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.
Screw Driver-Common (Flat head type)- used to pry off the old rails and soundboard.
½ inch or ¾ inch wide, to remove leftover wood and glue from the harp body.
Palm Sander- powered hand sander is recommended for cleaning what you can’t get with the chisel, and to provide a good surface for gluing. A random orbit sander is best.
Sanding Disks (or Paper) for Your Sander- 60 grit for fast removal of material. 120 grit followed by 220 grit for finish work.
Needle Nose Pliers or Wire Cutters- to remove nails after prying off the old rails and soundboard. A pair of Vise-Grip pliers may also be used.
Hammer- to nail on your soundboard and rails. A small tack hammer should be fine.
1” Brads- “headless” nails used for the rails.
#17 X 1” Nails- used for the soundboard.
2 Part Epoxy- “2 ton” type of epoxy with a minimum working time of 20 minutes, to glue your soundboard to the harp body.
Yellow Wood Glue- to glue the rails onto the soundboard.
Clamps- C type or bar type clamps, minimum of 4 four clamps PER SIDE.
Clamping Blocks- paint stirring sticks work well, to protect your harp from being damaged by the clamps.
Amber (Orange) Shellac or Clear Shellac- amber will blend with the existing finish, but clear will work as well, apply with a brush, or use the spray can form.
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.
Epoxy will give you the strongest hold, while being less toxic than adhesives such as Resorcinol.* Epoxy is easier to manage and clean up after than the popular Gorilla* glue. (Resorcinol contains many toxic chemicals, and requires the use of air filters, eye protection, and skin protection. It will also stain skin, clothing, and almost anything else that comes into contact with it. Gorilla glue is an expanding polyurethane glue, meaning it foams out, filling any gaps, but running all over the place if you are not careful. Gorilla glue also has a short working time, based on the humidity level of your work area. The more humid it is, the faster it will cure and harden.)
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 nuLime.com can improve this process, please contact us.
*Resorcinol and Gorilla Glue are registered trademarks.
Removing the Old Soundboard
Loosen the strings by turning the tuning pegs with the tuning tool. Do not remove the strings from the pegs or soundboard. Removing the tension will prevent it from suddenly flying apart as you work. Leave the strings in the tuning pegs and soundboard to keep them out of your way as you work. By leaving the strings in the old soundboard, you will easily be able to transfer them, in the correct order, to your new soundboard when it is in place.
Look at the side of your harp. You will see three distinct sections identifiable by their colors. The dark smooth section on top is the rosewood rail. The middle light colored thin strip is the edge of the mahogany soundboard. The dark carved area is the rosewood body. (Fig 1-1)
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.
Once the rails are removed the nails that were holding the rails in place are exposed. Do not attempt to remove these the conventional way, with a hammer. Grab the nails with the pliers or wire cutters. Get a firm grip on the nail, don’t cut it off. Then roll the pliers to the left or right, this will pull the nails out. (Fig 1-3)
Once you have the rails removed, you will need to remove the soundboard. Again, using your screwdriver and hammer, begin prying off the old soundboard. Go slowly. It will crack and break, which is ok. The old soundboard is not reusable. Be careful not to accidentally gouging the body with the screwdriver. The refinishing process at the end will show you how to repair common dents, but it is better not to have any to begin with.
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.
Clean up your work area. Small pieces of wood and nails can damage your harp very easily. The next steps require the harp to be laid on its back. Place a piece of cardboard or a towel under the harp at this stage to help prevent scratches.
The soundboard is now free from the harp. It still has the strings attached. Carefully pull the strings out of the TUNING PEGS, but LEAVE THEM ATTACHED TO THE SOUNDBOARD. Set the remains of the soundboard aside with the strings still in order. This will make restringing the instrument much easier.
N.B. It is especially important now to continue to clean your work surface.
