Identifying a harp/purchasing advice

  • Participant
    momcat on #193040

    Hi,

    I am a new member who has been reading the forums for about a month.

    I am an adult beginner, and took lessons for a few months with a very old lap harp that I have owned for years, and always wanted to learn to play properly.

    My teacher told me that I should stop using my instrument and that it needed repairs. I decided that, rather than spending the money on repairs, I would save up and by a larger lever harp. (I would like to repair my old harp eventually, too). I had always wanted a floor harp, and had found the smaller size difficult to balance while learning to play.

    I have spent months researching different brands and models and listening to them online. The problem is that there is nowhere near me where I can check out the harps in person, and I am loathe to make such an important choice (and large investment) without looking at, listening to, and touching them in person. I live in New York City, and am planning on going to the Somerset Harp Festival this summer. This seems like my best opportunity to check out a variety of harps all at once. The problem? I am going crazy waiting!!! I don’t know if I can hold out until then to play!

    I have been looking for used harps for sale that I can check out within subway/bus reach, and such postings are few and far between. I recently saw this one:

    http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/msg/5444494333.html

    and emailed the seller, asking for the make, model, and type of wood. I wanted to get an idea what I was dealing with. He replied that there was no manufacturer but that it was a Celtic lever harp with 34 strings and was made of ash and beech. There is also some repair needed, as shown in the post.

    I cannot figure out who the maker is, and don’t know if the repair is something that I could do myself.

    I would really like to have something to play now, but am concerned about spending the money now (which will affect what I can afford in July) unless it is worthwhile. I would really appreciate some feedback from people on the forum.

    Please excuse the long post, and thanks for all replies.

    Melinda

    Member
    Janis Cortese on #193058

    I would strongly encourage you to hold out until the summer. The last thing you want is to have one underperforming harp that needs repair and end up with another underperforming harp that needs repair. Then, you’ll have doubled your problem and have to wait even longer to buy a new, good-quality harp because of the money you spent on the second one.

    If you are in New York, there must be rental options for you, or your teacher might be able to help you find a rental. Otherwise, I really encourage you to sit tight until the summer so you don’t end up even further in the financial hole and stuck with two poor-quality harps.

    ETA: Can you take the train or drive down to the VA Harp Center in Haddonfield, NJ by any chance? They might have some nice used 34-string lever harps for sale. The NJ Turnpike should pretty much get you right there.

    Participant
    Biagio on #193060

    I would be very wary of buying a used harp if the seller does not know the maker, and even more so if it has any structural defects (as this one does). Those are two big red flags, even if you are an experienced harp maker (which I am). The fact that it has a problem but is new would immediately tell me “uh uh.” And NEVER buy an unknown harp just because of how it looks

    I would bet though that it is a Saffron 34 by Mikel of Pakistan. That is a new entrant to the harp market and there have been mixed reviews. Better to buy a used instrument from an experienced player with a harp from an established maker. Sometimes they turn up on Craigslist but sometimes real duds to too-)

    Actually I just heard yesterday of a very nice onein your area. The seller is a professional player and teacher in New Jersey with some harp making experience as well. She is selling a Sligo Luchair by Rick Kemper – Iris sometimes partners with Rick to do the decoration. I don’t know what she is asking for it but if you wish, write me here or off list and I will be happy to put you in touch.

    Best wishes,
    Biagio

    Member
    irisnevins on #193079

    I too saw this and I believe it is what they are calling Hunky Bunky and they come from Ireland …I amnot sure but think they may be made in Pakistan. Look up Hunky Bunky on Ebay…looks exactly the same. I don’t trust it.

    I am in NJ and often have used harps for sale… I also currently have a “Flatback Sligo Luchair” …a magnificent harp and collaboration I did with Rick Kemper. It is not “used” but is a demo model built 9 months ago. We made two and sold one, and this was the demo….but we decided to sell a bit reduced since it is a demo. It is immaculate, like brand new, and was out to show just a few times. It sounds deeper than the normal luchair, and is decorated with Celtic knots. Full camac levers, canvas quilted case, pickup. It has a 7 year warranty from Sligo and I offer free maintenance for the original owner, as long as you have it. Anyway if you want pictures and a video. you can respond with your email and I will send them.
    I have some other harps for sale but they are 26 strings. If you want a good all around all purpose harp that is not too expensive I always recommend to students a Ravenna 34 from Dusty Strings.

    Participant
    hearpe on #193100

    Hello Momcat-

    Yes that is a Mikel Celtic 34 saffron harp- I bought one new recently (6 months or so) direct from Pakistan via ebay- and got the harp delivered for well under $1000 new. They are also marketed in Ireland as a “Hunky Bunky”- not the best sounding name and at a higher retail. I bough mine mostly because I saw the ebay listing and it seemed like a lot of harp new and delivered for the money, although at that time I also saw a Hunky Bunky listed on ebay for under a grand, that quickly went up, and as many harps seemed to be suddenly increasing in price late last summer or early fall.
    Here’s a thread about them here I don’t know if you’ve seen and a couple of videos sample in it:

    Mikel Celtic Harps

    I’m still very pleased with mine, but some of the larger nylon wound strings- which appeared quite wavy and suspect- have self-destructed- three of them in fact since I got the harp- all spontaneously letting go at the top of the winding and as the harp was just sitting unplayed.

