It seems like forever ago that I starting thinking seriously about building from scratch in Britain, and like a bit of an impossible task. I remember chatting to John Wilde about what we would have loved to see being made out there, and how cool it would be to completely understand the original Weissenborns, how they were built, the theory and practical, and just what makes them so special above all others.
Back in 2007 there was very little information available, there were a number of luthiers, some very well established building their own interpretation of the Hawaiian hollow neck. I’ve even been lucky enough to play a number of them over the years, but nothing, and I mean nothing, came close to the real deal.
The first time I opened the case. I’d seen so many pictures, read so much and heard stories, but nothing had prepared me. Lifting the late 20’s Style 1 out. It weighed nothing, light as a feather, and that iconic brand, looks so big in the pictures, but up close it’s just as dainty as everything else.
However, it’s not until you start playing that you truly understand where all this respect comes from, sustain, tone, volume it’s all there in bags. The whole feel of the instrument, design, action, construction all for the player, it just works in the simplest terms.
That’s the beauty of Weissenborn, he made everything look so simple, as if very little effort was ever required to build those early Style 1’s. One look through the sound hole, rough saw marks, hide glue everywhere; this is what always comes up in conversations. But then why worry about things that don’t matter, when there’s so much going on that does? Ingenious designs that shape the tone and solve so many problems with one simple solution. Here, there, throughout the entire instrument.
It’s taken us years to really get to grips with those original instruments. Months went by when it seemed like every few days we were unlocking another piece of the puzzle. We’d encounter problems on our prototypes that just weren’t there on the originals. Sleepless night, followed by epiphany, eureka moments, such great times working it all out.
Then it clicked, and fell in to place, perfection. Every aspect came together. Anyone can take measurements, moulds, copy details, but to really understand how these iconic instruments tick, takes a certain amount of obsession. May be even madness? With a motivation of tireless and lasting quality though, time seems to become both friend and foe, but that’s the reality of making instruments at this level.