Influences IV – Howe Orme Guitars


I first came across one of these odd guitars in Andy’s guitar shop in Denmark St, London around 1998. I thought it was both peculiar and superb all at the same time. I am very interested in the origins of the steel string guitar and especially in what else was being done around the time the CF Martin Co took off.

These guitars (along with the work of the Larson bros) were made with steel stings in mind. The top has a longitudinal arch to add considerable strength and the neck is adjustable to cope with the seasonal changes and the sinking or tipping of the top over time. Being ladder braced I would imagine the adjustable neck coming in rather handy.

I the last couple of years I’ve been experimenting and developing the design into something new.

Elias Howe seemed to start producing very fine guitars in the 1890’s in Boston, and possibly in Ottowa and branded under the Orme label. Several patents were made covering aspects such as the arching of the plates and adjustment of the neck. Not much is known about the company, how many instruments were made or even how long it lasted, but one thing for sure is that this really is a very logical and sensible way to build for steel strings.

NK Forster luthier, Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Maker of Guitar, Bouzouki, Cittern and Mandolin.