Gestation of a harp – update

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

  • Participant
    michael-rockowitz on #160457

    Hello to all,

    For those who haven’t followed the previous postings – I’m building a wire strung harp based on reading on the matter, looking at examples, reasoning it out, improvising.

    Liam M on #160458

    Hello Michael,

    michael-rockowitz on #160459

    Hi Liam,

    I’ve seen various historic harps with small soundholes, even in the bass part of the soundboard, so at least that feature is not without precedent.

    michael-rockowitz on #160460

    Hi to all,

    I’ve added a few more pictures to update my progress.

    kay-lister on #160461

    Michael ,

    Looks like it’s coming along nicely.

    unknown-user on #160462

    Hi Mike, Fascinated. Sorry couldn’t access photos. I gather you are prepared for teething troubles, or worse. I designed and built a nylon string X-strung lap harp last year, and had several imajor worries on completing, which I was able to overcome; now, I have a delightfully sounding harp.

    I used 1/8 in. doorskin plywood, the better grade 5-laminae sort for the soundboard, and it really sounds great. I wonder if your neck is strong enough – I think you’d need at least the same thickness, probably thicker, in a good hardwood, e g hickory, rather than plywood, which is usually made from softwood!. Have you thought that the neck wood has to hold the tuning pins with strings tuned up, without slipping?

    Have you any idea how much a tension load your harp will have to deal with?
    Maybe I coud help you with this, as it could be worth knowing.

    The neck-body joint needs to be strong, especially to stop the neck being pivoted sideways. I use a mortise and tenon joint, 3/8 in deep, screwed together.

    Have you read Jerry Brown’s book, “Design and Construction of Folk Harps”? I haven’t!

    michael-rockowitz on #160463


    Thank you for your encouragement.

    Liam M on #160464

    Michael, if you have pin slippage, it is not impossible to drill out the pin holes further to insert birch dowels and then drill them for your pins. Remember my mistake when I tried to power seat my zithers?

    I will be back on

    michael-rockowitz on #160465


    Thank you for your suggestion about inserting birch (or other hardwood dowels, I assume) in the event of pin slippage.

    Liam M on #160466

    Thanks Michael!!

    Liam M on #160467

    I tried rosin and chalk dust as well, but I was past that point and the dowels were my only answer. I also believe the parallell grain alignment to the pin helps as well. I chose the birch dowels as they are slightly “elastic” and seem to return more to the original shape when stressed…now they are inserted in cherry and did cause a mild cracking at first, but I have measured and monitored it since the original cracks appeared and there has been no progression. I suspect the birch swelled a wee bit more from the glue then the cherry did.

    Liam M on #160468

    Hmmmm I am going to send the designer some questions… why not equidistant with the accidentals just a tad higher?

    unknown-user on #160469

    Hi Michael and others, Sorry this is late, I’ve been tied up, especially with travel.

    Yes, the cross strung does make it easier to engineer a harp, seeing 5/12 of the tension comes from one side of the harp, so it can be made lighter, and so more responsive acoustically.

    Your neck:body joint sounds good, I did that myself on my first harp after the diatonic strings pulled the neck out of alignment -it was only held by 4 slim screws, and these reinforcing blocks worked to stabilise the neck. I make them with a 3/8 in. deep mortise joint now, as I said before. This mortise to take the shoulder end of the neck

    michael-rockowitz on #160470


    Thank you for the info.

    unknown-user on #160471

    Michael, Yes, we do need to practice safety, as you say. I’ve discovered that mahogany and Spanish cedar are mildly poisonous, so need to use a dust mask when sanding. I might mention that I live in Belize, Central America, where these timbers grow.

    Harper Tasche is sure the maestro of the cross strung. The secret I think to developing skill in playing cross strung is to get a good grounding with playing mainly the diatonic strings, in the key of C, then G and Bb, same as learning piano or keyboard. The keys with more sharps and flats are learned later. I might say, it’s great to just pluck a chromatic string with my right hand ring finger or pinkie, or my left hand thumb or index finger, smoothly and easily.

    I might mention that my technique is quite simple, actually I got it from traditional Paraguayan style. I figure out the melody by ear with my right hand, then a simple bass accompt. with triads, lastly the alto part a third, fourth, or fifth below the melody. Then, practice, practice, and more practice!

    Right now, I’m back in Australia seeing my kids, and have no harp to practice! I brought one in pieces to assemble, finish, and fit up, but am having delays. Hopefully will complete it next week. It’s a 3 octave lap harp, range C3-C6 (mid C is C4), and Latin-style cross-strung, like all my harps.

    Pity re your tennis elbow, Mike. I’ve had that twice. Just have to wait patiently, though hydrotherapy should help it to heal, and quickly.



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