11/01/2013

c.1927 Weymann Tenor Harp


Another rare bird! A customer sent this to me for work but I have to tell you... if he hadn't picked it up I was all set to grab this instrument. It's great!

These are generally called "tenor harps" and usually date to the late 1920s -- a time when tenor banjo was being replaced or doubled-up with guitars and tenor guitars to acquire a sweeter voice in band use. Lange and Epiphone also made examples of these and once in a while you see them from other builders. Essentially, they're a tenor-banjo-shaped instrument with a wooden (guitar-style) top. This Weymann example is very similar to Paramount (Lange-made) examples I've seen in that it has a banjo-style "resonator" on its rear.

These "tenor harps" are sort of a stepping-stone between the 4-string guitar-shaped tenor guitars of the late 20s and beyond and the instruments they came from: tenor banjos.




Being a Weymann, the build quality is very high and all the materials used are choice. This one has a mahogany neck, back, and sides with a ladder-braced spruce top. The top itself is extremely thin and to my ears, this is the most successful of this style instrument I've played: it's loud, cuts, has zing like a gypsy-jazz guitar, and yet has the familiar responsiveness of a tenor banjo.

Work included lightly-regluing some of the "strapping" style braces on the back, hairline crack reglue/fills, a fret level/dress, replacement tailpiece (1920s one from my bin), new bridge, and setup. It got a lot of cleaning, too, but it still shows a ton of finish weather-effects to the top especially. The previous owner of this also had a smattering of decals and only an "R" at the headstock and a disembodied girl's head on the top remain. I figured removing them would just create more ugly "yick" spots in the finish.


Rosewood headstock veneer, original bone nut.


Rosewood board with nickel-silver frets. The dots are pearl and mini-medium in size. The frets on this instrument were totally chewed out and I almost wondered about replacing them, but there was still enough material to do the fret level/dress and have it come out playing perfectly (1/16" on the dot at the 12th fret).

This has a longer 22 7/8" scale.


Simple rosette. Check how all the pick-worn areas alligatored the finish.


The original tailpiece was a 2-part Waverly-style bit with a "cloud" cover but the cover was missing and string tabs (the mounting hooks for the loop-end strings) were broken off. I replaced it with this one from my bin. The bridge is a new Grover 2-foot type that I've compensated and fit to the instrument.

I've cut the slots at the nut and bridge to also accept bigger-gauged GDAE (octave mandolin) strings but the instrument likes the CGDA range a lot better. It's definitely voiced to accept that low C as the happiest low note.


All the edges on the body are bound in rosewood and the top has a half-herringbone/rope-style purfling.

The way this is built is similar to the Weymann "megaphonic" rims -- the sides go right down to the rear of the resonator backplate and have little arches cut out of them to let sound then escape into the (wider) resonator extension around the outside of the sides. It's nicely complex and I think this gives the instrument a bit more bright cut and lets the player hear the true voice a little better.




3 of these tuners are original Weymann-style 4:1 types and one is a replacement (period) peg. I had to seat them all a little better, especially the replacement which was a bit wonkily-installed.




The serial stamped into the back of the headstock dates it to 1927 but there's also a scrawled-in "June 1927" date on the inside of the instrument, too.



Doesn't that look great?


I wish this were mine... she's a beaut!

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