Black Spots/Holes Appeared on Harp

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    circulus on #197143

    I took my 22-string lap harp, a Stoney End Brittany, with me to Taiwan on September 5th by plane. Carry-on, of course, as I knew it would fit in the overheads.

    A few days after arriving, I noticed black spots all over the harp. I have attached a few pictures, but these spots can be found literally on every side of the harp. I thought that perhaps they had always been there at first, but I feel like they are definitely more than there could have been before for me to not notice them, because I do like to admire my instruments by looking at them fairly often.

    Perhaps they were there before but smaller, and something made them bigger. Is this something to do with the high humidity in Taiwan? Is it that I picked up some sort of wood-eating insect while travelling? If it is humidity, will it stop once I bring it back to the US?

    I would really appreciate any help in understanding what happened.

    Thank you ahead of time.

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    charles-nix on #197165

    As a professional working with wood, it looks like pin knots (neck) and a sap area (body side) on cherry to me.  It is hard to see in the pictures, but if you look at the finish sideways, I think you’ll see that the finish layer is unbroken as it passes over the spots on the neck.

    It is very common to suddenly notice details when examining for damage. We build pipe organs. We once had an organist refuse final payment on a job because an octave of pipes weren’t working.  The organ was 30 years old at the time, and she had been playing the instrument for nearly 20 years.  The octave in question was not included in the factory specs, and had never worked, because there had never been pipes nor actions to play them installed.  We finally had to show her the factory construction blueprints to convince her.  She was sure they had always worked before or she would have noticed.

    I think you’re fine, unless there is some information not showing in the pictures.  Will be glad to look at other photos, if you still think otherwise.

    Charles Nix

    Biagio on #197166

    I tend to agree with Charles though it is difficult to tell from the pictures.  When you wrote “all over the harp” and given the local humidity my first thought was “cyano bacteria” aka blue-green algae.  Those are the tiny black spots that show up on things like shower curtains and it is slightly possible that this has lodged in tiny cracks.  It’s harmless – just wipe them off with a mild detergent if so.

    When I’ve seen cyano-bacteria on a musical instrument it has usually been in the body cavity and mostly around glue lines.  The algae likes dark and humid.


    circulus on #197167

    Thank you for the replies. I will take another look tomorrow morning, but I feel mostly satisfied that it was “I took a closer look than I have in the past” and not “I picked up horrible wood-boring insects and mold”. I did initially think that the dark places all might have been there already and I did not notice before. It is just that Taiwan was very humid, particularly just before the typhoon, and perhaps my imagination ran off with my uneasiness.

    I might take a few more pictures from a different angle or of other dark spots, just to really, really make sure, but I feel considerably less worried. I really appreciate your responses.

    Tacye on #197176

    You can see that on some of the spots the wood grain curls around them, which shows they didn’t just come from outside – it wouldn’t do that if you splattered paint on it.  There are also similar markings on this picture of cherry wood

    Wood does change colour slightly as it ages which can change how prominent patterning is.

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