Tech Talk—Caretaker by Default


Maintain your harp and your sanity.

—by Mike Lewis

Mike LewisI  am an ex-factory technician out of Chicago. I worked at the harp mill from 1989–1995. Since then, I have worked under the name HarpTech doing regulation, repairs, and building new harps. Some readers may remember me for the harp maintenance column called “What’s Da Buzz?” I wrote and illustrated for the Harp Column from 1996 to 2001. While my writing may not have improved in the last decade, technology certainly has, and so my illustrations for this column will benefit, coming in the form of exclusive YouTube videos for Harp Column readers.

The trick, from what I can see, is not to pay twice for the same item, so please, may I have the honor of sharing my almost 25 years of harp tech knowledge, yours for the simple price of a Harp Column subscription? Such a deal!

Looking around, I noticed the world has changed since last I wrote this here tech column. Bandwidth is way bigger. Everyone has Internet on their computers, tablets, and phones. Communication is easier. If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is YouTube worth? Talk about the Gutenberg Press on steroids.

For most people, learning about harp maintenance falls somewhere between jury duty and a root canal on the enjoyment scale. Most people have a bucket list of things they want to do before they kick the bucket. My bucket list is the opposite. It’s a list of things I never wanted to learn to do, but had to learn to do to support the people I love.

Let me give you an example of my bucket list, albeit non-harp related:

Mike Lewis and horse

A few years ago, my 20-something stepdaughter was offered a “free” horse. Her dad encouraged her, my wife encouraged her, I said “No way! There ain’t no such thing as a free horse.” I saw it as a time and money hole. I lost the vote; she got the horse. Actually, I think I missed the vote altogether. Was there a vote and I missed it? Mysteries…

Years pass, step-daughter goes off to grad school, my wife’s shoulder is in bad shape, so guess what? It’s the horse and me. I’m not a horse guy. It’s winter, he is an Arabian and in order to keep him healthy I must feed him supplements, clean his hooves, groom his coat, inspect him for injury, and round pen him. I’m first-rate ticked that I have to learn how to do all this stuff and waste my time. (How do you feel when you have to replace a pedal spring?)  To add to my pleasure, the horse is in pasture with five other horses and my horse is not at the top of the pecking order. I must go into the pasture and fetch the horse. For those of you who don’t do horse, my body parts stand a reasonable chance of being rearranged if I do not handle the herd politics correctly. (Yes, you could be blinded by a pedal spring.) So far I’ve been successful; the horse is doing quite well.

So, I’m a horse whisperer? No, I don’t need to be.

Do you need to become a harp whisperer to maintain your harp? No.  Like my horse-handling skills, I am going to teach you enough to keep your harp alive.

So, if you are wondering whether to tune in, come the next issue, here’s what I will cover in this space:

• pedal rod replacement
• finish maintenance
• temperature and humidity
• saving money on an expensive instrument
• That harp costs how much?
• gold cleaning, touch up, and addition

But this column isn’t for me. It’s really for you. What do you want to learn more about? Please let me know what I can write about for you. Be brave. I’m taking care of a horse, so we’re all a little out of our comfort zone here. •

Mike Lewis really doesn’t need a bio because he gave you his life’s story in the article. But if you want to contact him with suggestions of topics to cover in his column or any horse advice you might be able to offer, e-mail him at

Editor’s Note: Look for Mike Lewis’ how-to videos and illustrations along with upcoming articles exclusively online at


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