When it comes to lasting beauty and serious mojo, it’s hard to top a vintage harp ukulele.

Invented by an innovative, if occasionally questionably skilled, luthier Chris Knutsen, the harp ukulele was a member of his “New Hawaiian Family,” which also included guitars and lap-steel guitars. Knutsen (the “K” is pronounced) worked in Port Townsend and Tacoma, Washington beginning in 1895 before moving to Los Angeles around 1914.


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According to the video’s poster, the uke seen in this video was “made in 1910-14 and is one of 35 known to have been built, of which 29 survive today. All koa construction. Soprano scale.”

A few contemporary makers have revived the idea, including influential luthier Michael Dunn (who may have been the first), and some  players collect and perform on them, including Gracie Terzian.

To learn more about Knutsen harp ukes, check out the Great Ukes feature in the Summer 2014 issue written by harp guitar and ukulele expert Gregg Miner, and the definitive book on the maker, Chris J. Knutsen: From Harp Guitars to the New Hawaiian Family, The History & Development of the Hawaiian Steel Guitar.

—Greg Olwell

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