Harp Soundboard Replacement
Required Materials, And Their Use
Section One, Removing The Old Soundboard
Section Two, Fitting The New Soundboard
Section Three, Attaching The New Soundboard
Section Four, Replacing The Rails
Section Five, Finishing Your Harp
Consider this is a “weekend” project. While the total working time may only be a few hours, there are instances where you need to wait for glue or finish to dry overnight.
-Be sure to read and understand all the instructions before starting. If you have any questions, please contact us to clarify the issue (321/724-1477). Don’t just charge into the project. Take your time, the results will be worth it.
-Safety first. Read and understand the safety and warning labels on any chemicals or tools you may use. Always wear eye protection. A filtered air mask should be worn when you sand, or work with fumes. If you are concerned about splinters, please wear an appropriate type of glove to protect your hands.
-Keep your work area clear of debris. This process generates many small bits of wood, nails, and glue, any of which can damage your harp. Clean your work area frequently, and be careful of debris on the floor and underfoot.
-Assemble all your materials and equipment before starting. Glue won’t wait for you to find your clamps. Get everything ready first to avoid costly mistakes. Walk yourself through the process once or twice, so that you know when you will need each item. Again, take your time.
Required Materials, And Their Use
Harp Kit, one harp, one replacement soundboard, and two replacement rails.
A NOTE ABOUT THE MATERIALS LISTED
There are many choices on the market for adhesives and finishes. The
ones listed have been found to be the best for this project.
The yellow wood glue used for the rails is available at all wood working stores and home improvement centers. It is easy to use and clean up. Hide glue can be used as a replacement for this, but it tends to be harder to find. Unlike the soundboard, a strong glue bond is not structurally necessary for the rails, so you will not need to use the more expensive and messier epoxy for them.
Use only shellac for this project. The harps are already finished with shellac. Poly finishes and oil finishes do not react well with shellac, and can result in messy and disappointing results.
If you have questions or suggestions on how Mid-East can improve this process, please contact us.
*Resorcinol and Gorilla Glue are registered trademarks.
Place the harp on its side. Using the screwdriver, pry off the old rails. If you can pry them off in one piece, do so. Reusing these will save you a step later on. To pry off the rails, place the tip of a flat screwdriver into the light wood strip on the side of the harp just below the side rail. Lightly tap the screwdriver with a hammer to break the glue bond. Now twist the screwdriver to pry up the rail. Do this down the length of the rail. Don’t worry about damaging the plywood soundboard. Just try not to dent the body of the harp. (Fig 1-2)
Take your time. Sometimes the rail will snap, so pry away from your face. Expect some nails to come out with the rails, and some to pull through the rails and remain in the harp.
Work your way around the soundboard and pry up as much as you can. The soundboard should now be free of the harp body. If some places will not pry up, use the hammer to break them free. Be careful of the body of the harp. If you look inside the back, you should be able to gauge how thick the body walls are, and where it is safe to smash trough. Please note, the base and top are thicker than the sides of the body.
N.B. It is especially important now to continue to clean your work surface.
The new soundboard has a notch in the bottom to receive the foot. Remove a little at a time from the sides of this notch until it begins to slide into place over the foot. (Fig 2-1) Sandpaper or a utility knife will work well for this. Check the fit often. YOU CAN’T PUT IT BACK ONCE IT IS CUT OFF.
You may reach a point where the top of the soundboard is against the harp arm. If it will not slide downward anymore, trim the top. Take just enough off from the top to let it swing into place, under the arm. It should still overlap the body at the top.
OPTION: You can try to trim the sides of the soundboard now. However waiting until after the gluing phase provides extra leeway to make a last minute adjustment. If you do trim the sides, leave about 1/8 to ¼ inch overhang. Whichever method you use, it is most important that you are comfortable with it.
Place the epoxy on the edges of the body where the soundboard will meet. It is okay to put on extra. The epoxy will act as filler, and seal up gaps you might not notice.
