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Autoharp Restringing

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Bluesman and kde 09 Mar 01 - 10:02 AM
wysiwyg 09 Mar 01 - 10:13 AM
catspaw49 09 Mar 01 - 10:16 AM
wysiwyg 09 Mar 01 - 10:22 AM
catspaw49 09 Mar 01 - 10:38 AM
Bill D 09 Mar 01 - 10:42 AM
wysiwyg 09 Mar 01 - 11:02 AM
Bill D 09 Mar 01 - 11:50 AM
wysiwyg 09 Mar 01 - 11:57 AM
BlueJay 09 Mar 01 - 12:15 PM
catspaw49 09 Mar 01 - 12:29 PM
GUEST,Carol's Friend Don 09 Mar 01 - 12:48 PM
Bill D 09 Mar 01 - 12:52 PM
black walnut 09 Mar 01 - 03:16 PM
Bluesman and kde 09 Mar 01 - 04:19 PM
wysiwyg 09 Mar 01 - 05:14 PM
GUEST,Carol's Friend Don 09 Mar 01 - 05:55 PM
catspaw49 09 Mar 01 - 06:45 PM
z! 09 Mar 01 - 11:40 PM
Bernard 10 Mar 01 - 06:34 AM
GUEST 24 May 11 - 11:11 PM
GUEST,DonMeixner 25 May 11 - 12:05 AM
GUEST,GUEST: Reno 26 Jul 11 - 02:08 PM
GUEST,DonMeixner 26 Jul 11 - 11:43 PM
GUEST,Reno 27 Jul 11 - 12:48 PM
Bill D 27 Jul 11 - 01:14 PM
Bill D 27 Jul 11 - 02:08 PM
GUEST,Reno 27 Jul 11 - 05:09 PM
Bill D 27 Jul 11 - 05:23 PM
GUEST,DonMeixner 27 Jul 11 - 05:25 PM
GUEST,Reno 28 Jul 11 - 09:55 AM
DonMeixner 28 Jul 11 - 11:41 AM
PHJim 28 Jul 11 - 09:17 PM
GUEST,Reno 30 Jul 11 - 12:13 PM
Bill D 31 Jul 11 - 11:36 AM
Bill D 31 Jul 11 - 12:26 PM
PHJim 31 Jul 11 - 04:27 PM
Bill D 31 Jul 11 - 09:06 PM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 31 Jul 11 - 10:37 PM
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Subject: AUTOHARP RESTRINGING
From: Bluesman and kde
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 10:02 AM

Would appreciate any info anyone has on restringing an autoharp. Someone told me in the past that there is a special way to do it, something concerning the number of turns on the tuning keys and the amount of string wound on them.


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Subject: RE: AUTOHARP RESTRINGING
From: wysiwyg
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 10:13 AM

The main thing is to unwind, not cut, the old strings off, by reversing the pegs, so that the pegs come up to receive the new strings and new windings. This prevents you from screwing the pegs down too deep-- bad things happen.

Me, I take the coward's way out-- I let the repair shop do it when it's the whole harp. They also check out all the chord bars, springs, and spring holders. On a 21-chord model, the cheap plastic teeth that hold the springs and chord bars are extremely fragile-- not only can there be one tooth broken off or about to give way, but I say let the pro break and replace them just opening up the damn top or putting it all back together!

They polish up everything while the harp is sitting there naked, so to speak.

(There are kits from Oscar Schmidt that replace the whole top assembly too, if this is an old beat-up model.)

I oil my strings, BTW, to slow down oxidization, and it seems to improve tone brightness and sweetness too.

But never mind all that. I wanna know-- are you electric or not (do it!!!) and do you play blues on it? (Do that too!) If so I would love to correspond, or hear more here in this thread about how and what you play. (Tell us more about your harp too.)

~Susan


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Subject: RE: AUTOHARP RESTRINGING
From: catspaw49
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 10:16 AM

DO NOT GET ANY OIL (if you elect to do that) AROUND THE TUNING PEGS!!!! Otherwise, good advice Susan. Be sure you have at least three wraps around the pegs also.