    So I’ve replaced those with Dusty Strings Ravenna 34 strings- which seem always a pretty good fit, and the harps are about the same height and sweep- and I’ve acquired some extra of those , including two more STEEL wound strings to replace the original Mikel configuration and more match the Dusty Strings approach- i.e. all steel wound on FULL lower octave, although I haven’t fitted them on yet- as winter has gotten difficult and other things have come up.

    So it is a pretty nice harp- but the price on craigslist of $1200 seems too high, and the strings lower end nylon strings may be marginal and end up being extra expense. The gap at the top of the rounded soundboard doesn’t seem dificult repair unless you can’t do it yourself, and the workmanship seems a bit shoddy.
    New delivered, mine still seems a great deal for what I paid and the rounded soundboxes do deliver a nice sound- I’ve got nothing to really compare it to otherwise. With some strings beefed up, I think the sound is similar to a Dusty Ravenna, but the quality may not be and the name brand is not there for any resale.

    good luck with your search- I would watch ebay -even search “34 harps” and you might see something there.

    Here’s a link to Mikel Celtic- Haven’t been there lately and not sure what the models are selling for:
    http://www.mikelceltic.com/lever-harps/saffron-34-strings-harp/

    The newer models have a wood inlay strip on the top rail.

    Participant
    hearpe on #193101

    Haven’t got a real recent photo= I’ve put some touches of color and decoration on the harp- and I don’t have a good shot of the levers yet. maybe soon

    Just saw the slightly more expensive Aster on ebay listed NEW at your craigs price:http://www.ebay.com/itm/Brand-New-34-Strings-Aster-Professional-Harp-All-Frequencies-Digitally-Tested-/272120003443?hash=item3f5b9dbb73:g:XC0AAOSwUV9Wo~sy

    You better shop around momcat!

    Participant
    Biagio on #193108

    A couple of other thoughts on this…..

    That rattle and up at the neck is probably due to a loose washer since the thing is probably bolted to the body. In order to repair that you would have to slack off all the strings and reach up with a socket wrench, if so; and possibly remove the entire neck/pillar assembly.

    I agree with Janet – better to wait or at least spring for a trip to look at better harps from established makers. Without knowing your budget it is difficult to suggest a specific model but for reference the Ravenna 34 that Iris mentioned is the lowest price of any quality 33-36 string out there. They go up from there e.g. the R-Harp Merlin, Dusty Crescendo or FH34 etc. One rather nice but still “budget” harp would be the Music Maker Voyageur – finished or as a kit. Top of the line harps will sell for $3500 or more.

    I tell people that buying a harp for the first time is a lot like buying a car: it is a major investment if you intend to keep it or a lot of expensive maintenance if you buy a lemon. It’s not necessary to buy a Maserati if a decent Honda will do – but stay away from used clunkers.

    Biagio

    Biagio

    Member
    Janis Cortese on #193110

    I also have to add in that the whole way the thing reads seems fishy to me. “It’s MY BABY!”

    “Who made it?”

    “Uh, I don’t know.”

    “It’s your baby but you don’t know who made it?”

    *silence*

    “How’d it get dinged up?”

    *silence*

    “Why are you selling it?”

    *silence*

    “If it’s your baby, that implies you’ve had it for a while — yet it’s brand new?”

    *silence*

    In addition to the general problems of buying a potentially poor-quality harp with condition problems, the whole thing just smells funny to me for other reasons as well. I tend to run to cynicism though, so I may be reading more into this than I should.

    Seriously — wait until the summer.

    Participant
    Biagio on #193111

    (Cough cough) Janis, I tend to by cynical about any “new” harp that sells for less than the cost of it’s materials. A good fully levered 34 string will cost the maker over $1000 US just for wood strings and hardware, no matter where in the world it is made. Those are retail costs of course, a large manufacturer will save a bit but it will be eaten up by overhead. Here’s one example – my “go-to” 34. I estimate the materials for that as:

    Soundbox $250
    Neck and pillar $500
    Sound board $250
    Strings $250
    Hardware & misc $150
    Levers $550
    Total $1950

    Naturally that is a custom harp for myself so I went for the best I could within my budget and did not charge myself for labor(grin). But no way could I have made it for less than $1000 nor would it sound as satisfying.

    Biagio

    Participant
    hearpe on #193129

    The Mikel Celtic 34 harps – aka “Hunky Bunky” are really not a bad buy- There are two models- The Saffron and Aster I think it is, for the money new they are half or less of the Dusty Ravenna- but the lower thick nylon strings may prove a problem as mine did, and a small temporary extra expense to replace strings which will happen eventually anyway.

