Tools for Pedal Harp Regulation

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    sidney-butler on #227556

    What kind of screwdriver (angled) is used for pedal disk adjustments?

    Ideally, I would take my harp for a professional regulation. However, it is just proving too hard and too expensive to travel and transport my harp to get it regulated. It has now been 4 years. It’s still in very good shape, but I changed the string gauge a little bit by switching from bow brand to premiere strings. I just want to tweak the intonation a tiny bit.

    In the past, I have replaced broken pedal harp disks. In doing the pedal harp disks, I have found that an angled flat head screw driver would have helped since a straight one damaged the string. Is this tool available? Or do I take some pre-existing tool and bend it myself.

    Please don’t argue with me that I should have a professional regulation; I will get one when I can. I know that is ideal, but tweaking a harp that is in practically brilliant shape, versus the costs of travel with multiple night stays at hotels and gas and dog sitters and taking off from work. I have already weighted the pros and cons. Let’s keep this subject on track. Given I am going to do this and take my own risks, I am simply looking for advice on the tool that is an angled screw driver.

    Deette Bunn on #227562

    I have always had my harps professionally regulated on a regular basis. Sometimes, however, a student (or school) cannot afford it or a harp needs a repair. I have always been thankful to my teacher who taught me how long before there was a guild with traveling technicians. L&H used to publish a booklet called “Happiness is a Contented Harp,” a prized possession complete with instructions and diagrams. They also sold a tool kit that included an assortment of things including the pedal felt blocks.
    That said, when I replace a disk, I unwind the string a bit so that the screwdriver doesn’t damage it. I use a small, short, thin screwdriver and haven’t damaged a string yet. There is a trick to loosening the disk with a straight screwdriver without touching the string, but I can’t figure out how to explain it. You can find me at EverythingHarp on Facebook and I can show you how.

    sidney-butler on #227565

    Like I said, let’s not argue about getting a professional regulation. I agree. I have really, really good ears and an average person wouldn’t need their harp regulated at this level and just leave it another year. It’s me just wanting to make tiny, tiny adjustments. It’s not practical to keep taking a string off.

    Yes, I have thought of lots of options. We had a traveling regulator and he quit about 10 years ago when he had kids. I have contacted the traveling guild and they say “so you you’re in Michigan,” meet us in Detroit or Lansing. Are you kidding me? That’s 9 hours away. That’s a minimum of a three day traveling event, drive day 1, regulation day 2, drive day 3. I live closer to Canada, smack in the middle of Lake Superior. There are two pedal harps to be regulated in this area and the closest next place that will have maybe two more for regulation is 100 miles away. Plus then you have to convince these other harpists that they actually need a regulation. I can’t believe the number of harpists who just never get their harp regulated, period.

    We used to have someone who would travel Chicago, Green Bay, Calumet, Marquette. They decided the travel wasn’t worth it anymore when they had kids. I posted a picture of the remoteness of our area; and where I live is actually 14 miles further than Houghton. It’s remote and we got 360 inches of snow this past winter. It’s not a drive you take lightly unless you want a snowmobiling or skiing vacation. Summer is nice, but you’d have to want to go fishing or something in addition to regulate two harps. Haven’t had any luck, so all the traveling technicians say go to a major city and that means a minimum 3 day traveling event.

    I will do the 3 days when I have to and can make it work, but right now an appropriate screw driver is more practical.

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    Debora LaMarchina on #227567

    I cant seem to post a picture on this reply but firb8 bucks there is a angled thin screwdriver on Google I didn’t even have to click images. IRS 8.13. CEMBRE, INC. IT CONES RIGHT UP.

    Gretchen Cover on #227568

    Perhaps contact technician George Flores for advice and the proper tool you need. He posts a lot on Facebook and invites harpists to reach out to him on technical matters. He works mainly on Venus harps but I am certain he knows LH harps, too. Have you checked tutorials on youtube? I also believe tech Steve Moss has a dvd about harp maintenance. You could email him to see if his dvd addresses your harp issues and ask what tool you need for the job you are doing.

    Sad that harpists don’t get their harps regulated and wire strings changed regularly. Not doing so shortens the life of a harp, could hurt resale, plus they end up not sounding good. Like driving a car and never changing the tires, filters or oil. Personally, I would never buy a used harp without an inspection report and proof the harp was properly maintained.

    Tacye on #227575

    I use a bit of specially bent wire from Pilgrim harps to release the disk so the screw is easy to undo and a straight screwdriver. Never had any trouble with pulling the string aside enough.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #227584

    There are many adjustments you can make on your own, and should. Regulations by professionals, unless you can afford to do them regularly, should be occasional needs.
    You can carefully grip a disc pin with needle-nose pliers and try to influence it to bend. It helps to cover the rough surface so as not to roughen the brass. If you have old discs, the pins are not hard to bend. If they are the newer kind, they will not bend in the middle so much as change angle, but you must be careful not to apply much pressure as you can snap them out of the disc. It is better to try to reposition the adjustable above the discs. You can use a small, fine screwdriver between the pins to loosen their grip, or tighten it. The screws are unfortunately soft, so you have to use a screwdriver that fits them well so as not to spoil the groove, but the screws are replaceable. You need more than one size, because the screws change sizes. I have been lucky to find a couple of small screwdrivers that work pretty well. It is generally better, I think, to have thicker strings, particularly on an older harp, so the discs can be more open. Pirastro nylon strings are slightly thicker than the others, and Bow Brand now has wonderful heavy-gauge gut strings. You really don’t need to regulate when you have changed felts, but much more after a few months when they have started to pack down. You will have to re-adjust in any case as they pack down. You could also take a spare disc to a hardware store and have them help you locate suitable tools.

    charles-nix on #227592

    Good for you for learning how to do some minor adjustments. Every harpist should know. Actually, I think that the more you try it, the more you will want to leave a full regulation to a professional.