Here's an excellent piece at Cyberpluckers....CLICK HERE

Spaw


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Subject: RE: AUTOHARP RESTRINGING
From: wysiwyg
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 10:22 AM

OK, I DON'T!

But why? Do they go madly spinning about?

*G*

~S~


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Subject: RE: AUTOHARP RESTRINGING
From: catspaw49
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 10:38 AM

Tunong pins are basically "press fit" and rely on the hole size being maintained. Although oil might swell the wood to some degree, in the end it will absorb into the wood and the pin will have no bite. You drill a 15/64" hole for a 1/4" tuning peg and then hammer (not screw) the tuner in about halfway. Then you screw it down a few turns. This roughens the sides of the hole and cuts threads in the wood. This is obviously a close fit, but one which can easily be ruined by oil soaking into it, or manhandling the tuning pegs with an L-Shaped wrench (a T-handle is best.....and if you can find a bunch of old clock keys, some of them are very attractive and will fit.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: AUTOHARP RESTRINGING
From: Bill D
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 10:42 AM

however, oil (vaseline is what one serious player recommends) where the string goes around the post on it's way TO the turning post may help. This is where a lot of strings break due to metal fatigue. Unless there is some major problem, I don't suggest re-stringing the whole thing at one time...replace broken strings as they need it.


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Subject: RE: AUTOHARP RESTRINGING
From: wysiwyg
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 11:02 AM

Verrrry interessstingggg......

Picture this, guys... since I play mine tabletop UPSIDE DOWN, pulling the strum toward me, I am always pulling the string against that little pin, and SPINGK! There goes the midrange D AGAIN! Just when I have the new one broken in and no longer stretching more and more as I play... SPINGK! The attrition on the tuning peg hole gets to be a factor with all that replacing.

Vaseline there, huh? (OK, Spaw, KY)

I vill trrry theesss nexxxt!

Wait till you hear how I plan to squeeze a whole second set of chord possibilities out of the backup harp without changing a string or any felts. Now if only I could get that second harp into the hardshell case with the good harp.

~S~


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Subject: RE: AUTOHARP RESTRINGING
From: Bill D
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 11:50 AM

Susan...supersearch is not working right now, but I have posted before about Ron Wahl, who had Bryan Bowers and Mike Seeger with their jaws dropping in about 1974.....he claimed to have not broken a string in several years due to his idea of loosening the string and greasing the post with vaseline. So *shrug*....(I play 'mostly' with a fabricated brass pick (sort of like Kilby Snow) which seems to be easier on steel strings...)maybe I'll take some pictures....


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Subject: RE: AUTOHARP RESTRINGING
From: wysiwyg
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 11:57 AM

Love to see, Bill, but remember I'm playing upside down. No not me, the harp! LOL! I use just the one brass or nickel Dunlop .013 fingerpick. Clean tone and less sound of pick on metal on those damped strings... less swooping sound and whomping around when I am amped up... more variety of expression, from whisper to whine to well-all-right! BUT-- they're so lightweight they bend right around my fingertip and sometimes the pick portion starts to tear off from the fingerwrap part. Clearly I need metal implants in my picking finger but what's a girl gonna do?

~S~


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Subject: RE: AUTOHARP RESTRINGING
From: BlueJay
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 12:15 PM

Ha- Susan. Jimi Hendix of the harp? I guess I can't imagine playing it upside down. But whatever's right for you! Regarding strings, my never fail method involves changing them only every ten to fifteen years. This is because the last time I changed them, it took me about eight hours.

