Levering an Old (Blade) Harp

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    Biagio on #183812

    I recently restored an old Clark Model A and keep dithering about the blades, so would appreciate thoughts and comments. The blades do work as designed and the sound is very sweet in open position. But there’s no getting around the fact that blades distort the tone more than modern sharping devices.

    My choices are as I see it: a) sell it to someone who digs those beautiful instruments as designed or b) replace all but the last six blades with modern levers (I like Truitts). The bass six strings do not have bridge pins – I could add them but not too keen on that option.

    Questions that scurry around my cranium:
    Does historical accuracy trump tone (I’m thinking “yes” for me, “no” for collectors)?
    What would Melville have done (replace I’d wager)?
    If I go the lever route and later decide to sell it will that reduce the value (that’s the major one at $16/lever)?
    Do I really care if it does at this stage in my life (no need to address that one, heh heh)?

    My teacher will have opinions no doubt, but it’s always nice to have others.

    Thanks for the feedback!


    wil-weten on #183813

    Mmm, I do understand that the old blades of a Clark harp are less than ideal, but nevertheless, I think that replacing some of the blades with modern levers, would diminish a great part of its beautiful ‘heritage’ and artful looks…

    Biagio on #183814

    Indeed, that is the quandary Wil. You have put it very well. On the one hand it would feel a bit like desecration; on the other hand it would be a better instrument. I know of at least one professional who had that done (although she had her luthier add Lovelands which I don’t much like).

    It’s a long range issue, I’m not prepared to spend the money just now even if I do decide on levers. Always grateful for your thoughts!


    paul-knoke on #183815

    There are quite a few Clark harps in this area (upstate New York) as Clark was headquartered in Syracuse. In my experience, anyone who wants a Clark wants it to be as original and intact as possible, as a historical instrument. If they want a harp with modern levers, they buy a modern harp. I would leave the Clark as it is. To try to modernize an old instrument leaves you with something that’s neither fish nor fowl….

    Biagio on #183816

    Thank you Paul; I was looking forward to your opinion. I’m strongly tending toward leaving it as is. If I really want the model as a therapy harp (the main reason for considering levers) sell it and just build a brand new one..


    Eric Allison on #185034

    What do you not much like about Lovelands Biagio?

    – just curious –

    Biagio on #185038

    If the question is “Why Truitts instead of Lovelands?”…..Truitts are much easier to mount and regulate with less distortion, so if it’s my own harp those are what I’ll use. I do have one small, inexpensive double strung with Lovelands since they cost only about a third as much. But on a nice harp for myself – Truitts.

    If someone wants Lovelands I’ll do it but charge the same amount – it takes me twice as long to mount those accurately. Peter Brough’s levers are also great and easy to mount, but best done on a high tension gut instrument.

    Eric Allison on #185083

    Thanks for the comprehensive answer Biagio. I’ve only had Lovelands so have no experiential comparison. Are Truitts also easier to use, flip, see?

    Allison Stevick on #185087

    I think Truitts are easier to see, for sure, and they sound better than Lovelands. It’s not that I wouldn’t use Lovelands on a small harp, especially since they cost less, but I prefer Truitts.

    Biagio on #185088

    With some harps and for some people the Truitt levers are not as easy to spot as others unless they are marked in some way and those little colored rubber bands will not fit the handles. Mine are marked (red and blue) with heat shrink tape, other people will dab on enamel. A more elegant solution: glue on faceted beads, like Rees does.

    Laurie Riley teaches a technique for the double (since with those harps you can’t see the RH side) and is very fast: locate the string then quickly slide your finger up to the lever. Works just fine for a single too.

    Allison Stevick on #185090

    Good points, Biagio. My levers are marked, and I bet if they weren’t it would be hard to get the right one mid-tune. 🙂

    patedwards on #187872

    where can one procure the clark levers I need 2

    Biagio on #187874

    Ah Pat that is an excellent question and unfortunately I do not have a ready answer. There are three options: ask around harp restorers, try to find a Clark that is dead, or make them. The latter is what I had to do and while it is incredibly boring it is not difficult.

    Lyon & Healy used to make the Clarks too and it is just possible that they still have some blades; I know that they have a few of the ivoroid string pegs.

    To make the blades you have to cut the blade and shaft out of a bar of 0.090 brass – a Dremel with carbide blade is probably the easiest way to go. The shaft is then soldered into a 0.35″ brass sleeve; then that assembly slides into a stainless steel sleeve. The steel sleeve is notched for stops and peened or riveted to keep the brass sleeve from sliding out.

    All of those components are easy to find (though outside the US they will be metric). If you know an accommodating jewel smith she or he could probably do that more easily and with less swearing than I did. Just take along one of the good ones for a model.

    Good luck!


    tess on #227015


    Resurrecting this old thread because I’m in the same situation (except paying an expert to make the changes, since I have neither time nor tools to do it myself).

    Did you end up keeping the blades (it sounds like you may have, if you replicated some of them)? If you did, did you do anything to improve their sound? (You may remember from a different thread that my blades are not working in tune, so they may need to be removed and re-positioned.)

    Or did you do levers (I know you recommended this for my no-longer-authentic Clark)? I’m seriously considering this for mine, except that I love how the blades look (and levers are expensive, even just for materials). Leaving the blades on the bottom six strings, though, would save me $100, so thanks for that idea.

    Just curious about the end result.

    Biagio on #227088

    Hi Tess,

    I left the Clark with the original blades (except the 1-3 that had to be made). If you love your Clark I’d suggest keeping it as is. There really isn’t any way to improve the sound though other than by bending the shaft a little or adjusting the bridge in if the problem is that they are not accurate.

    There are no blades on the last few strings anyway on my harp (which I’ve since sold).

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