Kona Guitars – A Kona, Dobro Hybrid

Another 2GL Build

The Kona style resonator Lap Steel and Weissenborn style acoustic lap steel, both of these body styles were first introduced in the early 1910’s by 2 different luthiers, Herman Weissenborn and Chris Knutson. Herman Weissenborn built the best of both the solid neck Kona style and the more popular hollow neck “Weissenborn style” acoustic lap steel guitars.

Each style came about due to the popularity of Hawaiian music at the time. The Weissenborn shop was the more enduring of the two and built instruments until the mid 1930’s. The development of the resonator guitars pretty much killed the Weissenborn acoustic lap steels because they were much louder and could be heard in a band situation.

The Dopyera brothers designed and patented the cone used in the resonator guitars they were building and doesn’t seem to be any indication that Weissenborn attempted to develop their own. Weissenborn’s slipped into obscurity until the late 60’s when some were being found in flea markets at give away prices; but, didn’t really gain in popularity until the last 20 years. Even today, though gaining in popularity here, America lags behind Australia, New Zealand and Europe. With artist such as Ben Harper, David Lindley and the great Dobro player, Jerry Douglass playing Weissenborn style lap steels will help spread the word of these amazing sounding instruments. 


My Kona style resonator is a marriage of the solid neck Kona style body and the Dobro resonator guitar. I always loved the sound of the Dobro but wanted something uniquely different. I  will still make a Kona style acoustic lap steel as well as the  hollow neck Weissenborn style acoustic lap steel guitars. 

On July 22 ,2020 we started a new build. It’s a mahogany marriage of a Kona style acoustic lap steel and a dobro resonator guitar. The back and top thickness are sanded and joined and roughed out. Then the back is braced. The top braces are made and being glued. The top sound hole rosettes oc figured myrtle made and inlaid. The sound holes are then cut out, along with the resonator hole being routed.

August 4, 2020 Update

Update on the Kona style resonator acoustic lap steel guitar build.The top braces have been glued in and the curly maple frets made and inlaid in ebony fingerboard. The sides have been bent and the neck,tail blocks and kerfing glued. Next the back has been glued on and the resonator cone shelf being carved. 

August 12, 2020 Update

Here is the progress made on the Kona style resonator lap steel. The body is together and ready for the binding. The supports for the resonator have been made and glued in. The mortise has been routed for neck tenon. A potential inlay design is sketched on fingerboard, part of the mockup of parts to get overall picture . More pictures to come

August 19, 2020 Update

Pieces for fingerboard inlay have been cut. The fingerboard will be routed and pieces inlaid today. The vine is sterling silver wire.hibiscus flower and leaves are abalone and mother of pearl….diamonds are pearl.Rosewood binding bent and top routed and binding with black/white/black perfling is glued….butt wedge and heal cap is ziracote.

August 20, 2020 Update

The fingerboard inlay is complete. Mocking it up to see how it’ll look. So far I’m stoked

September 15, 2020 Update

Kona/resonator update –  The lacquer finish is just about completed. The wet sand will be done today and then to see how everything looks. The mahogany is beautiful and has some nice figure in it. If everything looks good, I’ll let the lacquer cure for a week, buff it out, string her up, and get her set up to hear what she sounds like.
   

September 23,2020 Conclusion

Kona/resonator lap steel is done. This is the first of this style. Acoustic lap steel guitars will definitely be one of our specialties. This one is an all mahogany body with rosewood binding, figured myrtle rosettes around the sound holes, ebony fingerboard/curly maple inlaid frets and ebony head cap. 25″ scale. Inlay is sterling silver wire, abalone and mother of pearl.

Leave a Comment