I like this Nati-Horn-its no DeNeve, but it's got its good qualities...

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Homer Blethy's picture

Ok, they are a little bit more expensive than a DeNeve, but this Nati-Horn Mahogany I got last week is a nice dobro. The frets are in the right places. It sounds good over a mic, and there were just  a couple of things that I think I'll modify straight out of the box.

One is, the nut is too skinny. It's only about 3/16th thick. It's been my experience that a thicker nut fattens up the tone and the volume. Just like better tuners would. Not that the standard Gotohs are bad at 16:1...the buttons on them are a little small for big fat fingers. Loren Postma told me he replaced his with a set of buttons he got from Stew Mac.

Not sure about the spider, either...it appears to be proprietary, in that it is quite a bit fatter than say a standard #14 spider. The volume is good, I played it through an EV408 at a gig and it cut through just fine, even in my band that switches some electric guitars and mandolins on now and then. The sound man at this gig remarked that he liked the DeNeve with the Fishman setup better than mic'ing the nati horn, but that was just for his ease, he didn't like the tone or sound of one over the other.

One minor complaint that may or may not be an issue, the action is not consistent up and down the fretboard...it's about 5/16's at the nut, and is considerably higher at the 19th fret. I am thinking this may be in anticipation of the cone settling in and that it will even out soon enough as the cone collapses a bit. The coverplate has a removable handrest, not sure why they did that, but its not too obtrusive.

I've owned three "real" scheerhorns before this one, and I have to say I like this one the best of all. It has a more contemporary voice, less twang than a skinny walnut guitar. I am a real fan of TWANG, but there is a place in one's dobrolic arsenal for something with a more contemporary, mellow, or "Sweet" voice. For $2600 this nati-horn was a good buy.

Elderly, where I got if from called me up to say that they had it but it had a few blemishes on it and they would be willing to give me a discount on it to cover my distress at getting a guitar that was beat up. For the life of me, I cannot find the marks they are talking about, but the $150 off they gave me was perfectly fine with me. I'll put my own brand of "distress" on it soon enough. I mean, hell, it's just a damn tool and really doesn't deserve anything considerationn different than you'd give a drill or a hammer. ''

All that said, I have no intention of giving up the DeNeve, which is still a great guitar, and it has the added bonus of the Fishman system in it for those louder gigs. I don't think Im in any hurry to put the Fishman setup in the 'horn.

One last thing...I WILL be putting a set of eye holes in it that have actual screening in them. There are many times when I use the washboard effect of scratching the thumbpick across the screens for a scratching sound...

The only problem is that I'll never get into heaven now....because it would be easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than for a .... oh, Never Mind...



Homer Blethy

About 11 miles from Terre Haute, Indiana, near the town of Toadhop on the Illinois side of the Wabash,..totally decrepit and adapting to the brave new world one step at a time. Please absolve me of my indignations perpretrated in hindsight by lack of foresight.

Always receptive to change...


BrianMac's picture

Dear "Mr." Blethy,

I assume you must be one hell of a dobro fanatic buying a new 'horn instead of fixing your teeth.

That said, is the Mahagony as loud as say maple or birch laminate? I think I've got Dusty Strings talked into bringing in a maple or Ikes model. I wouldn't have the nerve to buy one sound unheard.

You around Vashon? I'd let you play my Guernsey if you'd let me try out your nati'horn! I'm right off the ferry.

Lounge Primate's picture

Man's brain is like a store of GAS and superstition ; so much so that if a man believes his own mind it is certain that he will forsake his own Deneve and forge some idol in his own brain" -John Calvin ( french dobro player...I'm pretty sure)

Homer you  must practice the five points Calvanistic dobrology
1- Total depravity
2-Unconditional election
3-Limited atonement
4-Irresistible grace
5-Perseverance of the dobro saints


Like a pet monkey, a banjo seems like a good idea at first.

Homer Blethy's picture

I based my faith in buying one sight unseen in the hope that getting Mr Scheerhorn out of the building loop would improve the quality. And it did, in my opinion. And I'm not afraid to say it.

And, laugh as you will, I hold the main tenets of John Calvin in that I pray twice daily for Burkett Graves and Mike Auldrige, among others.

Yes, Brian, I am on the island and you can play the mahogany thing if you like. Still in the same house that I sold you that Carter from. And my teeth are fixed.

daver's picture

Tab, that is quite an endorsement for the National/Schherhorn, given your past shared experiences.

But I wonder about the fixed teeth.  You yourself have linked to some videos in which you appear quite dentally challenged...




Inveterate Tinkerer

MarkinSonoma's picture

I've only been able to play one Nati-horn so far, and that was the Ickes model, several weeks back at Gryphon Strings in Palo Alto. I just checked, and it's still for sale. Very impressive guitar.

