Answers to all (or at least most) of your questions about building a harp from a kit.
by Matt Edwards • May 17, 2021
Interested in building a harp from a kit, but not sure? Here's everything you need to know before making your decision. Most of our customer's questions fall under four categories: Why purchase a kit? What is/isn't in the kit? And some of our customers have general questions about the process of building a harp and the expected results. Have no fear, we are here to help.
What is a Musicmaker's harp kit?
A Musicmakers' harp kit includes all of the wood parts, hardware, and strings necessary to build a harp. You will supply the tools, glue, and finish. 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.
Why should I purchase a folk harp kit?
You will not find a better harp kit anywhere in the world. We have built our reputation on providing well-prepared parts, clear and detailed assembly instructions, and top-notch customer service and technical support. And all of our harp kits come with with a warrantythat can't be beat. 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.
Building a harp from a kit is the right choice if:
- you enjoy woodworking
- you want to learn woodworking
- you want a wonderful family project
Building a harp from a kit isn't for everybody. That is why every Musicmaker's harp is also available completely finished and ready to play. Our harps have a seasoned and sophisticated sound and are played by professionals such as Sunita Stanislow, Nicolas Carter, Louise Trotter and more. They are also among the most affordable harps on the market today.
Buying a finished harp is the right choice if:
- you want a quality American made harp at an affordable price
- you don't have the time or inclination to build your own harp from a kit
- you can't tell the difference between a screw driver and a hammer
Will I save money if I build a harp from a kit?
You can save around $1000 by building one of our harps from a kit.
What if I want to hire someone else to build a harp from your kit?
If you plan to hire someone else to build your harp for you, we urge you to consider your purchase carefully. If you hire a local person to assemble the kit for you, and he/she does a poor job of it, we cannot warranty another person's assembly work. If you plan to hire the work anyway, consider purchasing the finished folk harp from our factory. We can guarantee satisfaction, and it will also come with our 5-year warranty on parts and labor.
Two good reasons to ask someone else to build the harp 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.
What IS included in a harp 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 bridge pins. We provide drill bits for extra drilling that will be needed as you build.
Pre-Cut, Unfinished Wood Pieces
While the wood parts are pre-cut to fit together, they 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 IS NOT included in the harp kit?
There are a number of things that are not included in the kit that you may need to purchase in order to build your harp: tools, glue, finishes, and optional accessory add-ons.
Tools You Will Need:
The basic tools to have on hand for this type of project are:
- A few C-clamps
- Cordless drill
- Small power sander (palm sander)
- Router (optional)
- Woodworker's glue (Elmer's)
- Screwdriver bits for drill
- Sharp chisel
- Small hand saw
- Razor knife
- Tape measure
- Clear varnish/polyurethane finish
- Good work table
Glues and Finishing Materials You'll Need:
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.
Optional Harp Kit Accessory Items
There are also optional accessory items that you may want to add to your kit. Decorative items 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.
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.
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.
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.
How long does it take to receive my order?
We generally have harp 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.
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.
You'll find a link to download the kit instructions on every harps kit's product page so you can preview the project before you buy and decide for yourself if you want to take on the project.
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.
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.
Related Reading for Harps
You might clarify your page with that you had good experience with Danish oil finish because, unlike the oil finishes, it has resins making it harder and is really just thinned an oil based poly finish. More so is the case if we are talking about using non-hardening oils, rather than hardening oils. It's undeniable wipe on finishes provide good protection. Too, they are easier to apply, and are more forgiving (e.g., no brush marks). However, they do require more applications/coats to get to the same protection as a brushed or sprayed finish. In the end, it is critical the directions be adhered to, such as time between coats. Too much and you need to buff the last coat, or the next application can flake and peel on down the road, which would be sad, after all that work on a beautiful piece.
KellyCraig, 07/07/2019 20:50:21