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Levers and Blades

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  • #76447
    jessica-caseman–2
    Participant

    I’m currently shopping for my first harp, and I’ve come across a harp which is within my financial range, but it has blades rather than levers for sharping. I’m not sure if this is going to be a bad thing or good as I’ve not really come across blades while doing my research online (been shopping around for a bit now) unless they were on a wire strung harp. It has 34 strings though, which would be a big step up from my 22 string Megan harp. If anyone could give me some personal advice on their own experiences with blades I would be really grateful. If they’re not going to give me a ton of trouble then it might be worth it to have more strings to practice on until I can afford a harp with truitts or camacs.

    #76448
    Tacye
    Participant

    You really need to judge the instrument individually – I have seen some makers using blades quite recently, but the harp in question may be old and there is a great difference between blades as installed and well looked after and blades after decades of use as a student hire harp.

    Blades were state of the art up until some date I can’t remember but think 1970s and people were playing small harps before then, and very well too and not just in one key. They are somewhat slower to engage than good levers and although peope did write music with fast blade changes I would prefer decent levers for that. However, they do wear out and some were better than others to start with. If a blade harp has been through heavy wear, particularly by students, the holes may have worn loose and the blades wobble, sound bad and don’t make clean semitones. Conversely if it hasn’t been used recently some may be ridiculously stiff and need gingering. If they are very worn or you just don’t like them it is perfectly possible to plug the holes and change them to levers.

    I have occasionally come across someone calling hooks blades. Hooks (in this context) work just like blades, but because they are not solid and have more give to them they only give a convincing sound on very light tension instruments.

    #76449
    jessica-caseman–2
    Participant

    The harp is a Markwood King’s Court 5, made in 1983 and the seller has told me that previously it had only one owner. I can’t try the blades out myself as it’s in another state but I will ask her tomorrow how well they move before I buy. Thank you for the advice, I hadn’t considered that they may not move well after long disuse. Do you have any recommendations on how to ‘loosen them up’ if they are lodged a bit?

    #76450
    lyn-boundy
    Participant

    May I ask what the difference is between a lever and a blade? Pardon my ignorance.

    #76451
    Angela Biggs
    Member

    Lyn, a lever flips up (or rarely, down) to engage the string and raise the pitch. A blade rotates sideways. Since the invention of the modern lever back in the 70s, blades are most common on wire-strung harps.

    #76452
    lyn-boundy
    Participant

    Thank you Angela. I get it!

    #76453
    Tacye
    Participant

    The blades I am most familiar with have threaded shafts, but those look like Caswell blades and he advised soap: http://www.caswellharps.com/Page25/Page31/page65/page65.html

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