back of the instrument resting on one’s lap. Instead of forming chords with your fingers, you use a metal slide.  They are frequently called “Weissenborn” guitars because a dude named Hermann Weissenborn was a well-known builder of them during the 20’s and early 30’s. These guitars are unique in that most of them have hollow necks which give them a larger sound chamber thus improving tone and volume. No one is sure who invented these lap guitars but Chris Knutsen and Weissenborn played a big role in their creation.

So what does this have to do with a sycamore tree? I want to build Hawaiian steel guitars and offer them for sale. I am captivated by the way they look and I am infatuated with the sound they make. Just listen to this:

BUT. . .  there is a problem. Most of the wood I have hoarded is sized for ukuleles. The wood required for a Weissenborn needs to be a LOT longer and a LOT wider. I hardly have anything that will work. This sycamore tree is just what I need. My friend Neil and I cut the tree into 50 inch lengths and managed to load three of these big logs into my old truck. I wished I had brought my camera because it was an interesting project. Neil is the perfect man to have around when on such a project. He is creative, knowledgeable, a great problem solver and, last but not least, he’s strong! Not muscle-man-strong but wirey-strong. He told me his secret is to eat raw pork chops. He generously offered me his last chop which I graciously accepted.

Once home, we unloaded the logs. Taking them out of the truck was a lot easier than putting them in! The next step will be to chainsaw them down the middle into two pieces. After that, I think I should be able to saw them up into lumber on my big bandsaw.

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Published in: on September 11, 2011 at 10:00 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. lifting tree trucks always makes me hungry; im glad he happened to have an extra pork chop laying around.

  2. I loved listening to this guitar. About how long does it take to build such a beauty?


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