The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #89374   Message #1686882
Posted By: NH Dave
06-Mar-06 - 09:03 PM
Thread Name: Making an angel harp
Subject: RE: Making an angel harp
First, LARK In the Moring has a Guitar Zither for $ 175.00, which is about as inexpensive as you will find in a used Autoharp. This was a bit surprising to me, as I have found them to be on the pricy side, in the past.

The biggest cost in these type instruments is the strings. Once you get beyond them, everything is gravy. If you have a source of large spools of string material in different diameter and wrapping, you can make your own strings far cheaper than you can buy commercial ones, but you have to find a source of this material first. You may find this wire at a musical instrument or luthier's shop.

If you can get an older autoharp for less, and I haven't seen any on a local resale company with a web page, The Wantad , you will either want to decorate over the current finish, or take it all the way down to the bare wood, and start from the beginning again.

Since the tuning pins/pegs rely on friction to hold the string in tension, I doubt that you'll be able to simply grasp them and pull them out of their solid wooden bar of the instrument. You will probably need to try to screw them back out of the wood after you have removed their strings. I'd try to get a "T" handled Tuning Hammer - what the "In Crowd" call the small wrench used to twist the tuning pegs. Most come through with an "L" shaped tuning wrench, so you'll have to try an autoharp, zither, or hammered dulcimer makers or sales shop to find a "T' handled wrench. But once you try one you'll find it much easier to get that tiny smidgeon of a turn you need to get a string into proper tune, with a "T' handled wrench, rather than the "L" shape wrenches.

I suspect you could coat the tuning pegs with Vaseline® or petroleum jelly, spray on whatever "paint" you want to use, and then wipe the paint off the greased pegs. Of course if you have some soft cloth and jewelers rouge or a similar very fine abrasive, you could probably just spray the paint on, let it cure, and simply wipe the paint off the chromed tuning pegs with your cloth and fine abrasive, as paint doesn't stick too well to chrome, especially unprepared chrome. You could simulate my first tip by rubbing each peg between your thumb and finger, relying on the slight coating of oils on your fingers to coat the pegs. Rubbing each peg with soft cloth after the coating has cured should remove most of the paint, and you can use the rouge, chrome polish, or rubbing compound abrasive to get the rest.

I'd take a tip from Irish Harp players, and color the upper end of the strings, that start an octave, with a small bit of colored paint, indicating the start of each octave, and its third and fifth, the "do", "me", and "sol" of your harp's tuning, to keep things straight in your mind, when you start picking it. You may be better at recognizing these strings/notes than I, but I know most plucked harps have these strings made of colored material, to keep the harpist straight.

Much of this won't make much sense at first, but once you start working on the instrument, it should all fall into place, and you'll wonder why the hints made so little sense before.