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Kit Harps, how good are they?

  • Unknown
    Unknown User

    I am considering building a harp for my wife from a kit; probably a

    36 Clarsarch or something like.  Technically it doesn't look a

    particlarly difficult project but I would like to share any

    experiences, anecdotes and advice anyone may have on kit harps.  We

    live in Darwin Australia, most of the harp manufacturers are in

    Europe or the USA and the exchange rate makes importing these

    prohibitively expensive.  I am rather looking forward to the task but

    not if it going to be a lemon.  I have never made an instrument but I

    have made lots of other things.

    replies to "Kit Harps, how good are they?"
    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      Hi Jeremy

      I'm afraid I can't comment on kit harps, but you might check out Denwar harps in Australia http://www.harpsales.com/ (although at time of posting the site wasn't responding). There are some excellent comments about his harps on this board.

      Also try Harps & Harps who are in NSW. They have a very comprehensive website http://www.harps.com.au/ and stock a good range including Camac harps. I have just acquired a Camac pedal harp which I love, but have heard great things about their lever harps too and may consider one in the future. I also find their UK prices very reasonable at the moment and the euro/pound exchange is not especially favourable.

      I'm sure you will get plenty of comments about building harps too - hope this is a useful alternative suggestion! Good luck, Jen

    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      From experiences of the harpers in my area, I haven't heard very good feedback about Kit Harps.

      If your wife is /wants to be serious about the harp I would keep searching.. if it is a romantic gesture /gift a Kit Harp would be fine.

      I'm pretty sure that harps are duty free..

    • Evelyn
      Evelyn Tiffany-Castiglioni

      You might also try Andrew Thom Harps in Tasmania.  They are wonderful.  I have posted other comments about them on the Harps and Accessories discussion group.

    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      If you go with one of the reputable kit makers, you can get very

      good results.  I have three harps built from Musicmakers.  One is

      12 years old, and has held up beautifully.  It sounds nice too.

      Just follow the instructions, call or email them for help if you get

      stuck.  My 12 YO harp was built by my husband, who had never

      built anything similar before.  Musicmakers harps have been

      used on professional recordings, and you can hear soundclips

      on their website.

      I understand Cambria also makes kits.  I think Stoney End does

      as well.

      (not connected to Musicmakers, just a happy customer)

    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      Greetings Jeremy from DENWAR HARPS

        Sorry my website <www.harpsales.com> was down for a while(server difficulties)but it is up and running again now. I have also built a new website as a "failsafe"...... <www.harps.net.au>

        A kit harp would be within the possibilities of a reasonable handy

      person but will that harp produce a good sound and importantly will it still be in one piece 1 year later? also... a lot of kit harps are

      almost as expensive as some complete harps.

        Whichever way you go, it will be an exiciting adventure.

      Regards....Denny Warner

    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      I would suggest Musicmakers.  I don't how easy they are to make, but they are nice.  I never considered this kind of harp (being a snobby classical harpist), but took them a folk harp for some repaird and bought one of their harps (already made, I am not a woodworker) on the spot.  I have the 36 string Gothic (along with my concert grands etc.) and it is just a really fun harp and it has great sound!  Good luck!

    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      I've built kits from three different companies, and the Musicmakers are by far the best.  The kits are relatively easy to construct (if you have any woodworking skills) and the support is really great.  You end up with a beautifully sounding instrument that stands up to years and years of great performance.  Their Studios are good student beginner harps, the Gothics make great performance harps and the Regency is really their best model - wonderful sound, but the harp is a bit on the heavy side.  All of these I've either built or know people who have built them. There are quite a few people in this area who have kit-built or scratch-built Musicmakers or harps built from the Musicmakers plans, and they have all been quite happy with these instruments.  You really can't go wrong with these kits.

    • John
      John Durgan


      I built a music makers kit several months ago as a starter instrument.  All the feedback I got from other builders indicated a good product with very nice tone.  The kit was very complete and easy to construct following very good, well written instructions.  Even installing all the sharping levers was not all that difficult.

