Since 2006 I make Weissenborn guitars from mahogany wood. Although the original guitars were made from Hawaiian Koa wood, I get a better tone from mahogany. I have lots of experience with mahogany and a better 'feel' with the wood. In the past I made also Weissenborns from bubinga, sitka spruce and even Dutch oak wood with good results.
Just like any guitar, I try to achieve for the Weissenborn a good balance between a light build instrument and an instrument that is strong enough to whitstand the string tension. I keep the construction of the Weissenborn very close to the originals.
Just like Hermann, I make Weissenborn guitars in a few 'styles'. Style 1 and Style 3 are all constructed in a similar way and with the same wood types. They are only different in decoration.
The bridge of the original Weissenborn had a piece of fretwire installed instead of a saddle. I make Weissenborn bridges close in dimension to the originl bridge but I use a bone saddle and bone or horn bridge pins. The topnut is also made from bone. This can improve the brightness of the instrument slightly.
The Weissenborn has modern open back Gotoh tuners from the SE770 series. The tuners have a 1:15 gear ratio and have a plastic button fitting the instrument.
De Style 3 Weissenborn heeft een "rope" inleg net als de originele instrumenten uit de jaren twintig. Deze inleg maak ik handmatig in de werkplaats.
The top and back plates are glued in a traditional way with ropes and wigs. This old fashioned methode has proved to be the most safe and simple way to join the thin plates.
The Weissenborn Style 3 has a rope pattern soundhole inlay made from pieces of maple and walnut. Circles are being cut with a special hand cutter. The decoration is inlayed in the top piece by piece.
To brace the top I use a pattern very close to the original Weissenborn guitars. The bracing is made from fine grained sitka spruce and split from bigger pieces. I buy blocks that are intended for ship building. The top is clamped into a hollow working board to get a slight dome shape wich makes the top stronger. Alle parts connected to the top wood are being glued with traditional haze skin glue. After glueing, all parts are cut by hand and fine sanded. I don't try to achieve a certain tone in the top, but I want to hear as many as possible tones that are more or less equal.
The solid mahogany sides are bended by hand with steam and a hot pipe. They dry in a special mold.
The big difference between a regular guitar and a Weissenborn is of course the soundbox that goes al the way to the head. This 'hollow neck' has some sitka spruce reinforcements glued in before the head joints the last few centimeters.
The solid mahogany back also has sitka spruce bracings. I try to adjust the back plate tonewise, so it matches with the top as good as possible. This makes the instrument one balanced object instead of some loose parts together.
The Style 1 has a single maple binding around the top and back, the Style 3 has a robe pattern binding around the top. The channels that hold the bindings are being cut by hand. I use some special cutters to do the job. I tried in the past many different ways, including some complicated router stands with special molds to hold the instrument. I found in the end that hand cutting is more safe and gives a better result although it takes a little more time to do. Bindings are not purely decorative, the binding makes an extra glue joint to the sides and prefent damage to the plates by surrounding them.
To achieve the rope binding around the top of the Style 3, I inlay the pattern piece by piece around a maple line. This way the finished instrument shows no endgrain wood, wich is a bit different in color and structure and makes the binding looks different from top or side.
The Weissenborn is being finished with a thin layer of natural French polish. The pores are half open visible. The finish is rubbed on the wood by a rag, no brush or spray is used for this finish. The finished layer is a bit more sensitive for damage (it dissolves with alcohol), but it gives just the right shine and feel you want on this type of instrument. In time, the finish will look the better. The finish does hardly affect the resonance of the instrument and is easy to repair. The bridge is finished seperate from the instrument and glued on later.
The Weissenborn has a solid mahogany top, sides and back. I select mahogany like other tone woods. The top and back are plained and cut in a way they both enhance the guitars tone and and are well balanced in the instrument.
All mahogany used in the workshop is legal and have the right certifications if neccesary. This makes it safe to travel with the instrument or to ship the instrument outside the European Union. By now, I have replaced all original rosewood parts (bridge, fretboard and inlays) by walnut without loosing or changing the tone of the instrument.