Last night, browsing Facebook Marketplace, I found this AWESOME hand-carved dragon harp with abalone inlays and beautiful paint details. Had to have it. I have experience resurrecting other folk instruments like a double-gourd sitar, and a banjolele, as well as lots of electric guitars, so this is my new project.
Only, it’s turning out to be a mysterious instrument with no traces online, and seemingly no harp guilds, societies, or store owners seem to have ever seen one!
I’m looking for some guidance.
About the instrument. It’s got a solid base with no pedals. Weighs 84.4 lbs. Is 60″ tall. 44″ – 4-1/2″ Scale. Has 40 string (holes) eyelets. 120 wedge-fit wood tuning pegs that all have identical hole size, shape, and dimensions. The (most likely) gut strings have all been cut off at the base. Inside the sound box, there is no access to the back of the strings… it appears to have been built AROUND the strings, with a strip of wood on the sound board that is separate all the way up to the knee block, where it then, blends with the finish! The strings are locked-in! There was one screw running from inside each soundhole towards the soundboard, which I assumed first was the key to accessing the knots to change the strings. I’ve pulled them, and attempted to gently jimmy the strip up to remove & replace the old strings… it won’t budge. Can’t get a putty knife all the way under it, because it seems to hit a keyway.
There is an abalone inlaid label on the base reading
Le Google searches are coming up negative. I sent it to a Vietnamese friend, who says the guy who made it in Vietnam probably doesn’t have a computer, much less a customer service department…
MAN, I wanna get this in player’s condition. I got it for $140 from a guy who was given it as a birthday gift from a friend, who had bought it in a pawn shop. He’s a touring musician, and was about to go on tour, so he desperately needed money. He had hoped to fix it up, but ran into the same problem, so he just hot glued LED lights on it like strings and used it for decoration.
It was very dirty. I gently wiped the grime, dust, cobwebs, hair, etc off of it today, and hit it with a little guitar polish. Unfortunately my pictures were taken beforehand. They’re a bit blurry, too, forgive the low light, camera phone compression, quality. Now that it’s clean, I’m going to take it outside for some proper full light photos soon.
All the string nubs look like they are the same exact diameter (1mm), and all of the tuning pins are identical, with holes all the same diameter as well. I would think that the bass strings would need to be thicker to have any sort of balanced string tension across the octaves.
I want your input! There’s a lot going on here. Before hearing your guidance, here are my plans:
1.) Assess the actual value of the instrument. Where would it be best to start? An antique appraiser?
2.) Determine how to replace the strings. My current idea is to protect the area around the eyelets (no eyelet, just a drilled hole in wood), then possibly use a fine dremel drill bit or regular drill bit to obliterate the existing string, and continue the hole through the soundboard, clear through, in order to access the strings from the sound holes.
3.) Chalk the tuning pegs – this was a trick I learned while restoring my sitar, which has similar construction. They currently have a shiny finish and hand-carved imperfections that bind in the holes, preventing smooth operation.
4.) Purchase a set of strings appropriate for the instrument.
I have combined my pictures into a PDF, then marked-up the PDF with various details & conversation points. It’s larger than 512KB Upload limit, so you can find it on my cloud link here: https://c.mail.com/DavidWChase@mail.com/_nA3ARY2Q763dy0OPmc5vw
Would really value any input or opinions you may have, and I’m excited to be joining this community!