Mike Witcher demonstrates his late-1990s custom Weissenborn-style guitar.
by Teja Gerken
June 30, 2016
Originally designed and built by Hermann Weissenborn in Los Angeles, California, in the 1920s, Weissenborn guitars are prized by lap-style slide players. The instruments have a large sound chamber due to their hollow neck, giving them a full and rich sound that belies their relatively shallow bodies.
Owned by Peghead Nation Dobro instructor Mike Witcher, the instrument in this video is a copy of a Weissenborn, built in about 1998 by the short-lived American Guitar Company. Founded by a team consisting of Weissenborn expert and author Ben Elder and former Dobro Original Musical Instrument Company (OMI) employees Richie Owens and Mike Replogle, the company was formed in California shortly after Dobro OMI was purchased by Gibson in 1994. The company only lasted until about 1999, at which point, according to Owens, it had built about two dozen Weissenborn-style instruments, and a few other models.
Mike’s guitar closely follows the Weissenborn design, but it’s made of mahogany instead of the more traditional koa used by Weissenborn. The guitar has the “rope” binding featured on many originals and includes the original Weissenborn bridge shape and fingerboard inlays. Mike strings it with the same D’Addario EJ-42 strings he uses on his resophonic guitars, and often tunes the instrument to open-D tuning.
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