Once you have put epoxy on the exposed edges of the harp body, slide on your new soundboard. If you fit it correctly in the previous step, then it should give you no trouble. The epoxy will be pressed out and may run down the sides. This is okay. Let the drips dry as is. DO NOT wipe them off. Once dry, drips can be easily popped off with the chisel.
NOTE: If you left the soundboard edges oversized, PLEASE READ. To get the nails into the body edge use something to gauge the distance from the edge of the soundboard to the side of the body. You can use a ruler, pencil, screwdriver, anything. Slide your screwdriver under the protruding edge of the soundboard. Slide your finger down the shaft until it just bumps against the soundboard. Now put the shaft on TOP of the soundboard. Position it so your finger just bumps the soundboard. You have now transferred the distance of the overlap from the bottom to the top. This will give you the outside edge of the body, DO NOT nail at this mark this is the outer edge of your nailing space. The sides of the body will be about 5/8” to ¾” thick. Adding that to your transferred measurement will give you the inner edge of your nailing space. Keep your nails in the center of those two measurements.
You can get an exact measurement of the side thickness when you finish removing the old soundboard, prior to the gluing stage.
At this time replace the two brads in the base of the soundboard, one on each side of the foot. These help to keep the bottom of the soundboard snug to the body. They can easily be concealed with a nail set and a wax pencil.
Space the clamps evenly. A minimum of four clamps per side is recommended. More clamps will allow you to have more even pressure, and better results. Keep your clamps on the edges of the harps, pressing the soundboard onto the sides of the body. If you place them too far in towards the center, you can ruin your glue bond and possibly damage your soundboard.
Let the epoxy or glue cure overnight to allow for maximum strength.
This will create a lot of dust, and you should have adequate ventilation and a dust mask.
Use your chisel to pop off any runs of epoxy on the sides (epoxy does not like to bond to shellac. This makes life much easier). If you scratch the body of the harp in the process, it can be fixed during the final finishing step.
If you are using the original rails, you will need to clean off the old glue and any other material still attached to the back. Use the same methods used to prepare the harp body for the soundboard. Use a chisel to remove any chunks of wood or glue, and then sand smooth. This is essential for an even fit.
Pre-drilling your nail holes in the rails will prevent the wood from splitting when you nail them on. Your local hardware store can help you out with selecting the right drill bit to match your brads. Set the rail on a scrap piece of wood and drill them OFF of the harp. ONLY DRILL THE RAIL, NOT THE SOUNDBOARD!
The rails need to be glued and clamped down. You do not need to use epoxy for this. Regular yellow wood glue will work just as well. Apply the glue to the underside of the rail, and place the rail on the soundboard. Begin nailing about one inch from the end, and space the nails about 4”apart. You may have to adjust the spacing of the last few nails to keep it even.
When you have done both sides, use your clamping blocks and clamp the rails down just as you did with the soundboard. Again, keep the spacing even and centered on the rails and the body of the harp. Let this dry before you continue. (Check your glue bottle for drying times. If you want to let it set overnight, go ahead.)
Move from the 60 grit, to 120 grit, and then to 220 grit. This will give you a smooth wood surface to finish.
Be sure to dust out the carvings on your harp. These will collect dust, and can lead to a mess when you begin to apply shellac.STEP 21
Now that you have the harp shaped and sanded smooth, it is time to begin refinishing the sides and rails.
NOTE: Fumes from paints and shellac can be harmful. Follow the warnings and safety precautions on the finishes.
IMPORTANT: ONLY USE SHELLAC FOR REFINISHING YOUR HARP
Allow the finish to dry overnight.
The original strings should still be on the old soundboard, still in their individual grommet holes. Transfer them one by one from the old soundboard to the new soundboard. Shorter ones are at the top. Longer ones are at the bottom. Push the strings though from the back, inside of the soundboard. Pull the string up and over the tension peg, or sharpening lever. Pass the string through the hole on the tuning pin from front to back. (Fig 5-1) Holding the harp, with its back toward your chest place the tuning tool over the tuning peg and turn away from you. Make sure you turn all the strings in the same direction. You are only attaching the strings in this step do not attempt to tune each string as you put it on.
All Rights Reserved