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Replica 11th C harp

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StarGazer

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After a conversation with Dodge at the recent visit to Axminster I promised to put up some pictures of my first attempt at anything requiring some accuracy in hardwood and also my first attempt at any sort of musical instrument.

As a family we spend a lot of time at weekends during the summer doing historical reenactments and my daughter (already a harpist) wanted something in period to play at shows. Evidence of harps from the 11th century comes mainly from manuscripts, for instance the Winchcombe Psalter and Junius manuscript.



and



My version is based heavily on a similar replica by Simon Chadwick but with my own construction details and increasing the number of strings to two full octaves. As I had never made one before I kept it simple with oak as the main hardwood and no carvings. I know oak is not ideal as a soundboard but I had nothing better to hand at the time. The strings are gut and wrapped around tapered beech dowel tuning pegs. The soundboard is 2mm thick and seems to take the quite substantial tension OK.

Here is my daughter playing the harp



and



If members are interested I have a selection of WIP pictures showing the construction methods.

StarGazer
 

Dodge

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Looking very good, I for one would be interested in seeing your WIP - Despite the years under my belt I have never made anything musical - to be honest i'm tone deaf and can only hum if I take my socks off :mrgreen:
 

AndyT

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Yes please - to those of us who just make the odd bit of furniture, musical instrument making opens up a whole world of new materials and methods to admire.
 

knappers

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I remember you mentioning it to me too - looks like you did a very nice job there. I too would be interested to see more.

Si.

P.S. nice one Roger. :)
 

StarGazer

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Right, I started with a full size hand drawn set of plans and some oak resawn and thicknessed to approx 12mm, then acclimatised and then finished at 10mm.

The soundbox of the harp consists of two side walls approx 7mm thick that provide the main structure, these are spaced by 50mm at the top and 70mm at the use. Spacers were constructed by laminating 5 and 7 identical pieces for the top and bottom then trimming to a taper before gluing the lot up as an open box.



Arranging templates on the 10mm thick wood ready to jigsaw out.
Once all pieces were jigsaw out, the sides were reduced in thickness from 10 to 7mm and a rebate for the soundboard placed on one edge (3mm square).

The spacer components were then glued together and tapered before gluing between the soundbox times

The pillar and neck piece were constructed in a similar manner with 3 or 4 identical components.



Here are the main soundbox, pillar and neck components being tested for size.

The three components (soundbox, pillar and neck) are morticed and tenoned together, no glue is used, the tension in the strings will keep the three main components together.

More later....
 

StarGazer

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The soundboard was finished to approx 2mm then 15off 3mm holes were drilled down the centreline at the location of the strings. Once the soundboard was glues in (TB3) the three components were tidied up with a spokeshave (for the curved parts) and block plane for the rest before using 3 coats of Fiddes Hard Wax Oil and then beeswax.



The tuning pegs are made from 9mm beech dowel and are tapered with a cello peg shaver from Juzek and a flat sided wedge on the thing key side. A 2mm hole is drilled through the tip of each peg. The pegs are located in a tapered hole in the harp neck. 15 pilot holes were drilled at uniform spacing these were then enlarged and tapered with a tapered reamer to match the peg shaver. The pegs are a very close fit and the wood to wood friction prevents the pegs slipping under tension.



The strings are held in the soundboard by small beech pegs, purchased as toy car axles , these are mounted in a pillar drill and the button end sanded to remove turning marks, a could have a recess drilled in the button to mount a small garnet to mark the C strings (modern harps often have a red string for C).





Last images show the fully strung harp, the tension required in the strings is quite high so some experimentation was required to achieve the full range of notes by changing the weight of string to avoid too extreme tension. This tension acts to twist the neck as all the strings are acting along one side so the M+T joints have to be very tight. There was some initial movement but seems to have stopped now and the harp remains in tune for long periods.



The harp is stored in a sheepskin bag to protect it and avoid extremes of temperature when travelling.

Lessons learnt, well I really need to learn to use a router with templates to speed up the cutting out and avoid some of the laminations techniques, secondly oak is fine structurally but the soundboard is not ideal. Now I am planning a second version which will also have carved decorations.
 
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