If I played the autoharp more regularly, I'm sure I would own a nicer harp, which would probably give me a different perspective. In such a case, I think I'd have to agree with you Susan, and let the shop do it. There are many services well worth paying others to do, and I think changing the strings on an autoharp is in this category. Thanks, BlueJay


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Subject: RE: AUTOHARP RESTRINGING
From: catspaw49
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 12:29 PM

What y'all need to do is string a boatload of Hammered Dulcimers........Autoharps are a piece of cake. BTW, use a lead pencil or a tiny bit of graphite ON THE STRING instead of Vaseline. I can't get too hot on that Kentucky Jelly though.......tastes pretty awful on toast.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: AUTOHARP RESTRINGING
From: GUEST,Carol's Friend Don
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 12:48 PM

There are several other things to consider:

If you're lucky enough to have one of the American built Schmidt's with lamanated peg boards, you can back the peg out completely, wire brush the treads while holding it in the tuning wrench (Preferably a T handle) and swab out the hole with a mixture of sugar water using a Q-tip. (Check your Q-tip prior to wetting it, to see which way it rolls without the cotton detaching from the stick, or it will leave the cotton ball at the bottom of the peg hole). This process will swell the hole tighter, clean up the tuning smoothness and leave a slightly sticky tuning hole (important if you replace a lot of strings over the years). Replace the peg before the hole dries (helps set the wooden "threads") and run the peg down to a point were it's about 1/4 to 1/8 above the other pegs when looking sideways down the peg line.

Put a small bend at the ball end of the string and set the ball down into the tray. Get a tongue depressor to slide behind it to hold the ball end in the tray (loop ends are another story, good luck.) Run the string to the tuning peg and slip it through the hole, leaving about three inches of slack on the lower portion of the string. Bend the string at a sharp angle to your left and begin to turn the peg in a clockwise direction. As the slack pays out, insure that the string is seating in the guide peg and is winding (not binding) on the tuning peg. Once the string is up to pitch, depress it several times and retune to pitch.

A little known secret is that auto harp strings can easily go up a whole note in tuning without breaking. In fact, the best way to play in the keys of G,A and D for Celtic and traditional is to simply get a second Autoharp and tune every string up one whole note (i.e. C to D, A# to C etc.) Get felt and make the equivelent of an Em and Bm Cord bar for each harp and you've just about got it all (replace the Eb and D bars).

WYSIWYG wanted to know about pick-ups and doing blues on the autoharp. I use a Dean Markley acostic sticker placed on the back, 4 inches equidistant from the bottom and bass string side. Good full sound without the electric Loving Spoonful crap. Works well against hammered dulcimers and full folk harps. Use a Beta 57 mic on the front side and you can get a pretty decent vibrato if you balance the harp in your lap and use your right wrist to push and release the harp at the chord holder (as rapidly as you want the effect) as you pluck the strings. If it's amateur night, you can strum the chords, but I haven't done that for some fifteen years.

Another thing to try is using a thimble on your ring finger to tremelo a single string or three string chord for a mando effect. I don't like the blues much, as it doen't appear challenging, but try some solo work against a dulcimer on an O'Carolyn planxty such as Fanny Power, or Irwin into George Barbezon, and you done a day's work.

If you want to do blues, Schmidt put out a set of three progressive diminished chord bars, which, with a couple of seventh chord bars, are enough to get you laid on the first date. Good luck!


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Subject: RE: AUTOHARP RESTRINGING
From: Bill D
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 12:52 PM

Susan...try a Mizrab..(Sitar plectrum)..pluck both directions ...

Mizrabs

more pics and sales

be warned! Mizrabs come in MANY different sizes , lengths....I buy them locally and and can try them for fit..if you have a music store which has or will order them, that's the best way.


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Subject: RE: AUTOHARP RESTRINGING
From: black walnut
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 03:16 PM

You've convinced me. I'm taking mine to a shop.

Thank You,
~black walnut


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Subject: RE: AUTOHARP RESTRINGING
From: Bluesman and kde
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 04:19 PM

Hey, you guys are so great in problem solving. I've decided that I will string it myself with the info y'all sent. Now for the $60+ that the strings cost!!!! LOL

