By way of introduction, Douglas Fey harps on us about when he got laid off and decided to make something. He apprenticed to a cabinet maker and then moved on. He later found a connection to someone who wanted a harp made. There was a learning curve but many skills were a crossover from cabinets to harp instruments. He brought a harp with him and at this point, Laura Kiley was introduced and played the harp for us. Words do not describe! Thanks Laura.
The harp is a very old type of instrument; some purported to be over 3000 years old. They range in size from over six feet tall to one that fits on a lap. Doug would like to expand on the range of harps that he makes. The main vertical (more or less) part is called the sound board and is made of laminated veneers to withstand many thousands of pounds of stress. He builds his harps on a form—a skeleton, and then attacks the wood with a duplicating router.
He uses six layers of veneer formed in a vacuum press glued all at once and his favorite for a soundboard is spruce cut so that the grain lines run perpendicular to the edge. The soundboard ranges in thickness from top to bottom because there is more stress at the bottom than at the top. He has just started using carbon fiber in the sound board, but has made 70 harps that were all veneer. The veneer quality is very important.
He has also experimented with using epoxy, mostly West System from West Marine, but it can bleed through the veneer hampering any possible stain, which he prefers not to use. He likes the look of the maple for an outside veneer.
The top structure is piano pin block and is called a neck. In appearance, this part resembles a premium laminate like plywood. Previously he glued this up himself and had problems with glue cold creep, and thus the upgrade to the piano neck block. He uses a jig to cut the hand holds in the back of the soundbar and the holes influence the sound of the instrument. He estimates he uses 15 routers to build one harp! Once he has a bit fine-tuned as to placement in the router, he tends to leave it exactly there.
He uses an upgraded 1970’s Shopsmith to drill a very important structural hole in the bottom of the soundboard which must be parallel to the bottom the soundbar. He uses Woodhaven screw blocks in his router insert plates to level his routers (they are available at http://www.woodcraft.com.)
Some harps have small levers that change the pitch of the strings, as opposed to a pedal harp. His harps use seven levers for this purpose.
So far he has little competion to hand build harps in the way of factory building and like any woodworker, he wishes he could charge more for his work. He attends harp shows to attract customers and some harpists sell or recommend him to others. He is also on Facebook . Go like him!
On the web at www.Douglas HarpCo.com Email available at: email@example.com
Thanks for a nice presentation Doug.
Show and Tell
1 Cabinet: David White; David showed us his cabinet that featured some unique construction that originated when Europeans when to Asia and found that their furniture came apart due to humidity. To combat moisture changes, this cabinet’s top is frame and panel construction and the doors move on dowel hinge pins instead of conventional hinges. David was encouraged to enter his work in the state fair.
2. Jewelry Box: Ed Columbo (Photos on USB) Walnut with through dovetails and hidden compartments and decorative touches from his wife. He used torsion hinges purchased from Rockler. These hinges are designed for a specific weight lid and he says they can go anywhere.
3. Lamp: John Phillips; John drilled the bottom of a ceramic vase and fitted both a cap and foot out of rosewood to the vase with an eye to making a lamp for his wife.
4. Wooden plane: Mike Swart brought in a cordless plane made out of mahogany with a Sheffield iron. He also brought photos of his own design of a Kreg table on locking swivel casters.
5. Junque wood: John Slezak; These pieces came from the large bin of Woodcraft’s wood by the pound. He glued the two pieced of black and white ebony together and then bookmatched them.
6. Lidded Bowl: Fred Damianos; From crotch rosewood that ended up a bit smaller than he wanted due to a catch while he was turning resulting in him losing center. We would not have known had he not told us.
7. Table: Larry Simmons; Larry met Jeff Miller on his latest trip to Chicago and had some slides of him and some of his furniture. He showed us photos of a dining table he made for his sister out of walnut and curly maple. Photos on USB.
8 Tall Goblet: Denny Wetter; Denny showed a tall goblet along with a much smaller one that seems impossibly thin.
9.Tools: Sid Mann; First was a square from the Starrett company from his home town, followed by a protractor and a caliper.
10 Portable lamps: Ed Frazier Ed made a portable lamp clamped on some blocks of wood for use in his shop.Text and pictures by Andy DiLorenzo