Changing one set of levers for another


  • Participant
    Evolène on #227590

    Hello all!

    I haven’t been able to find a topic specifically on this subject, so here it goes. This is a question about lever (Celtic) harps, obviously.

    When I bought my Dusty String double-strung harp in Paris, France, it came fully levered with Loveland black sharping levers :
    Levers Loveland

    Now, they are light, sturdy and the pitch is perfect as far as I can tell. My question is general and I don’t intend to change levers any time soon.
    (As an aside, I don’t know any harpist in France that would have a harp less-than fully levered, unless it was an amateur harp. Funny how that goes).

    Now, Dusty also make harps with Camac levers, but they don’t offer it for some type of harps, including mine. And since my harp is probably (as far as I could tell) the only double-strung harp in this country, it’s not as if I had a say in the type of levers.

    Levers Camac

    Now, I was wondering how feasible it might be to swap a type of levers for another. Once a harp is fully lever lever with one type, is it possible to take them off and put another type? For example, Loveland → Camac, or Camac → Truitt, or something else?
    I suppose some levers are set by making holes in the wood, which makes changing them impossible.

    Truitt Levers

    There are a bunch of lever types, and I know that many argue a preference of one type over the other. ((Lever debate – Dusty Strings)
    Without getting into this debate, since I know new levers are created all the time*, sometimes being able to change levers is a good thing. I’m thinking of my second student harp, with 20 years + plastic levers that did not make for a good sound or fluid lever change…

    (*For example, French harp maker Matthias Desmyter (L’Unisson) is thinking up a new type of levers that he presented at the Dinan Harp Festival in Brittany last summer).

    Any harp maker around that could answer? 🙂
    Thanks!

    • This topic was modified 1 week ago by  Evolène.

    Participant
    charles-nix on #227596

    You can change them, but– a new set of levers will have significant cost. All the strings will have to be removed and replaced. Generally all the old screw holes will have to be filled, then sanded level and stained. This will almost always require refinishing at least the neck of the harp–so the harp has to come apart. The old filled screw holes will still have some visibility, regardless.

    This assumes the neck has sufficient room for the new style of lever. Some take more room for mounting below the bridge pin than others.

    All together, the cost is likely to be a major part of the value of a used harp, and probably won’t increase the resale value of the instrument. Economically, it is likely better to sell the instrument and buy another with the levers you prefer.

    But it usually can be done.


    Participant
    wil-weten on #227597

    Hi Evolene, I am not a harpmaker, but placing new Camac levers on a harp built by a German harpbuilder costs about 15.00 euro per lever (including the lever itself).

    Your harp would need 2x 26 levers, so that’s quite an amount of money and this is only the levers and the mounting of the new levers. Not the filling in of the holes of the wood where the old levers had been. And, beware, the price is meant for harps built by that particular harp maker (so he already knows exacty where to place the levers).

    Something to think of: Camac levers in the States are way more pricier than here in Europe. This has probably to do with importing costs etc.

    Frankly, if I would want different levers on a harp, I would first inquire after the price of putting levers on a non-levered harp built by another harp builder and order a non-levered double harp at Dusty and have it levered by a reputable harp builder.

    An alternative would be to ask a European harp builder to build you a new double. Unfortunately, I don’t know one that builds doubles. I know that Andre Schubert of the Klangwerkstatt once, after a lot of begging from the owner of a 6×6 chromatic harp, was willing to change that harp into a double. At first he was not enthousiastic to do so, because the forces working on a 6×6 are different from a double harp.

    If I was to order a double harp, I would ask the young German harp builder Pepe Weissgerber at: http://www.weissgerber-harfen.de/ to build one for me. No idea, though, whether he would be willing to build doubles.

    And last but not least, Ray Mooers of Dusty Harps just might be willing to build you a double with Camac levers. Yes, he doesn’t offer them standard, but you might be lucky if you just asked him.


    Participant
    Biagio on #227598

    How much effort would go into replacing one lever type for another depends to a large degree on the respective brackets; the sharp point depends entirely on vibrating length not on the particular lever design.

    Lovelands have fairly wide brackets and a single long screw slot; compared to the Truitts in your photo which have for most of the range 4 small slots of which only two are needed. It is likely that many of the holes left from Lovelands would not need to be filled.

    Aesthetically one might wish to anyway and go through the filling/sanding/refinishing that Charles described. The same is likely true for Camacs, Teifi etc. and from where I sit, cost is the major drawback. I do not agree that “all the strings would have to be removed” – unless you plan to go through that aesthetic process from the start.

    Often, especially if replacing Lovelands with Truitts, you just have to loosen the string, remove the old, retighten the string and slide the new lever in. Check the sharp pitch, mark new holes, drill and screw. If the old screw hole shows but does not block a new one, just fill it with a dab of wood paste. New finish if needed may be applied with a cotton swab.

