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Any harp making experience here?

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Any harp making experience here?

Postby Mark Wybierala » Fri Nov 03, 2017 4:01 pm

I've been wanting to do this for a few years and I've finally pulled the trigger and ordered plans and a few parts for a 22-string Shepard harp from Harpkit. I'm going to source my own wood with exception of the soundboard which I ordered from Harpkit as Finnish Aircraft Birch 3mm ply. I've ordered enough hardware for two harps. I'm going to build the first according to the plans. I've looked for a harp making forum but haven't found anything. The parts and plans should arrive next week. I'm eager.
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Re: Any harp making experience here?

Postby Jim McConkey » Fri Nov 03, 2017 8:24 pm

Just in case no one shows up in the near future, be sure to wander over to our Library. There are plenty of old discussions on harp making to keep you busy.
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Re: Any harp making experience here?

Postby Charlie Schultz » Sat Nov 04, 2017 7:24 am

I made a 26 string harp from the Musicmaker's Limerick harp plans a while back (geez, it's more that 12 years ago now). I did use thin ply for the soundboard, but don't recall where I got it. IIRC I added the sharping levers later, I would recommend adding them when you build it.

I started a bigger one using the Robinson plans but that project got shelved for a while.
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Re: Any harp making experience here?

Postby Mark Wybierala » Sat Nov 04, 2017 1:24 pm

I'll be sure to check out the library. Purchasing sharping levers will proceed once the project has proven to be successful -- they're sort of expensive.
All things seem to point to the sound board as being the heart of tonal performance. Deciding on the soundboard construction has been the biggest reason I've delayed the project. Although all sources seem to talk about the soundboard, there are only one or two that specifically address the construction with any type of specification and even then its lacking. It comes down to a magic compromise of having the soundboard thin enough and tapered properly to be lively versus being strong enough to deal with the tension of all of the strings so it doesn't self destruct. The first harp I build will be built exactly to the blueprints provided so at least there is a likelihood of success.
A solution has occurred to me concerning the stress of string tension and I'd like some feedback. Why not incorporate a structural member an inch or two under the soundboard and anchor the strings to it instead of the sound board -- acting like a tailpiece on an archtop guitar. Offset the anchor point somewhere around 30 to 40 degrees from where the string travels through the soundboard so there is a break angle at the soundboard's/string hole.
Consider a one inch wide anchoring spar centered directly under the string holes of the soundboard with holes that enable the strings to be tied to the anchoring spar alternating left-right-right... with the resulting angles being offset both lateral and longitudinal from the soundboard holes -- northeast-northwest-northeast... The full tension of the string is no longer applied to the soundboard.
Thoughts...
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Re: Any harp making experience here?

Postby Mark Swanson » Sat Nov 04, 2017 11:38 pm

One of my best and oldest friends builds and plays these harps. Here is his Youtube channel, which has a lot of videos, mostly just musical.
https://www.youtube.com/user/jspalink1/videos?disable_polymer=1
Jim is a great musician and his videos get a lot of plays. He is a pretty busy guy, I am not sure I could get him to add comments here but I can try and pass along his answers to any questions.
I see he has one video on building a harp. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwZty4IFuPk
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Re: Any harp making experience here?

Postby Clay Schaeffer » Fri Nov 10, 2017 9:33 pm

I have built a few small harps and repaired a few for people.
If you want to build a solid spruce soundboard you can buy a few "A" grade guitar tops and edge glue them to create the length of the soundboard. The grain of a harp soundboard runs side to side rather than top to bottom. On better harps it gets thinner as the soundboard narrows toward the treble strings. Hardwood reinforcing strips are inside and outside of the soundboard that the strings pass through and sometimes there are metal "shoes" or string guides to keep the strings from cutting into the soundboard. I've used pop rivet "heads" without the "mandrel " part for string shoes.
Some harps don't have sharping levers and some have them on the F's and C's which allows a quick change from the key of C to the keys of G and D. The sharping levers need to be mounted a semitone below the length of the open string (plus a little adjustment either way) so as the strings get longer the neck gets wider.
As to the spar idea I'm wondering if it would behave a bit more like a lyre than a harp. Don't know.
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