Installing a Gold Crown on a Lyon & Healy Style 23

24k gold crownQ: I have a Lyon and Healy 23 and I was given a gold crown for my birthday.  I thought when I took off the wood crown that the gold crown would be an easy installation using the same holes for the screws.  Guess I was wrong.

Do you have any “installation for dummies” advice on how to install the gold crown?  I just don’t want to do anything wrong.
A: As this customer found out, installing a gold crown on your 23 is not a simple matter of taking one off and putting on the other. The screw hole locations are completely different. If you find yourself in her position, I offer the procedure below, which I developed when I worked in the final assembly department at Lyon & Healy. Please take care and use this advice at your own risk. I advise you to contact a professional technician to install your crown for you, but if that is not an option, carefully following these instructions should help you get the job done.
1. put two pieces of double-sided tape on the bottom of the crown

2. Have a chair or step-stool available so you can see the top of the column

3. Set the crown lightly on top of the column. Ideally, the screw holes should point to front, back, left and right, but you need to avoid being too close to existing screw holes. Rotate if necessary so you can drill into virgin wood.

4. Center crown as best you can, sighting from underneath at all angles

5. When you like the position of the crown, pull down firmly so that the double sided tape will hold it in place temporarily

6. Using a punch, nailset, or awl, mark holes as close to the exact center of each screw hole as possible

7. Pull the crown off the column. Using a screwdriver or other fairly solid, fairly sharp tool, scratch an “X” on its bottom nearest the front screw hole. I define “front” as the direction you would face if you were sitting at the harp. This marking will help you remember where the front of the crown is

8. Remove double-sided tape

9. Locate the correct size of drill. Determine this by holding the drill bit in front of a screw. The screw threading should be a little wider than the drill bit, but not much

10. Place a screw in the crown and note how much screw protrudes from the hole. This is the depth of hole you want to drill in the wood. Mark your drill bit with a piece of tape so that you don’t drill too deep

11. Drill your holes. Be careful to hold your drill as close to perpendicular to the wood as you possibly can. Slanted holes will pull the crown off center

12. Lubricate screw threads with beeswax or soap and place them in their holes

13. Remembering to keep the “X” in front, set your crown in place. Ideally, each screw will set right into its hole

14 Tighten screws. It is best to go around in a circle from screw to screw, tightening each a few turns at a time.

15. The screws shouldn’t feel loose. However, if you are fighting them, you need to stop. The heads will strip easily and the shafts can break. These screws are made of brass and are not terribly strong. If you have problems a little more lubrication may help. It is also possible your drill bit was too small, but be cautious about drilling a bigger hole. Look at the angles of the screws. If one or more are at a slant your holes probably got out of whack during drilling. If this is the case, it is best to start over, rotating the crown once again to avoid existing holes

How to Check Your Harp after a Regulation

Style 14 harp with benchMost harpists don’t have a professional technician based in their home towns. If you do, this article will bore the heck out of you. Please return to looking at cat videos. If not, you probably have your harp serviced by a technician who comes to your city periodically, often once a year. If you live outside a metropolitan area, you may have to drive several hours to bring your harp to a visiting technician in the nearest big city.

If your technician is a once-a-year visitor to your area, you’ll want to do what you can to make sure you’re comfortable with the work that was done before he or she leaves. This means checking out your harp after it is regulated. Play one or two of your favorite pieces of music. If there was a spot on one piece where you often noticed a buzz before the regulation, play that spot. Is the buzz gone? Try a few pedal changes. Are you comfortable with the pedal action?

The top professionals I work with always check their harps. They play them hard and loud, and run through some of the most technically demanding pieces they know. If something isn’t quite right, they’d rather find out while I’m standing in in the room with them than two days later when I’ve flown to another part of the country.

Students and novice players are often uncomfortable about playing in front of me. If you’re newer to the instrument, I understand the discomfort you must feel, but I wish you would try to play a little anyway. I’m not there to judge your abilities. Heck, I don’t even play the harp! I just want you to have a chance to ask any questions you may have about the regulation while I’m still present to address them. Nothing’s worse in my world than trying to diagnose a problem with a harp over the phone a week or two after I’ve worked on it, especially if the owner was reluctant to play it when she picked it up. Now, if she had tried it out  after the regulation, and didn’t hear the problem until a week later, at least I would know she tried.

Checking your harp and not finding a problem does not mean my responsibility to you ends. It just means you’re respecting my time and yours by trying to prevent future questions from arising. I can and do try to help resolve problems long-distance and will even make a return trip if necessary, but obviously I need to keep these solutions to an absolute minimum.

Do you hate confrontation? Do you feel awkward complaining about something to a service provider? After all, I’m the professional technician and you’re just a customer, right? I understand that too. The thing is, different people play the harp differently, and often have different expectations about what is most important in their harp’s sound. I adjust the harps I work on based on the feedback I’ve received from hundreds of customers over the years, but there is no one-size-fits-all regulation. If you don’t like something I did, it doesn’t always mean I made a mistake. You’re not insulting me. I’d much rather learn what is important to you so I can set up your harp the way you like it next time.

Harp technicians are human beings. We do make mistakes sometimes. If you help us catch one before it’s too late, we’ll be embarrassed, but we’ll also be relieved that we got the mistake fixed without a return trip to your town.

So, plan on checking your harp. Play it through. If you need music to read, bring music. You may need to bring a portable stand as well. You don’t have to play the most demanding piece you know. Just make some music. Hopefully, you’ll notice that your harp sounds much better after a regulation, but just in case something doesn’t seem quite right. Let’s discuss it right then. We’ll both be glad we did.