    I’ve worked for decades with slotted screws. There is no such thing as an angled screwdriver that will actually work. Changing the angle to transmit torque through a bend will _always_ cause the blade to “cam out” of the slot. Generally it damages the screw in the process. Generally the screwdriver will slip and gouge what you are working on also. (There is a ratchet-type driver, but that won’t fit under the string.)

    Pull the string to one side with a thumb or loosen it. Particularly since you are just starting, having an exactly fitting screwdriver is essential. You will need several sizes. The blade should just slide into the screw groove and be very close to the full width of the screw or a little wider. A hollow-ground blade will greatly help slipping out. You cannot find these at your local store. Gunsmiths use them, and other who do precision work with slotted screws. I use drivers made by Wiha tools; they have a US office, and sell over the internet.

    Also be aware that anything you grap with standard steel pliers of any type will have a mark or burr left on it. You must pad the tool every time, or you will forever be filing and polishing out marks. If a burr is near a string, it will also ruin the string. Jewelers use pliers of many types with smooth and polished faces. Those will save a lot of time.

    You will also need spare screws in every size. You will break some getting them tight enough to hold properly. If you don’t have Carl Swanson’s book on maintenance, get it. Steve Moss’s video and website, as well as Mike Lewis’ website ( all have excellent information also.

    sidney-butler on #237469

    So here’s what happened. I hunted and found I could travel 5 hours to meet a traveling L&H Guild Member Technician. I am very dissatisfied in the resultant intonation after the regulation. Perhaps the other aspects of the regulation were performed fine, but my need of the regulation was simply for intonation. I had switched from bow brand strings to premier strings. That means all the gauges changed; while small amounts, they did change. This would mean a technician would have to adjust each and every disc.

    I don’t know what happened. I wasn’t there to watch. In hindsight I wish I had. I trusted the guild member…his name pops up all over this forum and he is well known, but at this point in time I wont say who.

    I played the harp to test it and used a piece with enharmonics. E natural and F flat didn’t match…hurt my ear in fact…it wasn’t close. Same deal with B sharp and C. I get the theory that enharmonics are not exactly the same, however, they should sound close enough. I got the technician to adjust these to better satisfaction. He used the istrobosoft app to do the adjustments. AHHH! I got him to use my app (gstrings) and the natural and sharps were significantly off.

    Here’s why using a cell phone app for a regulation upsets me. I had discovered that istrobosoft worked acceptably on my old iphone in the past. However, when I later switched to Android, the software was not acceptable. My harp wasn’t in tune with this app on my new android. So I stopped using it and converted to another app (gstrings) which proved better accuracy on my android. I have two suspicions:

    1) the istrobo software was created originally for iphone and was just thrown together at a later time into an android version, and the android version was not optimized.
    2)an app is only as good as the microphone in the device. Androids are not consistent. Each brand can have who knows what quality of microphone. So if you use an android with a bad mic, it doesn’t matter how good the app is, the mic can’t pick up the level of accuracy required.

    I will make the assumption that the technician didn’t “blow me off.” By that I mean, he didn’t fake it…not really check each tone. I do wonder if that was possible…he could have assumed I didn’t have a good enough ear to know better and it was at the end of the day and perhaps he didn’t put enough care into making adjustments.

    So assuming that is not the case, that he adjusted every note with his istrobosoft app, the app just doesn’t have sufficient accuracy. Whatever happened to technicians using a mechanical strobe?! L&H technicians used to brag about how expensive and accurate their equipment was…that $4000 strobe tuner.

    So here’s where I am. All of my sharp disks are significantly off. The naturals are a little off. The sharp disks then amplify the error.

    I regret I trusted the big name guild member technician. Perhaps, it was his error to use an app and he had no feedback yet that the app was not accurate enough? I wrote him that I was dissatisfied. He never replied. Next time I will check ALL THE STRINGS and not just four. I guess if I found four out of four that were off…that was a sign. Again, I trusted.

    So here I am today. I’m faced with making the adjustments myself now. I got myself a mechanical strobe tuner (old peterson 420 from ebay). I will get a hollow ground screwdriver as suggested. It was mentioned that screws will break or the slots will strip at some point no matter how delicate one is. Where do I get these screws when that happens?

    In the long run, I will be very happy to do the adjustments myself and finally have the control in my hands. Thanks in advance for the assistance.

    carl-swanson on #237481


    I’m curious. What make and model is your harp. And what is the age? If as you say, natural is just a little bit off and sharps are way too sharp, that could indicate some issues with the structure of the instrument. If that is the case, no technician can fix that with a regulation. If the harp is in good structural condition, then maybe some discs have to be changed to improve the regulation. Also, is there any particular area of the instrument(treble, middle, bass) that is off?

    sidney-butler on #237484

    It’s a 2005 Salvi Sinfonietta. Perfect condition as far as I’m concerned; it’s been treated with care with a humidifier or dehumidier running constantly according to the appropriate season.

    I can check if there is a certain range that is further off, but I’m not sure as of now.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #238168

    Lyon & Healy used to sell a tool kit, and they had a whole survival kit for people who lived in remote places. Karen Rokos taught me that before you go at the discs, move the adjustable around first to see if you can fix problems that way.

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