I'm wondering if it's still for sale (Artisan has one in stock as well) because at the price ($3900) you're entering the neighborhood where you can pick your posion from a number of the small builders and you can have the guitar the way you want it in terms of woods, binding, stains and so on. The maple Nati-horn @ $3000 and the mahogany at $2600 might truly be considered "bargains" as compared to the head exploding declarations here several years ago that a Tim-horn is a "bargain" at $8000. The $3900 for the Ickes model might be just high enough in price that most folks have to think real hard about it, whereas the 'hog at $2600 requires less thinking and and perhaps an easier sales job on the spouse. I also believe that production model guitars in general don't receive oohs and aahs from resoheads, even if they are consistently excellent quality. Case in point - the original tuxedo black & white Beard MAS. I never met one I didn't like, but if you've seen one, you've seen 'em all.*

* I know, some have different coverplates.

I saw on National Reso-Phonic's Facebook page the photo below of the Ickes model sans the Ickesian pickguard, and it turns out that these can be ordered that way, but it's still $3900. Elderly has a listing now. Remember when folks were buying the Icke'horn Frugal'horn and some elected to remove the pickguard?

Homer, I was under the impression that perhaps you had gotten together with Loren and checked out his mahogany Nati-horn up close and personal prior to you placing your order. That's quite the leap of faith considering your history of 'horn criticism to order the guitar sight unseen and strings unplucked. And since we're talking coverplates, it makes perfect sense to me to have a removable palm rest. if there's ever another new higher end dobro in my life, I want one if for no other reason than to be able to take 20 seconds with a screwdriver to remove the the palm rest to be able to easily apply a tiny bit of liquid graphite in the slots along with not having to hear the sawing noise when installing the four wound strings.

Different strokes for different folks. I realize that with the workmanship to price ratio, DeNeve guitars are very good values. I haven't been around a lot of them up close and personal, but of the six or seven that I have been around, the sound just wasn't for me, like the Scheerhorn sound apparently wasn't for Mike Auldridge.  Dick makes 'em loud, but there is to my ears kind of an in-your-face harshness that doesn't quite do it for me though they are impressive to look at. i guess I'm more from the contemporary sweet & mellow school. 



Greg Booth's picture

If your action is truly only 5/16" at the nut better send it to Tim to have it set up right. And I ain't afraid to say it either.Wink

Homer Blethy's picture

You're right-its like 7/16 and 9/16ths respecitively. And it seems to be sinking in and levelling out more. It's gotta get used to living in Dampville, too. It's a nice guitar. I like it.

Randy Kohrs's picture

If that thing didn't dust a Deneve right out of the gate, it got damaged in shipping or something is not right with the setup.


  Homer ..... it's great to see an old Terre Hautean post again .... things must be going well on your deserted island in the Northwest!  It must be great to have a nat/horn ..... I've been thinking about taking the plunge too.  I'm probably going to elderly and play it before I buy it.  I haven't seen Teddy Laughrey since we passed some messages earlier. .... keep posting to let us know how this works out.

Homer Blethy's picture


Not sure what you mean by "dusted"...they're different sorts of guitars producing different sounds. The DeNeve has more Twang than the 'horn, but the 'horn has a sweetness of voice that the DeNeve doesn't have. They both are nice guitars, but like women, you need to touch each individual one differently to get them "coo" just right. That's part of my growth, realizing that the damn things are like women, and for me to get the best results I have to realize I can't touch them the same way that I touch the others. It's like being a bull in a china shop.


And all this talk about buying a custom guitar sight unseen...when you plunk down money to any custom builder isn't that what you are doing? There are good ones and "diuds" from any builder...At this point in my life, I'm playing custom made everythings, except pedal steels. The only custom instrument I didn't buy sight unseen was a D-18 copy made by Michael Heiden which he billed as a factory second. It's a killer guitar. But my mandolins, ukes, banjo, etc;..I plunked down the money and hoped for the best. When I bought my first three Scheerhorns, I plunked down the money and took what I got. In the first three cases, I turned right around and sold them within a year because I didn't like what I got. No offense to Tim, but to play those guitars I had to alter my attack to a degree that wasn't willing to go to. Here, after 20 odd years, I'm older, a little wiser (I hope) and I like the Nati-Horn. You bash DeNeve's like Ive bashed Scheerhorns in the past. That's what makes the world go round. If I'm gonna go play rock and roll with a loud band with drums and electric bass, you can bet the Scheerhorn stays at home in the living room and the DeNeve comes with me and belts it out with its Fishman setup.


I'm gonna be a boddhisatva in this life if it kills me...which it probably will


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