String breaking–burr?

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    chrisscott on #216124

    Hello, all. My name is Chris. My 11-year-old daughter has been learning on a Salvi Prima 38 for several months now, which is going very well. I’ve successfully replaced several strings, but now I’m having a problem. I’ve attempted to replace the 3rd octave D string (using Bow Brand natural gut #16) three times, and each time, just as I’m getting it up to pitch, the string breaks at the sound board, right at the knot/anchor.

    From Googling around, it seems most likely that there’s a burr cutting into the string. I can’t see anything, though. Does a burr seem most likely to you? And, if so, how do I sand it out? The only advice I’ve found involves coating some kind of string in Brillo and then basically flossing the hole, which sounds like a mess. I saw one reference to some kind of sanding string, but I can’t find anything like that for sale anywhere. Should I just take it to the harp store (a 2-hour drive) for help? I would really appreciate any advice you might have. This one little thing is stressing me out–and keeping my daughter from practicing properly. Thanks very much.

    wil-weten on #216130

    There is something called ‘abrasive chord’ for situations like this. One can order it from harp shops.

    But frankly, I would go to the shop and tell them to fix it.

    Donna O on #216132

    Chris, I would call the harp shop first and describe the problem. Most harp shops carry abraisive cord and they should be able to send you a length. It is very inexpensive. I am not sure were you are located but here in the US Lyon and Healy, Vanderbilt music and Melodys all arry the cord.

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 3 months ago by Donna O.
    charles-nix on #216138

    Chris, if it is a new harp or a rental, definitely call the shop. They need to be involved, because it may be a warranty issue.

    The soundboard and string rib are fairly thick–so it is important to differentiate whether it is breaking at the knot–or at the soundboard. There can be a rough spot at the knot on the inside of the harp, but if the grommet is rough, it will break at the grommet, which is up away from the knot, and will leave a broken tag end on the knot piece.

    What kind of knot are you tying? Regular “bunny ear” harp knot? Camac style with wood dowel? The kind that starts with an overhand knot? Are you using a reinforcing bar? Some are stronger than others.

    “Replacing several strings” in “several months” sounds like a lot of breakage.

    Charles Nix

    chrisscott on #216225

    Thanks very much, everyone. I’ll definitely contact the harp store.

    I’ve been using the Carmac knot with an anchor (a bit of thick nylon string). I did use the bunny ear before, but I find the Carmac much easier. If you think that could make a difference, I could try it again with the regular knot. Either way, I’ll contact the store, as much as I don’t want to lug the harp there.

    balfour-knight on #216230

    Chris, the Camac knot works best on the little wooden dowels that they provide with their harps, with their larger string holes to receive the knots. I once tried that knot on my Dusty Strings FH36S and it was not satisfactory with the nylon string anchor. Dusty does not provide as large of holes as Camac does underneath the soundboard so that the knot can recess into the hole. See the instructions on Dusty’s site and do the knots that way, in my opinion. I assume Salvi soundboard string holes are like Lyon & Healy, and not as large as Camac to receive the Camac knot. If I am wrong, a harp tech will set us straight, I am sure!

    Best wishes for success,

    chrisscott on #216386

    Thanks, Balfour! I had no idea the type of knot might matter.

    balfour-knight on #216395

    Hi again, Chris,

    There is perhaps an easier way to tie the Salvi/Lyon & Healy string knots. It is illustrated on the Thormahlen Harps website. Unfortunately I cannot find instructions on L&H’s site just now. Anyway, you first tie a simple knot around the string anchor, then make a half-hitch around the anchor and string on the side where the short end of the string is, thereby locking that end in so it will not pull out. The illustrations are much better than my verbal description, and you can practice with a piece of string or yarn around a pencil before you try it on a harp string and anchor. My wife says it is just like casting on stitches for knitting.

    When a larger gut or nylon string breaks, you will still need to tie the “harper’s knot” which I believe is what you and Charles referred to as the “bunny ears” knot. The wire strings have this already taken care of, as you probably know. When I replace a harp string on any harp, I try to make the new knot exactly like the one that broke and all the others, if they have been done at the factory or harp shop correctly. You would not believe some of the bad knots I have seen that some folks carelessly do!

    Hope this helps.

    Have a great day,

    Biagio on #216428

    What follows is probably overkill, ha ha, but it works: I got frustrated with those anchors slipping around so have begun to add a leather pad to all the strings, not just the wound ones. One can buy them for a few pennies or (my way) just make them out of a second hand leather belt.


    charles-nix on #216429

    Interesting, Biagio. I recently restrung a carbon fiber harp–light-medium tension, nylon strings. A few months later, the harpist had several strings break–one, then another, then another. We talked, and I took it back in the shop.

    What I found was the string rib was a little collapsed into the back of the soundboard, and the string grommets were a slip fit into the hole. Under tension, the grommet was tilting sideways (because the soundboard/string rib is not solid) and the knot pulling into the edge of the grommet. Every knot was cut right at the loop.

