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Disastrous Autoharp Purchase

08 Apr 10 - 02:16 PM (#2882252)
Subject: Need Technical Info
From: sbwrites

I just bought a 21-chord Oscar Schmidt OS-45C Autoharp (serial number 930284) online, that was allegedly in "mint condition." It was delivered yesterday, and I can't tell you how disappointed I am. The most significant problem is that the sound doesn't compare to my 15-chord Chromaharp that I bought from the window of a music shop about six years ago. I'm self-taught, play sing-alongs for seniors, and wanted the additional chords.

The buyer is willing to take it back. He's a nice guy who doesn't know about Autoharps--he bought it years ago for his mother. She hardly played it, and it sat in a leather case. But, I wanted to explain to him what the problems are. He thought it was new when he bought it; but given the condition of the chord bars, I can't believe it was.

1.How can I tell if the chord bars have been refelted? They are all scratched. There's a lot of excess glue between the felt. The felt itself looks completely different from the chord bars of my Chromaharp. I realize there's a difference because those are wood, but the felt is very neat, perfectly symmetrical, and there's no excess glue. These look really messy. Also, the chord names (on four of the chords) have been applied in a very sloppy way. There are two different kinds of screws on the plastic which holds the pins and wires. Wouldn't all this suggest it wasn't done at the factory?

2. There's a significant buzz on the lowest F & G strings. The next four strings (C-F) also buzz to a lesser degree. Most of the double wound strings have rust on them, and there's also rust on many other strings on the very end (where they sit on the metal bar leading to where you restring them). Would all this cause the buzz? (There's rust as well on 13 of the zither pins.) I'm not sure why because it's been kept in a heavy Autoharp case.

3. When I push the buttons, there's a lot of noise. Why is that? Also, the foam upon which the buttons rest is very thin in a number of places (the thin areas that run between the buttons). It looks like it will tear soon. I'm assuming that's just a sign of age.

4. Finally, there seems to be a little sawdust or tiny pieces of wood around many of the zither pins. I'm not sure if it's really sawdust or just that there's some kind of a stamped circle around the pins that is aging, and the wood beneath it has been affected. But, it's odd to me that it's aging this way. Any ideas?

I'm going to return it, but what would it cost to fix these problems? (I'd just like a ballpark figure.) Also, because of the chord bars, do you think it was used when he bought it?

Thanks so much!

08 Apr 10 - 03:01 PM (#2882282)
Subject: RE: Disastrous Autoharp Purchase
From: beeliner

You should probably return it. It sounds like it has been modified, but that is not unusual, I just finished modifying one and am about to list it on eBay. If the modification is an improvement, these usually sell on eBay for more than a atandard model. Of course, the nature of the modifications should be stated in the description.

With regard to the buzzing strings, do the windings cross the bridge and nut? If so, AHA! They should be stripped down so that only the core string crosses. But that's not hard to do, you can do it yourself.

Personally, I wouldn't go near a 21-chord model of either Schmidt or Chromaharp. The chord bars are too narrow and there's just too much else to go wrong.

Your 15 chord Chroma is a fine instrument, I play one myself.

08 Apr 10 - 03:18 PM (#2882293)
Subject: RE: Disastrous Autoharp Purchase
From: sbwrites

Thanks for responding so quickly. If it's been modified, it's news to the seller as well. I'm just trying to confirm that the chords in the factory version wouldn't have looked like this. In terms of the buzzing, no, the windings don't cross the bridge. Alas...

08 Apr 10 - 04:03 PM (#2882322)
Subject: RE: Disastrous Autoharp Purchase
From: DonMeixner

....then the windings on a string are loose or something in cavity of the harp is loose. I spent days once chasing down a spring inside caught on brace. Just one of them things. BUT! There are also harps that buzz strings for no discernable reason. I have an Airline that does jusrt that.

I will concur with beeliner about 21 bar harps. Others won't. I just don't like them. I'd rather carry two that worked well with fewer chords than one I wasn't pleased with no matter the chordal convenience.

If the bars play what they say then I'd bet someone bought a harp with a lot of dropped felts and just reglued them with Ducco or Silicone II.

I'd look for an Older 15 Bar Appalachian were I looking...


08 Apr 10 - 04:27 PM (#2882346)
Subject: RE: Disastrous Autoharp Purchase
From: sbwrites

Thanks so much for the info and advice. Maybe it is loose strings. They're clearly old and rusty. I'm not sure all the bars play what they're supposed to. I should check that out. The higher strings play a whole lot better.

Perhaps you're right and another 15 chord harp is the way to go! I was so excited about the idea of an autoharp, which would allow me to play more songs. But, this is so disappointing I could cry! It was a 60th birthday gift from my husband, and I was so excited about it until I strummed it.

08 Apr 10 - 06:08 PM (#2882420)
Subject: RE: Disastrous Autoharp Purchase
From: GUEST,donmeixner

Google Autoharp Doctor and see where it takes you.


08 Apr 10 - 06:10 PM (#2882423)
Subject: RE: Disastrous Autoharp Purchase
From: beeliner

Which chords that you need are you lacking on the Chroma-15? Can't you just transpose?

If it's not a matter of key but of more exotic chords, ninths, 6ths/minor 7ths, sus4ths, etc., you're going to have to go custom in any case.

08 Apr 10 - 08:03 PM (#2882481)
Subject: RE: Disastrous Autoharp Purchase
From: GUEST,sbwrites

I did, and it's the harp doctor. I can send him an email, and see what he says. I know he fixes harps, and sell them, and he'd probably be willing to answer a few questions.


08 Apr 10 - 08:12 PM (#2882489)
Subject: RE: Disastrous Autoharp Purchase

Off the top of my head, I can't tell you what chords I'm missing. The sneiors like a lot of songs from their era, and there are just a bunch of songs I can't play, and sing. I don't do anything fancy, so I don't need a lot of exotic chords. Maybe it's just a case of substituting some chords I don't use with ones I need.

But, I was wanting a new Autoharp because mine needed some new strings, some of the chords were wobbling, and there were a few other problems.

A few weeks ago--in anticipation of getting a new Autoharp--I had turned it into a quasi-therapy harp for myself, which I love. I took off the chord bars, removed every other string, and retuned it. I love the sound it makes, and it's really relaxing for me.


17 Jun 10 - 02:49 PM (#2930010)
Subject: RE: Disastrous Autoharp Purchase
From: GUEST,rocky road to ruin

That model comes with fine tuners. What did you do with them?
rocky road