How much does a harp cost?

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    Biagio on #220667

    This topic comes up one way or another quite often. One way to address this is to figure out just the material costs and then factor in overhead: equipment and depreciation, other overhead (advertising if any), labor a reasonable profit margin, etc. Ignoring all of that for now, let’s price out one model – a 26 string fully levered – in two configurations: cheapest possible, and more expense. In the US:

    First you need to beg borrow steal or buy a blue print – or design you own. Keeping it simple blue prints will cost about $25 – designing your own about twice that (you will need a drafting table of some sort, paper, etc.)

    The harp frame and body will run from $150 to $400 depending on what you do:

    All Baltic birch for the frame with Finnish birch for the sound board – $100+ for the body and frame, $50 for the sound board. Total about $150.

    Solid wood – let’s say cherry frame, pre-made spruce sound board – $250 for the frame, $150 for the board.

    So, OK, $150-$400. How about the rest?

    Tuning pegs, bridge pins, eyelets, misc. screws and glue $100. Levers $150 – $420 from least expensive to most. Total – $250 – $520.

    Strings: about $150 – $200 depending if some are wound or not.

    Adding it all up before stuff like lots of clamps, jigs fixtures etc.:
    Total $525-$1125 (did I add that up right? please check my calculator fingers).

    Perhaps you can knock off a $100 or so if you happen to have to have some of this just sitting around.

    Shall we add in labor, overhead etc? Nah, let’s not I think the point has been made.


    charles-nix on #220668

    I’m guessing here–but 100 man hours labor for a very simple 26 string on a one-off by an experienced woodworker with good equipment? Maybe 150-200 man hours for the “first time builder”? I’m just making a guess. If that’s right, your $2000 26 string harp is being built for around minimum wage, not to mention what the equipment and tools cost–and what they cost to maintain.

    I haven’t noticed a great rush of people into the harp building field as a way of getting rich quick.

    As someone who does have the equipment and knowledge, it is not surprising to me how expensive harps are–it is surprising how inexpensive they are.

    Biagio on #220669

    I’d say that’s in the ball park Charles. For a simple lap harp that I’ve made before many times perhaps two weeks elapsed start to finish. Of course a lot of that is just sitting around waiting for glue and varnish to dry, strings to stretch in etc.

    On the other hand, a full week or more just to draft a new design so, yeah, 100 man hours at least.

    Of course a professional will get discounts on most of the materials; or the individual crafts person may have access to logs he/she can mill and dry.

    There are also economies of scale. If you ever drop in on Dusty Strings’ shop you might see a half dozen or more harps in different stages of manufacture, with only one-three people working.

    That said, I too am often amazed that good harps cost as little as they do!


    evolene_t on #220758

    Great post Biagio, it’s important to remember what we are paying for!

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