Buying a used harp
If you have tried to find an old harp or have read the article on these pages you will appreciate
that they are hard to find.
If you want to start playing the harp I would advise buying a
modern instrument if you can finance it - you may well be better
doing a bit of overtime to fund a loan than spending the time
necessary to repair an old one. Also get the advice of a harp
teacher or harpist before buying anything. Old instruments of any
kind have their foibles, and technology hasn't stood still since
the last century.
One of the best places to find an instrument in good working
order is via Jack Hayward's list:
Jack Hayward, 5 Sun Gardens, Burghfield Common, Reading ,
England. Tel (44) 118 983 3922, Fax (44) 118 983 3868
I have seen a few harps go for reasonable prices at auction at Bonhams in London - they have
regular sales of instruments.
If you are getting an old instrument the things to watch out
- Is the maker recognised as OK? - there are quite a few
no-hopers out there.
- Check for woodworm - especially inside the pedal box. The
worms don't eat their way out of the gilding (cos it
- Check that all the pedals operate and all the forks move
at least a bit. Stripping down the mechanism is quite a
- Check the semitone forks and the threaded shafts that
they are screwed on to - if any of those shafts is
damaged, or if the screw thread is damaged, you will have
to dismantle all of the action to put in a new shaft -
not impossible, but a major operation. On our harp one of
the shafts had been soldered to the fork - I managed to
repair the thread without dismantling everything, but I
- Check the brass action plates carefully for cracks - if
they are cracked the harp is probably best used for
- The necks of harps gradually attain a permanent twist
under the influence of the string tension - check that
the strings are still being gripped by the semitone forks
- look at the sharp forks near the middle of the neck. If
they are only a couple of millimetres out you can correct
it by making longer fork pins, but beyond that you will
need a new neck. This isn't the end of the world, but
reckon on about 800 UK pounds to have the job done.
- Any instrument that hasn't been played for some time is
going to need a set of strings - which come at about UKP
400 per go - so bear that in mind when you are working
out the financial viability of a restoration.
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