 

Soundboard Veneer Splits

Splits in the soundboard veneer do not migrate into the board itself.

Splits in the soundboard veneer do not migrate into the board itself.

 

So, you see some small cracks or splits running along the center strip on your pedal harp, and you’re wondering if this is a sign of scary expensive repairs to come. Fortunately, splits like the one shown in this photo are rarely a cause for concern. As ominous as they look, they are cosmetic, not structural.

The wood grain on this harp’s soundboard appears to run parallel to the center strip, but the wood you see is only a very thin veneer. The grain of the underlying soundboard actually runs perpendicular to the center strip. While the veneer is splitting, there is no way this split will transfer into the soundboard, since the grain direction is different.

If you have a pedal harp, take a flashlight and look at the underside of the soundboard inside the body. You’ll see that the grain of the board is horizontal back there, not running the length of the soundboard the way the top veneer does. In essence, the split you can see on the top is only “skin deep,” and won’t go past the surface layer of wood.

Seen from behind, the grain of the sounboard runs perpendicular to the center strip.

Seen from behind, the grain of the soundboard runs perpendicular to the center strip.

 

Why do these splits happen? Under string tension, the soundboard is naturally pulled upward. As harps age, they develop a degree of bowing or “bellying” in the soundboard. This is actually an important part of the harp’s sound. A bowed soundboard is more resonant than a flat one. This is one reason sound improves with age.

While the soundboard itself is built to withstand the stress of constant string tension, at least for several decades if not more, the veneer is literally paper thin. Moreover, wood is weakest along grain lines. The tension on the board is highest right in the center where the strings are pulling. Where the underlying soundboard can flex under tension, the surface veneer can’t always follow suit. This can results in splits like the ones shown above.

Can these be repaired? First of all, the word “repair” is probably too strong of a word. Nothing is really broken. Okay, you might say, can they be touched up? While I haven’t asked this question of a touch-up expert, I suspect any touc-up work would be temporary. This section of the instrument will continue to bow up over time, and finishes, like wood grain, don’t necessarily flex under tension.

When is a crack in the soundboard something to worry about? If you notice a crack running parallel to the center strip, but about one half inch to one inch away from it, then you have cause for concern. Underneath the board, there is another center strip, much thicker and wider than the one on the surface. A split or crack along the edge of the larger bottom center strip can be an indication that the soundboard is on its way to coming apart. If you do see something like this, shine a flashlight at it. If you can see light on the other side of the soundboard, it’s time to start thinking about replacing the board, or the harp, depending on its monetary and sentimental value.

Harp for Sale

Style 14 harp with benchI am selling a Lyon & Healy Style 14 pedal harp, serial number 3882. This harp was built in 1940. It has recently had the body base frame repaired to preserve its structural integrity. I have personally lubricated, reconditioned, restrung, and regulated it. It will make a great gigging harp for an active freelancer or a nice student harp for a younger student. Asking $7,900.00 US. Price includes a bench and shipping crate. The harp is located at my home in central Indiana. For more information, please contact me via the contact form below. For additional photos, please scroll down.

S1710004 S1710006 S1710009 S1710010 S1710015 S1710016 S1710018 S1710019

Fall 2014 Harp Regulation Schedule

harpreg30Here’s an at-a-glance look at my schedule from late July, 2014 through the beginning of November:
 

  • July 21-27: Redlands, CA
  • August 25-30: Ann Arbor, MI
  • September 5-8: Interlochen, MI
  • September 19-24: Salt Lake City, UT
  • September 25-27: Spokane, WA
  • October 6-10: Omaha, NE
  • November 3-8: Austin, TX

 

If you’d like to schedule an appointment for any of these locations, feel free to contact me (steve (at) mossharpservice (dot) com). If you’re viewing this post after Summer/Fall of 2014 you can find an updated schedule on my calendar page.

Lyon & Healy Lever Harps: Pedal or Lever Strings?

Lever Harp Lineup at Lyon & Healy WestI was talking with a colleague over at harp.com, Lyon & Healy’s partner website for strings, accessories, and all things harp, and he told me that his customers frequently experience confusion over what type of strings to buy for their Lyon & Healy lever harp. Bow Brand, which produces strings for Lyon & Healy and harp.com, produces both pedal and lever harp strings.  The confusing thing is that many models of Lyon & Healy lever harp are designed to take pedal harp strings.

Lyon & Healy’s three current models of lever harp, the Troubadour, Prelude, and Ogden, are all string with pedal harp strings. The same is true of the Folk Harp, which is no longer produced, but there are still lots of them being played. Since Lyon & Healy is a pedal harp maker, they have long designed most models of lever harp they produce to have the same spacing, tension, and feel as their pedal harps. This eases the transition for a student who begins on lever harp and then progresses to a pedal harp once she has decided she’s crazy enough to stay with the harp. In esssence, these models of lever harp function as “starter” pedal harps as far as tension, sound, and feel are concerned.

Other models of Lyon & Healy lever harp were designed for the player who intends to stay with the lever harp. The Lyric and Shamrock are two examples. Both of these are strung with Bow Brand lever strings. The electric Silhouette is also strung with lever harp strings.

You don’t need to keep all of this information in your head if you generally order through harp.com. The site includes a form where you can select your model of harp and get a list of the appropriate strings. The problem arises, according to my friend who handles harp.com orders and shipping, is that many customers are confused when their order arrives and they find they’ve received a set of pedal harp strings for their lever harp. If you own an Ogden, Prelude, Troubadour, or Folk Harp, don’t send that order back! You’ve got exactly what you need.