    I epoxied the grommets to reduce the tilting–and put leather disks on every string to hold the knots away, just as is usually done with nylon/nylon and bass wires. Haven’t had a broken one since.

    Charles Nix

    harpist123 on #217233

    Hi, Biagio! Can you tell me how you made your DIY leather washers from a 2nd hand belt? (And I’m assuming I can cut “squares” as opposed to the impossible “circle”) And what did you use to make/punch the string hole? I am awaiting my shipment of strings (in a couple hours YIKES…Will you get this???) and was thinking it would be an excellent idea, since I will be restringing 5th octave A B C D E through 3rd octave, using Savarez K&F Alliance strings…Thanks!

    charles-nix on #217234

    Don’t know if Biagio will see in time, so here goes from our perspective. Organbuilders cut the washers with arch punches. We also have a standard pre-punched, pre-drilled part called a “leather nut” which is exactly what is used on harps. Any nearby organbuilder can get them for you. Be prepared to give an outside diameter, and ask for flat, not rounded, leather nuts.

    If you want to make them, I don’t see why square wouldn’t work. We have arch punches for 3/16″ to 4″ in every size they make, so making round is much faster–if you have the punch. Square should work.

    Use an appropriately sized twist drill to make the hole. If the leather won’t drill, then it is too soft for the purpose. You need proper “belting” leather. (All belts are not made of “belting” leather.) The drill will make a hole smaller than its diameter in the leather. You need to experiment with drills to get a snug enough fit, but not too big. You will probably need a numbered 1-60 drill index to find one close enough, though you might get by with 1/64″ increments.

    Be prepared for KF strings–they do not behave or string like gut does. They will stretch and stretch forever–when they finish stretching, they will be extremely stable, though. Whether you like the sound is up to the listener and the specific harp.

    Also, leather washers do not eliminate the need for a string “toggle” in the knot for 3rd octave and up (or maybe as low as 4th octave C). And leather washers will only solve specific types of breakage problems.

    Did you ever identify the problem for sure?

    If this is a rental or is still under warranty, be SURE a string change to KF is acceptable to them. People can be very particular about that.

    Charles Nix

    charles-nix on #217235

    Sorry, harpist123 and ChrisH. I just realized you were not the original questioner. Please ignore my questions about identifying the problem, etc.

    Charles Nix

    harpist123 on #217236

    Thank you, Charles! It was a very complete and succinct explanation! Though it is more than I will be able to take on, and since I desperately need to get my harp restrung, I will have to wait for next time. Also, I live in an INCREDIBLY rural area, MANY miles from real civilization (though it’s a wonderful life!) I would probably do better to buy them already made, after reading your explanation. FYI: I have a Pratt Chamber harp, and John Pratt and I went back and forth some years ago with regard to string breakage with the natural gut (Bow Brand) on my particular harp. It was NOT during the time where seemingly everyone was complaining about BB gut strings, either. (John said he is now putting Premier gut on his harps, and that there is very little breakage). And I had an expert look at the harp and there were no defects that he could find that would resolve the problem. I had another friend who ALSO had the same model harp, and was experiencing breakage issues. I was the “Guinea Pig” for the K&F Alliance on the Chamber, and John and I worked through with Lyra, at the time, now Vanderbilt, about diameters, etc. They work perfectly on this harp. It takes concert tension — and the sound is very excellent. I think the sound of these K&F’s is highly dependent on the build of the harp. I also have a L&H Style 100 Pedal harp, and now am playing the Pratt almost exclusively. So I know the difference in sound, as I hear it first hand with both harps, and have heard it on the Pratt both ways. I know it is personal preference, but the sound is honestly amazing 🙂 Thank you for your input. I enjoy reading about how others approach their issues or problems. This resolve for me was excellent. As for stretchiness, yes I am VERY aware of the “stretching phase” that’s needed to get them to a point where there won’t be too many winds around the tuning pins. I have had this particular set on since April 2015, and only now was able to hear them “wearing down” in sound, so-to-speak…And actually had the first K&F break for the first time in all those 3 years! I have a good ear. And I play every day. These strings respond beautifully once they hold pitch. I haven’t had any issues with them becoming too thin from stretching over time as to not reacting “right on pitch” to the sharping levers. We all continue to learn, every day, if we are open to others ideas and really hear how others approach their craft 🙂 Thank you again!

    charles-nix on #217237

    If anything came across as “dissing” KF, I certainly didn’t mean to 🙂 I use them on my lever harp, and have recommended them for several restring customers for their lever harp. I had failed to read the title line, and thought I was answering ChrisH, who seemed new to the harp world.

    I also didn’t remember until just now that Vermont strings/North Shore/Robinsons and Markwood all use the leather washers on their wound strings, so they would surely sell the washers separately. If all else fails, my organ company could order in whatever size you want from our wholesale supplier and send it to you.

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