I thought of calling this “well, now I’ve seen everything.” But I like “underwater harp” better. Today a client brought me a harp to look at and “try to fix.” It was one of my own Swanson harps and was once a fully gilded Empire in antique maple stain. I hadn’t seen the harp in 9 years or so. Well, This client was living on a boat in a Brooklyn boat yard in 2008, the year that hurricane Sandy hit. She had the harp packed in the car ready to evacuate, but waited too long. When she tried to drive out of the boat yard, the gates were already locked. So this harp was totally immersed in water, salt water to boot, for several hours!! This is the first time I’ve seen it since then. It looks awful, but after working on it for several hours, it works and regulates beautifully. I would have thought that the entire instrument would simply delaminate from the water. But it didn’t. The neck is still straight, the soundboard flat, and everything else works fine. The harp is about 20 years old and has been used by this harpist to play on street corners, in public parks, at shopping malls, you name it, she’s played there. It’s been beaten to death and still works fine. Must be something we did right!
I would be interested to see before and after photos, Carl. And to learn a bit about what it took to get it back into shape. How long was the interval between when the harp was damaged and when you started to work on it? I would think that the harp case and the car would have precluded contamination by anything larger than a micro-organism, but what kind of residue did you find? Fascinating! John
Hurricane Sandy was in 2012, and the last time I saw it was sometime before that. I don’t know what they did initially to dry it out and clean it up. The owner told me that they “oiled EVERYTHING.” So mechanically it was not “rusted shut.”
What is the current condition? I just spent about 10 hours regulating it and so far so good. The action should be completely taken apart, cleaned and relubricated. There is supposed to be grease in certain parts of the action, and oil in others. I doubt that there is any grease left anywhere. Also, the salt water corroded the lock screws in the center of the discs, and I broke many screw heads off during the regulation. When I work on the action, I’m just going to replace all of the screws. But it is currently playable.
Insurance would certainly have covered it. But she didn’t have any. There is a long back story to this about the harpist herself, which I simply can’t go into here. But she has a first prize from the Paris Conservatory! She’s an incredible harpist. I wish there was a way of collecting some money for her to get the work done to get this instrument stabilized and working in good shape for her.
An interesting and cautionary tale. The insurance for my harp (replacement value) is $160 per year through Anderson Insurance Group. You do need to be a member of the American Harp Society to get the discount. Small price to pay considering the cost of a new, or even used harp, or any repair. Check out the harp repair on Silke Airhorn’s Facebook page. Her harp fell over and broke the knee block.
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.