vertical cracks in finish next to rib

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    kimberly-goodwin-helton on #192707

    I will be taking my harp to our local technician, but I am very worried about the vertical surface cracks that I discovered next to the rib on my Salvi Diana. I live in Oregon and we had our usual bout of extremely dry and cold weather with a wicked East wind coming down the Columbia Gorge in December. Added to that–it’s the one time a year that I move the harp for the Christmas concert at my church. I am wondering if these are possibly the sign of impending doom for my soundboard (the grain runs vertically–is parallel with the rib at the higher octaves, and intersects at a slight angle lower down) and where I see the little cracks, it is where the grain intersects at a slight angle and they appear to be only at the surface in the finish. The trifecta of dry, cold and wind requires us to use more heat causing even more dryness, and I have had multiple humidity sources running constantly, but it was hard to keep the humidity even in the mid-30s in the living room, plus it was the one time I had to move it. I have been able to keep the humidity between 45-52 since then with great diligence, but it is a struggle with an oil furnace with it’s hot, dry heat. I have the harp away from all heat sources, and it’s corner stays between 68-72 pretty constantly. It keeps tune beautifully, and sounds great–I guess I’m looking for some reassurance or information until my technician can see it.

    Biagio on #192708

    Hi Kimberly,

    You did not mention the harp’s age; however here is possibly a little reassurance pending your technician’s examination. The grain orientation that you mention is only that of the external surface veneer, which is extremely thin. The actual sound board is spruce with the grain running horizontally, so given your humidity “issues” this may only be a cosmetic problem.

    However if you see any indication that the rib itself is separating (which of course is glued to that veneer) that would be cause for concern. The strings’ tension will hold the rib on but if you notice any buzzing down there as well then there may be some (hopefully minor) repair needed.

    Good fortune,

    kimberly-goodwin-helton on #192709

    Thank you for your quick reply! This harp is around 15 years old, and I am the second owner, but it was in practically showroom condition when I bought it a year ago. The previous owner did not play it very much, and it looks like it mostly sat around covered as the discs and plates are mirror bright. Ed Galchick did a regulation on it last summer and said it was like a brand new instrument. The previous owner moved from Los Angeles to the Puget Sound area by Seattle a few months before I got it. There are no buzzes, and the rib looks tight against the soundboard. I play pretty full and practice a lot, so I hope no buzz/lifting is a good indication that this is just cosmetic. Thank you for the info on the grain direction–I’ve wondered about that. I had read that the grain of soundboards was horizontal, and wondered at the structural integrity of the vertical grain that I was looking at, and why mine wasn’t horizontal. I didn’t realize I was looking at the veneer. Doh! (facepalm!) Looks like I need to do some more studying along with my practicing! I feel a little better now, and hope to have good news after “her” checkup.

    Also, looks like I need to get Carl Swanson’s maintenance book… 🙂

    Alyson Webber on #192740

    This past Harp Column magazine talked about how when the temperature is under 20 degrees the finish can start to be adversely affected within one minute, even if the harp has a transport cover. It is caused by the finish expanding and contracting at a different rate than the wood. I would imagine that bringing a harp from a cool environment (outside) into a warm environment (as I find many churches to be very warm) has the same effect. What kinds of things do you freelance harpists to to help ensure the safety of your instrument? Is the opposite true in the summer, particularly in the south?

    kimberly-goodwin-helton on #192770

    Does anyone know if the finish can be touched up by a luthier, if that is all it is? Or would that be a send it back to Chicago scenario?

    Biagio on #192771

    It should be something that a luthier can do – the finish is nitro-cellulose lacquer I am (almost) sure. You could do it yourself if you feel brave:-) Gentle sanding and then thin coat of Deft lacquer. Make sure that the finish IS lacquer of course!


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