What kind of person can build from a kit?

Though the following answers to these questions were written with harp kits in mind – many of these answers apply to other kits as well.

Q: What kind of person should build from a kit?

A: One who enjoys handcrafts and who has the time and space available to do the work.

Q: What kind of basic skills are needed?

A: It is helpful to know how to glue and clamp pieces of wood together to make a firm joint. Although a total novice could build an instrument, he/she would definitely benefit from supervision of a friend or family member with some wood-craft experience.

Q: What kind of equipment is needed?

A: Basic hand tools are essential:

  • Hammer
  • files
  • wire cutter
  • screwdriver
  • pliers
  • sharp chisel
  • variety of sandpaper grits
  • a few clamps

Some electric hand tools are worth purchasing:

  • reversing electric (or cordless) hand drill for both drilling holes and driving screws
  • electric palm sander
  • electric hand jig-saw (saber saw)
  • electric router (maybe) for rounding over edges

Q: How much space is required?

A: Use a solid table or workbench about 3′ X 5′ in size. A folding “church table” works fine. Set it up in a place where sawdust will not be objectionable. The space must be kept at room temperature for proper drying of glue and finish.

Q: Is a harp a good first-time project?

A: Perhaps not for a young person under 14, but for older teens and adults of any age, many harp kits are good projects for learning how to do woodworking. As mentioned above, it might be helpful to have supervision from a more experienced wood-crafter.

Q: Upon receipt of a kit, what should I do first?

A: Find the parts list and check over everything in the kit to make sure 1) it is all there, and 2) it is in acceptable condition. Keep the parts organized in the box so you don’t lose anything. Then skim through the instruction manual to see if you need to purchase some tools, supplies, accessories, and/or decorations to finish the project as desired.

Q: What do people report as the single most difficult or frustrating part of the assembly process? Any tips?

A: This varies from one model to another, but I suppose fitting the neck (harmonic curve) to the body and the pillar is the trickiest procedure because it requires holding parts together and looking at joints that are in three different points of the triangle. As a manufacturer, we try to simplify this process by pre-fitting all three joints at the factory, and, on some kits, pre-gluing the neck to the pillar. We also design our harps so that these parts can be set in place and held by gravity while the builder inspects the fit.

Q: What resources are available if a customer has trouble?

A: Musicmaker’s has woodworkers on hand to answer email and phone calls during normal business hours. Most problems are easily handled. We supply replacement parts, often for free, and we have lots of gimmicks on hand to take care of such mistakes as drilling oversized holes for pins or eyelets, touching up wood filler to match surrounding grain, adding decorative inlays, rosettes or decals to cover blemishes, etc.

Q: How many of your kit builders are repeat customers? Do people enjoy building more than one harp?

A: Musicmaker’s caters to the do-it-yourselfer, and that type of customer typically gets great satisfaction from building a harp. Though we have no numbers available, many of our customers find harp-making to be rather addicting. Once they show the first harp to friends and neighbors, they are often solicited to make harps for others. We have helped many a hobbyist get started in the business of making and selling harps.

Q: Any additional comments?

A: You have not asked the “quality” question. Many people assume that a kit-built harp is inferior to a factory-made instrument. We receive countless testimonials that contradict that assumption, though there are, admittedly, some lower quality kits available on the market. It is important for customers who want a good-sounding harp to research a little before purchasing a kit. Having said that, however, we are amazed at how excited people can be over a dead-sounding instrument! We would not discourage a bargain hunter from building a cheap harp kit, provided it holds together and stays in tune. It can give a budget-minded person a good beginning experience.