harp finish?

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

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    margaret-helminiak on #164189

    Since I am buildng my “fantasy harp” in my mind, the question of the finish has come up.

    sherry-lenox on #164190

    I’m so charmed by your idea of fantasy harp, Margaret. Takes all kinds- I tend to lean toward natural finishes, although if someone were to offer me the gift of a mahogany or ebony harp, I wouldn’t run the other way.

    unknown-user on #164191

    Margaret, I am also taken with your idea of a fantasy harp with different stains for effects. I am hoping that one of the harpmakers/ restorers will hop in here to answer your question about the practicality of different stains and finishes. To my knowledge as a player, the choice of color is subjective for the most part. I have one harp that is mahagony(stain over maple), with a natural spruce soundboard. I doubt very much that the stain had little to do with the strength

    barbara-brundage on #164192

    >I see a lot of harps in natural finish — is there a reason for this?

    Well aside from the fact that a lot of us like it (I can’t abide stains myself), it’s harder to conceal any flaws in the wood with a natural finish.

    barbara-low on #164193

    I think traditionally, the carved parts of the harp were gilded, and the rest left unstained. Staining wouldn’t damage the wood, nor would it damage the soundboard. I think it’s also tradition to leave the soundboard unstained and left plain or decorated with decals and/or handpainted designs.

    I’m just guessing, but maybe a practical reason why the majority of harps weren’t stained is because you could eliminate that step and get the harp done that much faster.

    barbara-brundage on #164194

    Believe me, Barbara, staining is faster than gilding. You used to pay a premium to L&H for a natural finish over a stained finish, ostensibly because more care had to be used in the selection of the wood.

    darth-mom on #164195

    Hi Margaret –
    I so many harps are left natural because they are mostly made of maple, and maple does not take to staining as easily as some other woods.

    margaret-helminiak on #164196

    I asked my instructor this question today and got an interesting answer:

    barbara-low on #164197

    Oh, I do believe you, Barbara, that staining is faster than gilding.

    I was specifically replying to what I thought were two separate questions. Maybe I misunderstood. One about a practical reason harps were left natural rather than stained. The other about what was traditionally done. Not knowing how far back in history Margaret was referring to and since she mentioned carving, I made the comment about the carving being gilded and the rest of the body left natural.

    amy-walts on #164198

    I’ve mostly owned natural harps over the years. Part of it is that I drag harps to gigs constantly, and a natural finish is very forgiving in terms of not showing every tiny microscopic ding. Dark finishes tend to show off even small blemishes. I treat my harps with kid gloves, but when an occasional moving-related ding has occurred, it has been miraculously easy to disguise. When I recently bought my newest pedal harp, I went to L&H and tried an awful lot of harps in various finishes, and I must say that I perceive a slight difference in the tones of the harps based on finish colors. I thought I must be nuts until several other harpists told me the same thing. Whether it’s real or imagined, I think that I do prefer the sound of natural wood, but it’s the cosmetic resilience that wins me over.

    Denise Krasicki on #164199

    I’m not a harp marker, I’ve just been married to one for almost 30 years… sound like a commerical doesn’t it 🙂

    The natural harps do have clear coats on them to seal off the woods from the outside bad guys like dirt and moisture, same for the soundboards for same reason.

    Denise Krasicki on #164200

    Knew I forgot something.. Amy is 100% correct natural is the most forgiving when it comes to dings and dents from gigging and moving.

    kathy-chanik on #164201

    Denise, thank you for that incredibly detailed and fascinating response-so nice to hear from somebody who builds harps and really knows the inside stuff…

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