Susan, Glad you asked how and what I play. I have two autoharps. The first one is one that my grandmother bought new around 100 years ago. It is a 5-bar, has a b-flat chord so you can also play in the key of F. My dad gave it to me when I was 15 or so years old. It is not in the best condition, but, due to the age, a local Martin dealer told me that if I tried to restring it that it may come apart due to the type of glue used in the early ones. My other harp is a 15-bar that I bought for $35 around 25 years ago. It is in perfect shape except for the strings. I do have an autoharp pickup on it and love the sounds you can get, especially when run through some effects. I was learning Travis and Atkins fingerpicking on the guitar when my dad gave me the harp. 15 minutes after I tuned it, I could play Wildwood Flower. I use a plastic thumbpick and plastic fingerpicks on my index and middle fingers. I play it in the form of Maybelle Carter. By playing with two fingers, I can get harmonies. Plus the thumb plays the bass notes, which I alternate the way that Merle Travis did on guitar. I'm sure all you players probably know that when playing this way, you sometimes have to use a chord like F or G, even when you're playing in the key of C to get the notes you need to play the song. I haven't played a lot in recent years but am ready to start back. By the way, I haven't tried blues on the harp yet, but will when I get the strings on. Anyone that is interested in writing to me about autoharp can do it here or email me at bluesman4123@yahoo.com By the way, thanks, Spaw, the info was fantastic....Jim


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Subject: RE: AUTOHARP RESTRINGING
From: wysiwyg
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 05:14 PM

Wow, a lot to absorb!

The tongue depressor trick... thank you Jesus!

The sugar water trick... hm, can I use Drambuie? *G*

More later. Ah too tahred out for now.

~S~


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Subject: RE: AUTOHARP RESTRINGING
From: GUEST,Carol's Friend Don
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 05:55 PM

Bluesman,YOU'RE PAYING SIXTY DOLLARS FOR AUTOHARP STRINGS?

We can make this easy, get a hold of an Elderly Catalog (www.elderly.com). They're $32. a complete set (plus about $4. S&H). You'll need a set of A's for the older one and possibly for your 15-bar, depending on the type of end piece you've got. A's are loop ends for older models with endpins, B's are balls for slot bridges.

As for single string picking, you'll need to learn "choking" on an autoharp. Example: a C chord gives you the notes C, G,and E. While holding the C chord bar down drop the Am chord bar. You now have only C and E strings available to play. Add the F chord bar and you only have C strings left. You can also do a hammer-off effect by lifting off a second chord bar half way through a strum or single sting picking to pick up the second, third or fourth notes (7ths) at the upper or lower register (depending on the direction you're going). Try this on a C7 to Am back to C7 on the bridge of "The First Time" by Ewan McCall or a Dm to D7 to G7 in "Laura's Theme" (Someday My Love) using the thimble tremelo I described earlier.

I keep telling people that think autoharps are too simple, that when it comes to autoharps, "Simple is, as simple thinks."


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Subject: RE: AUTOHARP RESTRINGING
From: catspaw49
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 06:45 PM

Like Don said, A's are loops, B's are balls and the appropriate page at ELDERLY INSTRUMENTS (www.elderly.com) is located under gear/strings/autoharp, or just Click Here.

You can get on Elderly's mailing list if you request it when you order. A lot of us buy regularly from them and you'll find them to be easy and helpful folks to deal with, even by phone.

Have at it.......There ain't nuthin' to it but to do it.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: AUTOHARP RESTRINGING
From: z!
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 11:40 PM

(leaning out of the shadows for a moment..)

I've found that: removing the chord bars makes it -much- easier; only change one string at a time!! (I've heard of people unstringing the entire harp); change groups of 6-8 strings, then go back and return the previous group of 6-8. This helps keep the tension on the harp constant.

Then there's Maybelle Carter's opinion, "I'd rather throw the thing away and buy a new one" (somewhere on _Will_the_Circle_Be_Unbroken, too lazy to find it).

z!


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Subject: RE: AUTOHARP RESTRINGING
From: Bernard
Date: 10 Mar 01 - 06:34 AM

As my harp uses loop end strings, I've never bothered removing the chord bars, and re-strung one at a time - less trouble tuning.

I pull the loop end of the new string through with the old one...

As regards 'choking', I often do a waltx-time oom-ching-ching effect by, for example, pressing F and C together on 'oom' to play only C's, and releasing the F bar for the 'chings'.

My harp is at least 30 years old, of German origin, black with a red rose motif. It only has 12 bars, and I've re-arranged them into the same order as accordion left-hand buttons... much more logical!


