Cardboard harp kit quality?

  • Participant
    azura-arten on #188340

    Hello everyone!

    I started harp lessons about 6 months ago, and I’m currently renting a 31 string Blevins lever harp from my teacher. However, this fall I’m moving off to college, and since there’s no harp program there, I’m thinking about getting a small harp to take with me to keep practicing. Since I’ll have really limited storage space and I don’t want to spend a huge amount of money, the Fireside Cardboard harp kit looks like a possibility. (here’s a link to it)

    I was wondering if anyone had any experience with this harp (and also building it)? Would I be better off spending more on a small wooden harp like a Harpsicle or a Mid-East harp? (I realize that all of these harps are not the best quality, but I don’t exactly want to bring a super fancy harp into the dorm with me.)

    Thanks so much!

    wil-weten on #188344

    I have no personal experience with cardboard harps. I read on the Yahoo Virtual Harpcircle that they are surprisingly sturdy and have a very light string tension. It’s a bit quiet, but that need not be a disadvantage in a dorm that you share with others. And it is very cheap if you build it from a kit. You may even put some levers on it (but personally, if I wanted levers, I would go for a harpsicle).
    I found two nice youtube clips for the cardboard harp. and

    You also mention the Harpsicle. Recently I had one in my hands and was tempted to buy one for travel, as it weighs very little and takes little space and it still sounds sweet. Its string tension is rather low though. Much lower than the tension of my own lever harps (with pedal gut string tension). Yet, like I said, I had to resist the temptation to buy it. I decided not buy it as I like a fuller sound and a firm string tension (and I already have two lever harps).

    Were I to choose between a cardboard and a harpsicle, I would most certainly buy a harpsicle, and in particular the newest model which is a bit larger and has some improvements, like Rees levers instead of Robinson levers and the possibility of putting wrapped bass strings on it) in relation to the pre-2012 model). I would buy one with as many levers as fit in your budget).

    When I would like to buy a reasonably priced small harp which really sounds great, I would go for a Camac Bardic 27. It is very sturdy, but it weighs more than twice the weight of the harpsicle and takes a bit more space. It is very transportable though.

    You may find very nice second hand small harps for neat prices. I myself would look for them at reputable harp shops which revise them before reseslling. So I would never buy a harp unseen from the internet, as to avoid harps with a dull sound and/or expensive repairs because of (hidden) flaws.

    Biagio on #188373

    Hi Laura,

    Given the parameters: small, light, inexpensive, decent quality – I think I would choose a Rees Sharpsicle with the higher tension bass strings. This mainly because a Backyard harp might get dented more easily. Some Mid east harps are OK but the quality control is variable and the levers are awful.

    A very nice little harp that will last you a long time would be the Blevins Cameo, if your pockets are deep enough. It would be a great second instrument if you should later get a larger instrument. A number of friends have chosen it for their therapy harp; here’s the listing:


    Allison Stevick on #188377

    Hi Laura,
    I agree with Wil and Biagio, in that a small wooden harp will be more sturdy and versatile in the long run. Definitely buy the “most” harp you can.

    That being said, I played a Waring cardboard harp for a year, and it sounded nice. Like, slightly better than my old mid-east harp–and I lucked out and had a good one of those! It’s soft and mellow, and yes, (actually could be a good thing in the dorms) low-tension, but I didn’t have any problems with my cardboard. It didn’t fall apart or get ruined or anything, and I lugged it around on the bus and through the rain (inside a plastic bag), out to the beach– it was still in new condition when I passed it on to a friend and her daughter after months of that treatment. (I decorated the soundbox, and then waterproofed it with polyurethane spray, and I sealed the wood the way the instructions told me.)
    When I went to college, I took my guitar. It took up much more space than the little harp would, and it wasn’t a problem in my dorm. If it’s something you want to have around, you make space for it. 🙂
    Anyway, I hope that’s helpful. A wooden harp will surely last you longer, and being able to have levers is always a plus. Like the others said, look for used ones and you might find a great deal! But if you only have $150 or so, you would do very well with a cardboard, in my opinion. 🙂

    Tacye on #188385

    I have been favourably impressed with the carboard harps I have met – for the price. They have been pleasant, consistent sets of strings and repairable if you do bash up the cardboard. However, I agree with the other posters that better harps are exactly that!

    Even if it does get a few scratches your harp will probably have lost less value over the time of your degree than laptops, phones and other gadgets around.

    Biagio on #188386

    I’d agree with that Tacye! I guess I should add a personal opinion – to whit, that I look at any harp, even a small “beginner” one, as an investment. Some investments don’t pan out as well as others, so it makes sense – at least to me – in invest in one that I can easily sell later. The better the quality, the easier it is to sell.


    srosano on #188855

    Hi Laura,

    I have a Waring Harp and love it. I have traveled all over the place with it – taken it on flights and ship trips. It has never been dented or scratched. It sounds wonderful – you can hear it on Waring’s website which is at The Waring Harp is lightweight and easy to play. It’s comfortable where ever you bring it. The price is great and it is very easy to assemble! Enjoy it!

    Biagio on #188869

    Something to realize here is that for the most part the box – whether wood, cardboard, gator board, etc. – essentially acts as an amplifying chamber for a small harp (it does that as well for larger ones, but also serves other functions).

    It would be entirely feasible to build a wooden triangle using a published string band design (I have several I’m happy to provide free; so do others such as Music Makers). Then simply bolt that to a thin-walled box; the box thus is strictly an amplifier.

    This is the same principle as used for electric harps except that there is no box but rather individual string pickups and an external amp. With a preamp instead that could actually be your CD player or even PC with appropriate connections.


    wil-weten on #188882

    @srosano, Susan Rosano, this may be your personal opinion but your remark above criticizing your partner’s (!) competitor may equally well be biased, and in any case is very unprofessional on this forum.

    wil-weten on #188883

    Hi Biagio, I love your idea of such a simple but effective triangle-square harp. And the soundbox made from thin wood (or perhaps quality grade triplex?) instead of cardboard. And yes, using an appropriate string band design would give this little harp its best possible sound.

    This idea may make the harp dreams of many people come true.

    Biagio on #188889

    Segueing away a little but I hope still within the thread…I alluded to making your own small harp and then remembered this one. A well known designer, Rick Kemper, provides plans for his 3 octave Waldorf Harp at no cost. Rick designed these to be made by students at a Waldorf school – so it is quite easy to do and they sound very nice. Here’s his website; click on plans.


    balfour-knight on #188896

    Also, be sure to check out Jerry Brown’s harp kits at (Musicmakers) Biagio and I are very familiar with all their harps, and they are great designs.

    Biagio on #188906

    Very true Balfour and come to think of it the MM Smartwood harp “in the white” would be in fact my choice in Laura’s place. I’d not call it a travel harp, but it would be just fine for a college dorm (it can be unstrung and knocked down easily) plus MM offers an upgrade to one of their other harps sometime in the future.

    It is too lightly strung for my personal taste, but then so is a Harpsicle:-)


Viewing 13 posts - 1 through 13 (of 13 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.