      John Durgan

    • William
      William Weber

      A kit harp can be superior, but expect to take a week or more to assemble and glue the many parts. The Gothic Harp kit from Maryland-based based James Cox, Luthier. Ltd came with a 3mm solid spruce soundboard (very floppy to handle!), and glueing that to the maple soundbox frame required I make up a dozen clamps or more, to hold down every inch of it.

      Expect also to need some serious woodworking tools, unless assured that the tricky machining has been taken care of for you.

      Above all, don't underestimate the importance of strong joinery in the neck. There is a frightening crack in the neck of mine, where the joint was improperly clamped and 5 years of stress split the maple. I've seen worse than that, though.

      The payoff? A harp that is light to carry and throws out a lot of sound.

    • Liam
      Liam M

      Well Jeremy I see your post is from 2004. I would suspect you have either built a kit or moved on.

      However, commenting on Kits, Plan Builts, in the whites and scratch builts; there is a certain additional level of enjoyment that comes with playing an instrument that you have been intimate in bringing to voice.

      I would recommend it highly to all who wish to try. Start with what you feel comfortable with and progress as you wish. I believe Audrey's Tony has possibly one of the most interesting stories here with the Franken Harp... But it is her tale to tell.....

    • Audrey
      Audrey Nickel

      Yep...Tony build "Frankie" out of PVC parts, following plans he bought from John Kovac:


      Here's the finished result:


      I'm afraid that "Frankie" is more a conversation piece, really...he is playable, but very quiet.  That experience whetted Tony's creative appetite, however, so he decided to finish a harp "in the white" (i.e., the harp was already made, and fully assembled except for mounting the neck/pillar assembly onto the sound box, mounting the zither pins and stringing, but needed to be sanded and finished).  "Aodhán," a Dreamsinger "Bard" is the result of that experience:

      I think his next project will be making a case for Aodhán, but at some point he's thinking about making a Music Maker "Voyageur" from a kit. From there, who knows...original designs, maybe? I don't know how much cheaper kits end up being, really, but there's a real sense of satisfaction in watching your harp grow from a few pieces of raw wood to a beautiful, functional, musical instrument. Audrey

    • Karen
      Karen Johns


      You might be interested to know that the Voyageur can also be strung with wire strings, in case you want a larger wire-strung in the future. If you want to go with nylon, I recommend getting the performance set. The gut strings in the baritone range have a beautiful warm and mellow sound. You really can't go wrong with the Voyageur model- it was the first harp Dave & I built from Musicmaker's kits and it turned out great.

    • Audrey
      Audrey Nickel

      Thanks for the input, Karen.  I've heard very good things about the model, and it certainly is an attractive harp!  It won't happen for a while yet, but at some point Tony plans to give it a go.

      I like the sound of gut, but prefer not to use it for ethical reasons (I've been an ethical vegetarian for more than 20 years).  I keep wishing some enterprising string maker would come up with something that sounds like gut but isn't made from somebody's...well...guts.  I had a chance to play on a gut-strung harp in Ireland, and the sound was lovely.


    • Karen
      Karen Johns

      Isn't there a synthetic gut string? I think it might be called Burgundy? I'll check on these...

    • Barbara
      Barbara Brundage

      Burgundy is the name for a category of gut string that Vanderbilt used to sell . They are natural gut seconds, not synthetic. There are synthetic gut strings, like the Savarez brand, but I would do a search here for other threads about them before ordering, just so you know what you're getting into.

    • Karen
      Karen Johns

      Actually, they are called Savarez Alliance KF synthetic gut strings. They have them at Lyra - www.lyramusic.com


    • Barbara
      Barbara Brundage

      Sorry, meant to say "that Vanderbilt sells." Burgundys are still available.

    • Karen
      Karen Johns

      Thanks, Barbara- I was searching these and we posted at the same time! :-)