Double-strung Harp saga: redux

  • Participant
    Allison Stevick on #196069

    Hi all,

    Over a year ago, I purchased a Stoney End Double Brittany harp, in-the-white. I was inspired to do so by Mae’s Double Strung harp saga, so thought I would come back and share my own progress as it’s finally almost done! It has taken me AGES to find the time and motivation to complete it, partly since it arrived about 9 weeks later than I was told it would, and my available time for projects last spring was well past by the time it came. I happened to unexpectedly find a great deal on a used wire harp right around that time, so it was a sudden embarrassment of riches in the harp department–I wasn’t without something new to take up my time and attention.  Also, I hate sanding. Like, I really hate it. Why did I choose to do it myself, then?  I really wanted to do some artwork on the harp and that, along with the price difference, made it worth it to me.

    I’ll try to post a few pictures here, and probably write a few more of my thoughts about the whole process sometime soon. It’s been mostly a good experience, with a few minor frustrations along the way.

    I wish I could hear Mae’s harp, especially since she did a modified string setup. I chose to stick with the standard g-g.  I hope to get the rest of the strings on tomorrow. Then getting it to hold a tune will be another whole adventure in itself, I’m sure! 😉

    Here’s the link to my photos!

    Angela Biggs on #196086

    Oh my, what a beauty! You’ve done a lovely job!

    Allison Stevick on #196110

    Thank you, Angela. 🙂 I’m really excited about how looks! The sound has quite a way to go before it’s what I would want, but it’s improving already. It holds a partial tune for about 2 minutes now! Haha 😉

    Allison Stevick on #196111

    A few further notes about the finishing process:


    1) The harp came to me 9 weeks later than I was told upon ordering, with no explanation as to why the delay. That made it impossible for me to get to work on it right away, as my springtime project-completing window was gone when it arrived later in the summer.

    2) The cherry wood is lovely. It really took on a beautiful depth and almost a shimmer when sanded with very fine sandpaper (up to 320– that’s higher than Stoney End suggest, but my dad (a woodworker) said I should try it. I’m glad I did.)

    3) The instructions are fairly vague. While that’s not a big problem or anything, it’s slightly annoying sometimes because they are also worded somewhat confusingly. As in, “do ___ and _____, but first do________.” “BUT FIRST?!” Really. The steps,should be in order. Precise order. The wording caused some confusion, and I was without a couple tools I needed when working on it away from home. I know, I know– one must ALWAYS read instructions in their entirety before starting work, but when I read each step and there wasn’t mention of drilling out holes (that were, thankfully, already drilled. Just not to the correct size.), I thought I didn’t need to  take my drill with me, and so had to borrow one and was set back a day in completing the hardware installation. Ugh.

    4)  Something I’ve noticed now that all strings are on and I’ve been tuning constantly– the bridge pins and tuning pins don’t fit well with each other, and the strings want to pop off the bridge pins all the time. And the thing is, you CAN’T push the bridge pins in any further because they already meet up in the middle of the wood. In fact, it is impossible to screw them in even as far as the instructions say to, because they meet up. The wood of the neck simply is not thick enough to accommodate them properly. The left side of the neck is worse as far as the angle from tuning pin to bridge pin notch, because the pins (tuning and bridge) are closer together and it’s more of a bend in the string. I’m doing the best I can to minimize it (screwing the zither pins out a bit farther than suggested, getting rid of extra turns of string around the pins, etc) but I still have strings popping off the bridge pin every time I tune. So frustrating. I see no way to truly alleviate this problem, except by a design change. Longer zither pins would be great; I understand that the bridge pins need to be at a certain place to accommodate levers.

    5) I had several strings that were frayed, new out of the package, and one that actually had bubbles down the middle. I have not broken any strings so far, but have gone through 8 replacement strings already because of these flaws. I’m sure if I tell Stoney End this, they will do something to help–they seem like very nice people and they run a good business. However, as it’s been over a year since I ordered (and clearly I wasn’t inspecting each string as a first step in the process) and nylon strings aren’t that costly, I will probably leave that alone for now. Whenever I order more strings I may mention it, and have them check the ones they send at that time.

    6) Levers. In a month or so, I will be attempting to install 8 Truitt levers (on all Fs, and 2 Cs, more to come as the money comes). I’ve re-read Mae’s advice about that, and I anticipate being frustrated and needing some help on the day when that takes place. 😉


    Despite the mood this post might convey so far, I am actually pleased with this little harp, overall. I look forward to it holding a tune, and then being able to take it everywhere to play! I’m glad to say that I haven’t gone cross-eyed too much while noodling around with it so far. Hooray! I’m excited to explore the playing possibilities that double-strung harps provide. I think I will need to do more playing by feel than by sight (to avoid the cross-eyed situation), but I’m ok with that. It’s going to be fun getting to know this harp!

    Biagio on #196141

    Hi Allison,

    Boy that harp’s a cutey (and so are you ha ha).  Yeah, zither pegs are a pain untile you get used to them and I do wish that Gary staggered them from side to side instead of drilling straight through.  When we do that the player has to be pretty careful about how many wraps they put on the peg or they butt into each other.  So you want to see about 1/4″-1/8″ left of threads when the string is holding pitch – which of course means guaranteed rewinding the first few weeks!  Same with bridge pins.

    Write me offline if you have trouble with the Truitts – I’ll be happy to share some tips but in general they are a lot easier than Lovelands.  Here’s a quickie: if possible use an in-line battery powered drill driver rather than the egg beater type that Betty recommends ( I use an old beat up Black & Decker I picked up at a yard sale). For cherry you only need to start the tap a few thread – or not at all.  Get  GOOD size T-6 Torx hand  driver for the machine screws – that L wrench is useless.  That said they are by far the best and easiest lever to install accurately.