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Subject: RE: AUTOHARP RESTRINGING
From: GUEST
Date: 24 May 11 - 11:11 PM

Hi! This past weekend I purchased an old Sekova Chromaharp at a flea market.It's missing a few strings, so i wanted to replace them. (I own several Zimmermann's and Oscar Schmidt's, so I figured this would be a breeze...)The first thing I noticed was the plastic cover at the base has rivets, and not screws to remove the cover to get to the strings.I'm perplexed...how do you remove the cover to change the strings? I'd greatly appreciate any one's help in this matter.
Thank you! Werner


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Subject: RE: Autoharp Restringing
From: GUEST,DonMeixner
Date: 25 May 11 - 12:05 AM

Are they rivets and not some odd fastener like a torx screw? Torx are six sided like an Allen fastener only with curved rather than flat sides.

Recent Sekovas are unknown to me, the old ones I am familiar with. They were pretty much Oscars only not made as well.

Don


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Subject: RE: Autoharp Restringing
From: GUEST,GUEST: Reno
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 02:08 PM

I need to replace a middle octave C# string, but have only a C string and a D string on hand. Will either of these work? If so, is one preferable?


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Subject: RE: Autoharp Restringing
From: GUEST,DonMeixner
Date: 26 Jul 11 - 11:43 PM

Hi Reno

At one time Autoharp strings weren't so greatly concerned with gauges.
I have used the next higher string many times to replace a missing string. The D would be fine for the C# string.

Don


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Subject: RE: Autoharp Restringing
From: GUEST,Reno
Date: 27 Jul 11 - 12:48 PM

Don. Thanks. I'll use the D string.

Permit me another beginner's question. Most of the folks here suggest a T-shaped tuning wrench rather than the L-shaped. Is there some reason for this other than personal preference? I've had no problems using my L-shaped wrench.


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Subject: RE: Autoharp Restringing
From: Bill D
Date: 27 Jul 11 - 01:14 PM

There are several types of each one you can find. The best T handles are easier, in my opinion...but *I* did use an L handle one for years. I feel that it is harder to over adjust with the T handle...that is, you get finer control of the way the hand moves. *IF* you someday look for a T handle, look for the one with the 8-point internal arrangement...not a simple 4 point square. It just fits better.

If you are doing ok, don't worry.


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Subject: RE: Autoharp Restringing
From: Bill D
Date: 27 Jul 11 - 02:08 PM

Oh... it might be important when replacing strings to know which model of instrument, as the older ones (Old black Oscar Schmidts) used lighter gauge strings than the newer types. ONE string might make little difference, but putting many newer, heavier strings on an old harp might cause warping....or worse.


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Subject: RE: Autoharp Restringing
From: GUEST,Reno
Date: 27 Jul 11 - 05:09 PM

Thank you.

I just checked the fit of my tuning wrench (square socket) on the tuning pegs and there is too much play; not as snug as I would like. I've read suggestions about the desirability of using a 6-sided socket and one person mentioned using an 8-siced socket.

I value your advice and suggestions.

(Incidentally, this was an ebay purchase, OS15, probably 1967 [parts sheet inside the case with that date], and in very good condition. It appears to have been treated gently.)


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Subject: RE: Autoharp Restringing
From: Bill D
Date: 27 Jul 11 - 05:23 PM

Reno...yes, that snug fit is important...which is one reason that the 8-side tuner fits better- even if you find an L-handle one.

Also.. 8 means it fits at all points, being twice 4. Six might work...but..

An OS15 just 'might' be or the lighter construction I worried about.

here is a place to check and be sure you get the right strings for any future changes.


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Subject: RE: Autoharp Restringing
From: GUEST,DonMeixner
Date: 27 Jul 11 - 05:25 PM

15's are my favorites. They have plenty of playing room and the buttons are usually big enough for your fingers. I am not a fan of the 21's . I find it better to own a couple harps rather than trying to make one size fit all. I also think they sound better.

AND I am a fan of the "L" wrenches rather than the "T"s. I think they are better for fine tuning because of the leverage they allow.

