Harp designing

© Joseph Jourdain – Josephus Harp Shop – 2019



Like most other instruments, most harp designs have an history. They are generated or inspired from other designs. From this, a school of thought may arise and dominate the style of an instrument. Many instruments have reached the apogee of their evolution. The folk harp has not. People like you and I are still exploring different ways at doing something. If you are not an experienced "harp designer" it will be difficult for you to make quantitative decisions about a new stringband. Your best bet is to design your new harp around an existing design either from a kit or a plan, and then check the stringband values. If they sound reasonable, keep it. The easiest and most effective way to change the "look" of a harp is by changing the string angle from the sound board.

First look at the tutorials and example of harp designs in the menu. That will give you ideas about the process and methods used to make your own design. Also read the calculator documentation to review some fundamental principles of stringing an instrument.  Play with those examples and data so you get some intutive knowledge. You will find out that you can adapt a design that matches your shop setup, material available and your skill set. There should be nothing that stands in your way to make the harp you want. Now you need to make an 1 to 1 scale drawing of the harp for making the various parts and for the accuracy of the assembly process. The major steps in designing a harp are:

1) Established a string band and string layout and draw it to 1:1 scale.
2) Draw the contour of the neck and pillar and make patterns for them
3) Draw the layout of the sound box and the string bar on the sound board
4) Draw the joints and connection methods used
5) The rest is just wood working

To get you started  use the string layout provided here for string spacing. It is based on the Erard 47 strings drawing of the tutorial.

DXF file HERE  Units in inches, scale 1:1. You can also use the  DXF file sample I provide in the Harp Kit section .

For this string band template the string angle is 32 degrees. It is just a guideline.You will not need the top or bottom strings. Choose the range you want. Choose the string spacing you want from the data table on the drawing. Disregard the length of the strings and the neck curve, make your own. You can also draw the template by hand or use a CAD program. This is tedious work! It has to be accurate. On that string band template you will see some strings length are off from what should be a smooth curve. This is due to the initial measurment errors that were multiplied by the ratio used in the tutorial. Smooth the curve and adjust the length in your data sheet accordingly. When designing the neck make sure you allow enough space for the levers and tuning pins. If you want a greater string angle you need to redesign the template, pivot the sound board line from the bottom and extend the string lines. Having a greater string angle flatten the neck curve, make the sound board shorter, and perpendicular pull of the strings on the sound board greater.


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