    It is unheard of to me that Tynex would have bubbles – definitley a bad batch!!  For what it’s worth…I suggest buying Tynex (and brass or bronze for that Folcharp) in bulk – I saved a lot of money that way over the years. Write me offline about how to color those. I get the nylon in 25 yd. rolls from Vermont strings and the metals from The Instrument Workshop:

    You will get used to the eye focusing.  One professional whom I know has double vision even in normal circumstances – but Beth can play the 2x!!


    Best wishes,



    Allison Stevick on #196192

    Thanks Biagio! I appreciate the tips. Once she holds a tune consistently (getting better all the time!) I’ll be tackling those levers… I’ll be sure to message if I need advice! And I am SO OVER the pins. You’d think it wouldn’t be too hard to design the layout so the strings could stay where they belong… Oh well. I do have the good T6 driver, as I bought one to regulate the levers on my Delight. I always laugh at the little wrenches that get put in different kits and things. Who can make them work?

    I’ll have to look into buying the strings in bulk. Great idea. I actually have some work to do on the pegs of the Folcharp, but finding the time for these projects… Well, it took me a year to start this one! ha! I still play it, but a few pegs are waaaay too sticky, and they jump when I tune. James told me what to do, though, so I’ll get it eventually. That’s for another post!

    I am so loving this double, being able to play unison hands, and do some overlapping of notes. Y’know, for the few minutes I have until the tuning goes and I have to work on it again. Haha!

    randal on #196204

    Hi Allison – thank you for posting your experience.

    Congratulations on your build.  Your graphics are beautiful (I’m a big flower person too 🙂 and youve created a wonderful piece.  I so admire you folks with the impetus to build and paint…all I seem to be able to make time for is playing music (after having done grad school in art! Lol  🙂  )

    A wonderful summer to everyone!




    balfour-knight on #196206

    Allison, thanks so much for posting all this!  I have been so busy this summer that I have missed so many good blogs on HC, but I’m glad I saw yours.  You and the new harp are both beautiful, like Biagio has already said, ha, ha!  I, too, wish that Mae would let us hear her double.  I hope that she blogs again real soon.  You have done a wonderful job.  Keep on tuning and tuning and tuning!

    Best to all of you,


    Biagio on #196207

    Hi again Allison.


    A few more “thoughts”….for Truitts the bridge pin groove should be 1/2″ (1.27cm) above the neck.  A standard pin is 1” (2.5cm) long from groove to end so there should be enough room.  Adjust the Z pegs if need be but not the pins (much).

    I really hate stringing and tuning stringing and tuning especially a double and it may be too late for this but: I usually get all the strings on and tensioned up to the point where the sort of hold “a” tune – I don’t care what it is just want some tension.  Then I take everything up a 1/2 step above the intended note except the thinnest strings (just try to come close to the actual note there.  Then I go away and have a glass of wine, chill until the next morning.

    Do it again and perhaps again a few hours later.  More vino.  By the morning after that things should be sounding a lot better.  Any double is a pain to do since when you tune one side the other side goes out at first and that is especially true when the strings angle in, as Gary does it.  Doing it as I suggest will get them stable a lot faster.  This is for nylon – FC stretches much more (and metal core strings should not be taken above the intended pitch).



    Allison Stevick on #196213

    Thank you, Randal! I do hobbies in fits and spurts–other than playing music, that is. 🙂 I also went to art school, and it’s surprising how little actual visual art I make in the grand scheme of things… But it’s ok, I do the hobbies that make me happy when I feel like it, and it is enough.  So, you do hobbies that make you happy, and that is enough, too. I’m on to sewing for a bit now (when I’m not tuning, of course).


    Thanks, Balfour! It’s good to hear from you again. 🙂


    Biagio– thanks again, that’s helpful! The pegs don’t actually go in far enough. Maybe I sanded off too much wood, but I kind of doubt it… Maybe I can remove them, file them down a bit, and put them back in to get the right length or something. Your tuning method sounds fun! haha 🙂 I actually have been tuning them just a bit sharp, and I think that’s helping too. Maybe in another week or so I can get a sound clip. We’ll see.


    Also, I got a photo of it fully finished! (I finally remembered to glue in the medallion…)

    wil-weten on #196231

    Great pictures, Allison. I hope you will have a lot of fun with this cute little double harp.

    balfour-knight on #196232

    I agree with Wil–great pictures!  Also, Biagio, that is a wonderful way to enjoy tuning–wine and more wine, ha, ha!

    Hope all of you have a great day,


    balfour-knight on #196233

    Allison, I forgot to say that you and the harp look perfectly at home in that beautiful bed of zinnias!  The decorations on the harp are enhanced by the real flowers!

    Allison Stevick on #196242

    Thanks Wil and Balfour! (I love my flowers– the poppies and foxglove are pretty much done for the summer, but thankfully the zinnias will be going strong for a few more weeks!) 🙂

    And just like that, the harp is holding a tune long enough to really play! What fun! Soon, I hope to get a little something knocked out for a sound sample. 🙂

    I’m still going to wait a while for levers, just to make sure it’s stable.



    balfour-knight on #196243

    Thanks also to you, Allison!  I will certainly be looking forward to the sound sample!  I do hope that Mae is reading this, hint, hint, ha, ha!  It would be nice to hear from her!

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 38 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.