Are the buttons like golf Ts or white plastic trapezoids? Are the bars wooden or plastic and aluminum? Are the corners rounded or sharp?

Don


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Subject: RE: Autoharp Restringing
From: GUEST,Reno
Date: 28 Jul 11 - 09:55 AM

Don't know if my attempt to post the item will work, but here goes. Mine looks like this one.

http://cgi.ebay.com/Oscar-Schmidt-Silvertone-Autoharp-/350480613985?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item519a45c261#ht_4213wt_838

The buttons are trapezoidal(?), plastic bars, sharp corners. The case is black and white and in excellent condition. It came with about 15 extra strings and a chromatic tuner.


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Subject: RE: Autoharp Restringing
From: DonMeixner
Date: 28 Jul 11 - 11:41 AM

Thats a transitional Autoharp. It is an "A" model body with "B" model fixtures. They are usually piety good sound altho' a few in my experience have a buzzing string right at the angle of the top. Maybe a C#.

Enjoy Reno.


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Subject: RE: Autoharp Restringing
From: PHJim
Date: 28 Jul 11 - 09:17 PM

I prefer the long handle L wrench with thestar shaped cavity. It seems the long handle gives more leverage and allows finer tuning.
I own a couple of A model Appalachians from about 1967 (according to Becky's Autohrp Book) and I've modified them to two key semi-diatonics.
The D/G harp has a C and a C#, making a D7 chord available in the key of D. I also have a C/G with F and F#, giving me a G7 in the key of G. I also have a couple of old black boxes and a Chromaharp in single keys.
I've never found it necessary to depress two keys in order to play single notes as GUEST,Carol's Friend Don suggested. The felts damp the strings on either side of the string you're after and that seems to be enough for me.


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Subject: RE: Autoharp Restringing
From: GUEST,Reno
Date: 30 Jul 11 - 12:13 PM

It would certainly seem that a long-handled wrench would allow for pitch adjustment in smaller increments. I assume by "star-shaped" you're using a six-sided socket.


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Subject: RE: Autoharp Restringing
From: Bill D
Date: 31 Jul 11 - 11:36 AM

*checking this thread again*

It is not obvious that "star-shaped" indicates 6-sided...the 8-points can also be viewed as a 'star'...as in 'more than 4 rays'. The pegs are square, so "star-shaped" means NOT square. The point of 8 is that it fits on more easily, and at any position, whereas 6 'may' work, but will have places that are not lined up. 8 is simply 2 square sockets symmetrically overlapped.

As to L vs. T handles....a matter of choice obviously, and sure, L does give more leverage, but I have often (like, for the 1st 20 years I played) found it was too much, and caused me to overdo really fine adjustments. When I got a top quality T handle, the good fit on the peg and the way I could simply reverse direction using only the hand/wrist motion made a believer of me. An L-handle **tends** to use the entire arm, and thus more force than needed.
   So...obviously, either will work, as even I managed to get in tune a few times in those 20 years.. Maybe it's just what you get used to.


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Subject: RE: Autoharp Restringing
From: Bill D
Date: 31 Jul 11 - 12:26 PM

Oh... BTW...my wife plays an old zither, and she found the T-handle was a lot easier to use....


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Subject: RE: Autoharp Restringing
From: PHJim
Date: 31 Jul 11 - 04:27 PM

Bill D, Yes, I meant the overlapping square shape.
I use the long handled wrench, which I like better than the short one, but I've never tried a T wrench. My wife plays a hammered dulcimer and has a bowed psaltry. I have a few Autoharps and they all use the same wrench. Perhaps I'll give the T wrench a shot.


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Subject: RE: Autoharp Restringing
From: Bill D
Date: 31 Jul 11 - 09:06 PM

(We have to have two wrenches, as mine lives in my case downstairs, and hers needs to be upstairs by her zither.... for emergencies, like "too much stuff in the way and can't remember where I put my wrench", I have 2-3 old ones in a box downstairs.)


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Subject: RE: Autoharp Restringing
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 31 Jul 11 - 10:37 PM

Beware cheaply made "T"s included with some new autoharps..

The wooden handles can quickly work loose and end up just swiveling round freely..


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