A special parlor: The Grunewald “Harp-Guitar”


One of the perks of guitar making are the special guitars that sometimes pass the shop. And being a somewhat quirky person I somehow manage get some of the oddest pieces of guitar history. Like this 10-string “Harp-Guitar” made by René Grunewald at the turn of the 20th century.

A small parlor body, just like Martin and Washburn guitars from the same era, bound with a herringbone inlay. But it gets strange when we look at the head…

Instead of the usual 6 tuners we find a 6/4 configuration for the strings. The two highest strings are single, the g is double and the lower strings have octave stringing like on a twelve string guitar. What is this strange device about?

Daddy Stovepipe playing a Grunewald 10-string. And you thought Slash was the first guitarist to put om a tophat right?

The owner told me it is regarded one of the ancestors of the 12 string guitar. In 1896 Carl Brown, an inventor from Ohio invented and patented a 10-string guitar (but with a lute-shaped body) with this string configuration. In 1896 René Grunewald starts producing a guitar-shaped model in his New Orleans mandolin factory; the guitar shown here. Around 1902 they switch to a twelve string configuration.

These ten string examples are really rare produced for a short while by only one factory. But famous nonetheless, especially because it was the weapon of choice for blues pioneer Daddy Stovepipe…

Despite its age the guitar is in a great condition. The neck is straight, and the body solid. We only did some minor adjustments to the intonation and add the soundhole pickup, a goldfoil type blues monster…

The guitar has a simple ladder bracing. The tone is rich in overtones and surprisingly loud for a small bodied guitar like this.

Off course I couldn’t resist the temptation and in collaboration with the owner I drew up a set of plans for this unique piece of guitar history. For registration, and to make it available for other makers.

You can order it from our plans page. Or by clicking this picture →

But how does it sound?

You don’t have to be a psychic to know this question will come up. Because there are no sound samples available in Youtube or at other places on the net, I decided to put my terrible guitar skills at work and make a little video…

Off course with the mandatory top-hat or “stove-pipe” selfie…

 

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