    If you (or anyone) just prefers a longer throw than the cams on those original Lovelands they can just replace the cams with the newer ones. All you need for that is 1/4″ offset wrench and patience.

    Lovelands are not my favorite lever for a new harp but they have long been a mainstay and work perfectly well. Dusty is quite accommodating but they might charge a large premium for Camacs on a new 2x- their necks are pre-drilled for the Lovelands so that would mean a custom jig. If someone wanted to go to that expense I’d suggest a new Rees 2x. Much as I like the folks at Dusty, I like the Rees doubles better.

    Biagio


    Participant
    David Kitamura on #227605

    According to reesharps.com, “Camac levers cannot be installed on the right side of the arch so they cannot be used for double harps.” https://reesharps.com/types-of-harp-sharping-levers

    I would guess this is why they’re not on offer for the Dusty Strings double.


    Participant
    Tacye on #227632

    Changing levers is perfectly possible, but my feeling is that it is the sort of major work that is unlikely to be worth it to change from good levers to ones you prefer slightly better. It would probably be worth it to change bad levers on a good harp. If for instance several were broken or worn out and new ones of the same sort were not available.


    Participant
    wil-weten on #227640

    Hi David, I think Mr. Rees just meant to say Camac levers can’t be fitted on Reed double harps.

    One can order Stoney End double harps with (optional) Camac levers. See: http://www.stoneyend.com/specialty-harps.php

    So, I guess the only way of finding out whether Camac levers would be possible on a Dusty double harp is to contact Mr. Mooers of Dusty Strings.


    Participant
    Evolène on #227641

    Hey everyone, thank you for your feedbacks!

    Bottom line, that’s what I thought : there will be holes that need to be filled, and the overall work is not really worth it if the original levers do the job. Good to know!

    @ Biagio, I’m not sure I understand this passage very well :

    Often, especially if replacing Lovelands with Truitts, you just have to loosen the string, remove the old, retighten the string and slide the new lever in. Check the sharp pitch, mark new holes, drill and screw. If the old screw hole shows but does not block a new one, just fill it with a dab of wood paste. New finish if needed may be applied with a cotton swab.

    Do you mean to say that in the particular case of replacing Loveland for Truitts, the positioning and the holes are similar enough?

    @ Wil-Weten, thank you for your advice! I know that Camac levers are much more expensive in the US. I don’t intend to replace anything on my harp, but it’s good to see what might be doable if I change my mind.


    Participant
    Biagio on #227645

    Re that passage Evolene: I mean that often it is not necessary to remove the string completely and fill the hole left by a Loveland’s screw. With four slots to choose from (Truiit) versus one (Loveland) quite often there will be enough wood for the Truitt and the base will hide the old hole left from the Loveland.

    A professional would probably do as Charles mentioned (take off al the strings, etc), and charge the owner around $2000 for the job. Maybe more.

    Hmmmm….nah, not worth it right?


    Participant
    Evolène on #227649

    Indeed, better buy a new harp with $2000!

    Thank you for your added explanation, Biagio, much clearer now


    Participant
    sidney-butler on #227687

    My opinion is it is absolutely worth doing. And it doesn’t matter how new or old the harp is. If you are happy with the voice of your harp, it’s is not like you want to or need to go buy another harp to have the levers you like.

    I did it myself some years ago. I got a old used L&H troubadour that had really bad levers and changed over to delacour levers. That saved the harp and made it a pleasure to play. Certainly the old holes are exposed, but you can decide if that bothers you.

    I only levered my harp with levers that would be necessary for my use. This is because I am using this harp as a rental or teaching instrument. I made sure it had all the levers I would need for Suzuki Harp Books 1 & 2 (maybe 3, I can’t remember), and then I also made sure it had the levers that I needed to accompany Suzuki Violin Book 1 as I also teach Suzuki Violin. I have never found I needed the remaining levers although I completely realize that visually it would look nicer. You can see where the levers are dense in the middle that the exposed holes are hardly visible. I think if it was fully levered, no eye (but your own perhaps), would ever be bothered by the holes.

    I also had to redo the bridge pins so that the string was the proper distance from the neck.

    This was all done at the cost of the hardware because I did it myself. If you think you are skilled enough to do it yourself, then I recommend it as it really keeps the costs down. I recommend delacour levers. I know the website has disappeared, but I believe you can look up Andre Glemin and he is a delight to work with.

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    Participant
    Evolène on #227729

    Hello Sidney, thank you for your input!

    Indeed, apart for the holes on the strings where you have not added levers, your replacement looks great.

    I think you make a good point when saying ” If you are happy with the voice of your harp, it’s is not like you want to or need to go buy another harp to have the levers you like.”

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