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Imp - my Stoney End Eve Lap Harp

The Eve kit before assembly Hobgoblin Music's Crawley shop often has an example of the Eve design on display. I had a close look at the way one of these was put together, and asked to see a kit next time they had one in stock, as I wasn't too sure how much work I'd have to do and whether I'd have the appropriate woodworking tools and skill to complete the task. However, the parts in the kit were mostly ready cut, and the instructions were also a lot more detailed, so it didn't look too intimidating. There was no full-size drawing, but one wasn't really necessary, as everything that might have needed measuring was already cut or marked. The detailed instructions were worth reading through thoroughly, at least twice.

Soundbox before assembly The first task involved cutting sound holes in the back of the sound box and in the top of the sound board. A fairly simple task if you happen to have a fret-saw. I didn't. I do now. The next few tasks involved glue and clamps, first to attach the string bar to the sound board, then to assemble the sound box, and last to attach the neck to the pillar.

Soundbox after assembly The trickiest task was assembling and glueing the sound box. There are ten pieces of wood to be glued together, and this needs to be done in a single operation. The glue used must not set too quickly because the joints are bound to need adjusting when all the pieces are assembled. Getting the joints looking clean from the outside is also difficult. The instructions suggest using little wooden wedges to push the ply sides against the outside sides of the slots they fit into, but this is a lot easier said than done, especially for the last edges glued. I found it worked fairly well for the sound board, but not so well for the sides, and was pretty well impossible for the back. There was a limit to the length of time the glue in the joints would remain workable, and getting the box properly squared up seemed more important...

Neck and pillar joint (before) Neck and pillar joint (after) Joining the pillar to the pinblock was much simpler. Most of the work on the joint had already been done. All it needed was a bit of glue and the careful application of a certain amount of force. The four dowel pegs needed a bit of trimming to make sure the joint would close completely and let glue escape. The force was needed to ensure the joint actually did close completely. Parcel tape is handy for strapping up those joints that can't easily be held firm with clamps. I used quite a bit of it.

Fitting the pillar and neck to the soundbox Harp in two pieces The next tricky task was fitting the neck and pillar assembly to the sound box. I clamped the pinblock to a tressle so that the top of the soundbox would be horizontal, and that made planing the shoulder easier. I didn't need to take much off the foot of the pillar. Most of the adjustment came off the shoulder, but it took a while to plane the contact surfaces to a good fit. Getting the bolts accurately placed in the top of the soundbox and the shoulder was also interesting. Good thing I had a socket set with a foot-long extension rod. Add some glue, two bolts (with two nuts each) and one wood-screw, and the harp was finally in one piece.

In one piece ready for shaping At this point I thought I'd probably done more than half the work needed to complete the harp. I was wrong.

Rough shoulder Shaping the shoulder The shoulder needed quite a bit of shaping to get it looking good, but the wood was nothing like as hard to work with as the wood my first harp was made from. I did need to re-sharpen the spoke-shave, but only a few times, and then the sanding began. It took a lot more sanding than I was expecting to get the wood smooth. The sanding probably took as long as all the rest of the construction combined. Still, it's worth getting the surface looking good, or that's what I kept telling myself each time I was tempted to say "That's good enough."

Fine shaping and sanding No levers yet Ready for stringing Eventually I decided it really was good enough, and started applying the tung oil. I lost count of the number of coats I applied, and how often I did some more fine sanding after a coat had dried, but when it came to stringing time there was a certain quantity of dust and oil to be extracted from the holes. I discovered a lack of inch-sized drills in my workshop late one night. A handy metric equivalent was available though, so the fitting of pins and strings did not have to be delayed.

It is said that all harps have names, and curiously, this one seemed to answer to the name Imp even before it (or should that be "he") was complete. Since then, with a little assistance from Peter Murray (aka Ginger Bear), his name has grown to Imp y Telyn. Whatever...

The semitone levers did take a while to arrive though, so for a while I had Imp tuned in some variant of the key of F as I brought the strings up to pitch. The levers (when they arrived) were easier to fit than the cams on my clarsach, but there were a few things that needed watching:

Imp now has levers on B, C, and F, and holds pitch fairly well. Tuning him is different though. I generally lay him flat on my knee with the pinblock on the left and the pins pointing up, because it's easier to get at the pins and the strings that way.

Imp with strap Imp with strap One thing that small lap harps are prone to do is slide off your lap. I got rather tired of this quite quickly, and wondered how I could make the harp stay put. I eventually figured that some sort of strap was called for, and bought a cheap adjustable guitar strap and three pegs. The strap goes from a peg on the right of the harp's shoulder to a peg under the front left corner of the soundbox. The third peg is also fitted on bottom of the soundbox so that the base is still fairly stable. The strap works quite well most of the time, and means I can concentrate on playing rather than on keeping the harp on my lap.

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