Building a Folk Harp

I built this harp in June and July of 2002. This is my second harp, the first one being nearly identical, and built in the few weeks before this one. 

The harp is made from plans by Musicmakers, Inc. for their "Studio Harp" kit. I didn't deviate much from the plans except in terms of the materials. The neck (the top part) and pillar (the part on the left) are made from self-laminated maple, two 3/4" thicknesses with the grain crossed for strength, instead of the manufactured maple plywood recommended. The soundboard is a 3-ply baltic birch plywood instead of the 5-ply recommended. The soundbox is walnut and the feet are maple. The back of the soundbox is 1/8 "walnut" ply. 

The strings and hardware came from Musicmakers in a "hardware pack". These packs are totally complete, including a tuning wrench and a cassette tape about stringing and tuning the finished harp, complete with goofy harp jokes. While all of Musicmakers' kits and plans are simplified to some degree, for a first attempt at a particular type of instrument you you really ought to consider a plan or kit from them. I've received some plans I ordered from Cambria Harps and Kits, which I haven't had a chance to thoroughly go over. One thing that's different is the lightness of the construction. I'll report when I get a chance to go over them. Cambria also offers hardware packs (they call 'em Stage 1 kits).

The legs you see on it are a second set I made for my mother-in-law, the eventual owner of the instrument. With the original legs from the plans, you have to put the harp on a low stool if you're going to play while sitting on a regular chair, or you have to sit on a low stool yourself. This is normal for a harp of this type (Sylvia Woods describes this in her "Learn to Play the Folk Harp" book). Musicmakers sells kits but not plans for a set of screw-on legs but they make it look kind of giraffe-like. I don't know that I designed anything more graceful, though. 

I'm no expert (I'm starting from the baby pages of "Learn to Play the Folk Harp"), but it sounds good to me. That kind of lightly-muffled-bell tone that nylon-stringed harps have. A glissando makes a satisfyingly harp-like sound. And it's pretty loud. Ah, I dunno. I'm going to go out and play some professionally-built harps and see what the difference is. 

The following pages document my building process for my second harp. While I learned a few things from building the first one, and I had learned a few things by study before that, I am by no means an expert. The purpose of these pages is more inspirational than instructional. I was surprised how uncomplicated the whole thing was, and I think you will be, too. 



Copyright 2002 Stephen Miklos