Interested in building a kit but not sure...? This FAQ answers the most common questions we get from interested customers.
Why should I purchase a kit?
Our philosophy is that you should purchase a kit only if you are interested in doing the building. Don't buy a kit simply because it is cheaper than the finished product. If you don't enjoy doing handcraft work, then your harp kit may end up being a negative experience.
How much money will I save by building from a kit?
It is common for do-it-yourselfers to save $200 to $400 by assembling a small harp, or around $1,000 by building a large floor harp from a kit.
What is included in the kit?
Musicmakers' harp kits include all the wood parts, hardware and strings necessary to build the harp, string it up, and tune it. You will supply the tools, glue, and finish. The wood parts are pre-cut to fit together, and most of the drilling is done for screws, tuning pins, and guide (bridge) pins. We provide drill bits for extra drilling that will be needed as you build.
There are also optional accessory items that you may want to add to your kit. Decorative carvings, rosettes, and decals will help you customize the instrument. Sharping levers can be added to make sharps and flats in the scale. An electronic tuner is very helpful for tuning the instrument to perfect pitch. We offer custom-made padded gig bags for safe transport, and a variety of books, CDs, and DVDs for learning how to play the finished harp. All of these additional items are offered separately at extra cost.
Are the wood parts pre-finished?
The wood parts cannot be pre-finished in a kit because the glue will not adhere to the finished surfaces. Applying the finish is one of the last steps in the assembly process, just before you install the hardware and strings.
What tools will I need to build a harp from a kit?
The basic tools to have on hand for this type of project are:
A few C-clamps
Small power sander (palm sander)
Woodworker's glue (Elmer's)
Screwdriver bits for drill
Small hand saw
Clear varnish/polyurethane finish
Good work table
Do I need specialty glues or finishing materials?
We use regular Elmer's or Titebond Woodworking glue (yellow colored) for assembly. If you live in a very humid climate, you might consider using a good marine-grade epoxy glue (not cheap 5-minute stuff) to make sure the joints do not slowly shift under the string tension in hot weather.
For finishing, we recommend using solvent-based clear polyurethane in a satin or semi-gloss sheen. We've not found a water-base varnish that we like. We generally do not recommend trying to color the wood darker than it is unless you are experienced with wood stains or dyes. A clear finish always looks nice, bringing out the natural wood colors beautifully.
Don't attempt to apply a gloss finish unless you are very experienced – the glossy surface will reflect all the defects in your workmanship and every speck of dust. The best gloss finishes are carefully rubbed and polished with a series of fine abrasive compounds.
We generally discourage people from using oil finishes because they do not give much surface protection, and an oily surface tends to attract dirt and dust. We have seen nice results, however, with Watco Danish Oil. It is a very simple, trouble-free finish with a low luster sheen.
What quality is a Musicmaker's harp kit?
We use the same quality hardwoods, strings, and hardware as any brand-name harp manufacturer, and we are careful to make sure the construction is well-engineered for long-term stability and that string spacing is consistent with the industry.
Do kit-built harps sound any good?
Many performers use our kit-built harps for professional purposes. When we exhibit our kit-built finished harps at large conferences around the country, we get rave reviews for the innovative designs and excellent sound of our harps.
How hard is it to build your harps?
If you are good at any crafts or hand-work, you will be able to learn sufficient woodworking skills to assemble one of our harp kits. Many of our customers have successfully made their own harp as a first woodworking project, but the people who have difficulty are those who think this is a snap-fit type of activity that doesn't require careful hand-work, or those who don't like to read and follow directions:)
Do the kits come with directions?
Musicmaker's is known for having among the best assembly instructions of any supplier of do-it-yourself projects in the country. We are English-speaking Americans who know how to communicate, both with words and pictures, and we organize the assembly instructions carefully in step-by-step format to help you learn woodworking, and avoid common mistakes, as you proceed through the project.
We keep our kit instructions on our computer so that we can easily update them as needed over time, so each batch of kits we sell has the most recent set of instructions. Sometimes we get our most helpful hints from builders who send their suggestions to us after completing a project.
What happens if I mess up?
Our generous warranty gives you ample opportunity to exchange parts, call us for advice/assistance, and even return your kit (in sellable condition) for refund or credit within one year of your purchase, if you decide you don't want to complete the project.
What we have noticed over the years, is that the vast majority of our kit customers complete their projects, but the cosmetic appearance of the finished instruments varies widely, depending on how tightly the joints are clamped during assembly, how nicely the corners are rounded over, how much glue residue is showing on the wood surface, and how well the finish is applied.
Will I end up with a playable instrument?
We design success into the kits right from the start, so that even if you mess up on a few things, your harp will have the same good sound as one from our own factory. We have seen some rather rough looking harps from careless kit-builders that have a great sound and are perfectly functional, but which are just poorly sanded and finished. We have also seen harps that far exceed the beauty of our factory-made instruments because the builder took the time to add custom decorations and to apply a lovely finish.
What if I need some help along the way?
Musicmaker's is known for giving amazing customer service and building advice. We answer our phone and email, and we have experienced instrument makers on staff who can answer technical questions, coach people through a tough spot, or dispel your fears about some minor detail along the way. We've made nearly every mistake already ourselves, so we've come up with a lot of good solutions to problems.
Can sharping levers be installed on the neck before I build the kit?
Sharping levers can only be installed after the harp is finished and strung because they need to be carefully aligned with the strings. We cannot even pre-drill for mounting the levers for you because the string positions might vary slightly according to how you install the soundboard on the body of the harp, and how you fit the neck and pillar in place.
We pack separate installation instructions with the sharping levers. Your harp must be finished, strung, tuned and stabilized before you install the levers, and you will need an electronic tuner to help you position them accurately.
I plan to hire someone else to build it for me.
Think about this for a minute: If you hire a local person to assemble the kit for you, and he/she does a poor job of it, who will be responsible for the results? We cannot warranty another person's assembly work, so if you plan to hire the work done anyway, it might be smarter to just purchase the finished instrument from our factory so that it comes with our 5 year warranty on parts and labor.
Two good reasons to ask someone else to build the kit are: 1) You have a trusted friend or family member who is interested in doing the work; or 2) You live in a foreign country and cannot afford the cost (and risk) of shipping the finished instrument overseas.
How long does it take to receive my order?
We generally have kits on hand, ready to ship within a day of receiving your pre-paid order. Some accessories, such as gig bags, may go out of stock on occasion. Shipping times within the US are rarely more than a week. Foreign orders typically take 2-3 weeks, sometimes longer if a parcel gets delayed in customs. Faster service might be available at an extra cost, depending on your location.