Page 1 of 1

Any harp making experience here?

PostPosted: Fri Nov 03, 2017 4:01 pm
by Mark Wybierala
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.

Re: Any harp making experience here?

PostPosted: Fri Nov 03, 2017 8:24 pm
by Jim McConkey
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.

Re: Any harp making experience here?

PostPosted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 7:24 am
by Charlie Schultz
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.

Re: Any harp making experience here?

PostPosted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 1:24 pm
by Mark Wybierala
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...

Re: Any harp making experience here?

PostPosted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 11:38 pm
by Mark Swanson
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

Re: Any harp making experience here?

PostPosted: Fri Nov 10, 2017 9:33 pm
by Clay Schaeffer
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.

Re: Any harp making experience here?

PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2017 12:10 pm
by Mark Wybierala
Finished the first of three using the plans. I generally stayed to the plans I purchased but applied a change or two to make it a little more structurally hardy. The build is much more like making a piece of furniture than a musical instrument but I cannot fault the tone. It makes a wonderful tone that actually sounds like a harp. I used African mahogany for the pillar, the neck and structure of the sound box. The soundboard and back are 3mm aircraft grade birch from Finland as suggested by the plans. The trim on the soundbox and the center reinforcement is some jatoba that I had already. My only major change was the use of maple on the left side and how it reinforced the neck. Its what I had on hand and is overkill for strength. I'm not sure whether I like the contrast or hate it but it didn't really add any significant weight and I know that the neck isn't going to split. It was an impulse modification but the mahogany I had ended up to be about 3/16" thinner than the spec after surface planing and felt very light. I'm pleased with the result and will build more harps

Re: Any harp making experience here?

PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2017 12:45 pm
by Charlie Schultz
Very nice!

Re: Any harp making experience here?

PostPosted: Sun Dec 10, 2017 12:07 am
by Mark Swanson
Good Job! I hope you were able to check out my friend Jim's harps, and his playing. I'll try to show him yours.

Re: Any harp making experience here?

PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2017 2:33 pm
by Mark Wybierala
I would really like to make contact with other harp makers to share ideas and learn more. I checked out Jims youtube vids -- like what I saw. His server is down on the link associated so I'm unable to contact him. Its been a week or two since I strung up my Shepard harp to pitch and its getting more tuning stable every day. The strings supplied by the vendor are probably not the highest quality and I'd like to see what the result would be with really good quality classical strings such as ProArts or others that I use on my classical guitars. The plans are good but I feel the plans are aimed at non-luthiers. There are one or two critical procedures that need to be overcome but the rest of the build is really simple and its comparatively inexpensive to make these compared to making a guitar. I have two more harps in progress using the basic geometry/ideas of the Shepard harp plans. I'm also trying wood carving for the first time. This is on African mahogany. I'm eager to learn about making my own soundboards. I think my email address is available and I would be grateful to connect with other harp makers.

Re: Any harp making experience here?

PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2018 2:45 pm
by Mark Wybierala
The latest. This is #2 using the same plans again. This time, all mahogany construction except for the sound board itself which is the imported birch aircraft ply. I added a little more structural strength for steel strings. With the steel strings , the tone was terrible so I stayed up until 2AM removing them and installing a nylon string set -- nice result.

Re: Any harp making experience here?

PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2018 3:40 pm
by Barry Daniels
Very nice, Mark. Good job on the carved helix.

Re: Any harp making experience here?

PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2018 11:09 pm
by Mark Swanson
That's great! My friend Jim would approve.