    The levers aren’t top notch name brand, but they seem to function smoothly and deliver the correct tuning- I haven’t had any trouble there. They are much les clunky than the Roosebeck levers

    $1200 is about the normal price these days including shipping- which runs about $350 from Pakistan to the U.S.- and you may find one listed cheaper- I got mine under $1000 delivered. So 1200 for a used one with damage is high I think.

    I had thought about trying to finance a harp for a number of years, and my future is as tenuous as many peoples, so there is a chance I might eventually end up having to relocate and not be able to take a large harp along. So to be able to get a harp as large as or similar to a Ravenna 34 – new- and for much less money was what swung me to purchase for now. I’m happy to be having a larger harp experience.

    You might inquire at their website as to the costs- I see they aren’t listed up front, and expect to be on your own after purchase finding strings and any repair. As I said, most of the Dusty Ravenna wound strings seem a pretty good match, with a slightly more desirable beefier configuration. Good luck finding a harp.

    Participant
    wil-weten on #193141

    The Dusty Ravenna 34 strings has already been mentioned as a great ‘budget’ harp which also performs nicely on the second harp market.

    If you live in Europa and are looking for a lot of harp for a rather budget price which does great on the second harp market too, you may also like to research the Camac Telenn, Camac Hermine, Camac Melusine, and especially the Camac Isolde.

    Participant
    momcat on #193166

    Wow, thanks for all the replies! I have definitely reconsidered this purchase. It seemed a little fishy to me that the seller could give me no specific information. And if the instrument is new, how did it get so damaged already? I have just been waiting so long to play, especially after finally getting a “taste” of the experience. And since it was a local seller, it meant that I could try out the instrument in person.

    It does appear to be the Mikel Saffron 34 (Hunky Bunky). I went to their website, which, strangely, contained no pricing information. I am glad, hearpe, that you are enjoying yours. But I still really want to test drive any prospective instrument before buying it. I was very tempted, in fact, by two of the Blevins models, but they will not be at the Festival, so I can’t try them out.

    Biaggio and Janis, I am almost certainly now going to wait until the summer when I can see all the different harp brands together in one place. I want to get the best sounding/feeling instrument I can for my price range. While I would not want to get something I disliked the look of, looks are absolutely not my first priority.

    Iris, I like the idea of the lighter string tension of the Luchair (I have had joint issues in the past). Sligo is supposed to be at Somerset, so I am going to check it them out there. They are kind of out of my price range, though.

    wil-weten, I am certainly interested in the Dustys, and the Camacs as well. My favorite sounding harp so far is the Dusty Strings FH34 in bubinga. But that is not possible for me right now.

    A girl can dream, though, can’t she….?

    Member
    irisnevins on #193170

    I think the harp was in Brooklyn, at least there was one on my “local” craigslist too…. I am in NJ and have two variations of Sligo Luchair here, one normal one and another, is an experimental flatback one. There were two and one sold. The other we have decided to sell for less than a normal Sligo luchair, as it was to be a demo model, and is about nine months old now. If you would like to come and try both, it should not be too terrible a trip. No oblication to buy anything. The Flatback Luchair is less than the regular one. It has a seven year warranty. It is a new harp essentially, just has been shown around. It is gorgeous, decorated with Celtic knotwork and amethysts in the pillar! if you want pix you can email at irisnevins at verizon dot net. The demo that is here is very deep and rich, it has a body a little larger, so you get a similar richness to FH34 but also a lighter Luchair tension.

    Participant
    randal on #193174

    Welcome to harps and the forum m-cat.

    I totally understand your excitement and eagerness to begin with a larger instrument! When I eventually made the commitment to harping, I had difficulty being patient – as I’m not inclined to delay my pursuit of creativity, which is impulsive inspiration. I lived in a rural area when I began harp, and being of limited resources, I had to procure my harps via ebay. So, some amount of patience is necessary I’m afraid. There were a Blevins or two on ebay recently, btw.

    Personally, I would not spend money on a harp of dubious quality from an unreliable (“unreputed”) manufacturer unless at a dirt cheap price, or you will likely eventually find yourself in the same position as this CL seller mentioned – trying to unload it to an unsuspecting buyer. However, I could see the efficacy in acquiring such a harp for a temporary solution, with the understanding that it’s more or less “disposable.”

    The good news – eventually, a quality instrument, within driving g dustance, WILL present on Craigslist. Even in rural Montana – I was able to acquire a Gustavo Arias celtic last autumn (for about 1/10th of its retail price), as well as my Triplett 30 wire a couple of years prior. Last month i was also fortunate to purchase a Cunningham lap harp on ebay – again at about 1/6th its retail price). So, great harps, at great prices, are around; search diligently, and one will find you.

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