Lay out something to protect the harp. Set the harp on its back. Use the chisel to remove any left over bits of soundboard from the body. Remove the nails as in step 3. (Fig 1-5 and 1-6) At the bottom of the harp, on either side of the foot, you should have noticed two brads (headless type nails). Remove these as well
When you have removed all the nails and chunks of wood, use your palm sander with 60 grit paper to sand off the soundboard residue and glue from the body. DON’T GOUGE THE WOOD OR CROWN (ROUND) THE EDGES!! You want a flat surface to glue to. Any gouges or crowning can lead to gaps that will weaken the bond of the new soundboard. The dark color of the rosewood body will be obvious as you sand thorough the lighter mahogany plywood.
Some areas will not be accessible with the power sander using a small sharp chisel clean off any remnants of the soundboard from around the joints of the body and crossbar and the body and the foot. Pay special attention to the top and to the foot areas. Both are designed to receive the soundboard snugly, and need to be well cleaned. Any left over bits of wood or glue can lead to problems with fitting your soundboard. A little extra time here will make things easier later on. Clean your work area.
Fitting The New Soundboard
Now that you have finished prepping your harp, it is time to fit your new soundboard. The new soundboard is oversized, and will need to be trimmed to fit. Again, take your time. It is easier to take a little more off, than it is to put some of it back on.
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.
When you have seated the soundboard snuggly into the foot, stand the harp on its base and view it from the front. Align the grommets (brass rings on the soundboard) so that they are in line with the arm. Hold the soundboard in place. Draw a mark on the backside of the soundboard across the top of the harp. Remove the soundboard and trim down the top almost to the pencil mark. The top of the soundboard will fit into a recess at the top of the harp body. Again, remove a little at a time, checking your fit often. DON’T RUSH THESE STEPS. You will want a snug fit, but not forced. If you take two much off, the fit will be loose.
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.
Attaching The New Soundboard
With the soundboard trimmed to fit, it is time to glue it into place. Mix extra epoxy. Better to have some left over, than to not have enough when you need it. Make sure this is the 20-minute cure time epoxy. If it is longer, that is fine. You don’t want to be too rushed, and 20 minutes should be ample time to finish this stage.
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.
Nail the soundboard in place using the #17 x 1” nails. Space the nails about 3” apart. The wide heads of the #17 X1” nails will be covered by the rails.
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.
With the nails in place, you will need to clamp your soundboard to ensure full contact around the edges. Take you clamping blocks and place one on the face of the harp, and one the back. Clamp them into place. The blocks diffuse the pressure and protect your soundboard from being scarred or dented by the clamps.
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.
The next day, remove your clamps and clamping blocks. Using your sander and a 60-grit paper, sand the overlapping edges of your soundboard almost flush with the body of the harp. Leave about 1/8” at the edge for the next step
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.
Replacing The Rails
It is now time to attach your rails. If you were able to save the original rails, you should be able to match them up to the harp sides. If not, then you will need to cut your new rails to fit. Cut them to the length of each side with about ¼” extra length on each end, to allow for shaping.
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.)
Remove the clamps and clamping blocks. Cleanup any excess dried glue.
Finishing Your Harp
Any deep scratches to the body of the harp can be filled at this time using colored wax pencils or wood putty. Both are available from hardware stores. The advantages of using wax pencils instead of putty are you do not have to wait for it to dry and you can buy the color you need to match your harp.
Using a palm sander, sand the edge of the soundboard to the shape of the rails and the side of the harp body. Shape the rail ends to the harp body also. If you remove some of the finish from the body, don’t worry. You can fix it in the next step.
Move from the 60 grit, to 120 grit, and then to 220 grit. This will give you a smooth wood surface to finish.
Clean up the dust. You do not want to have any dust in your finishing area. Airborne dust can land in the finish and cause it to dry with imperfections
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
IMPORTANT: ONLY USE SHELLAC FOR REFINISHING YOUR HARP
Use a clean brush, recommended for shellac, and apply to the bare wood. Try to always go with the grain, as the finished product will look better. Allow the shellac to dry completely, and apply extra coats if needed. Follow the instructions on the can for this.
Some hardware stores have shellac in spray cans. Mask off anything you DON’T want sprayed. Masking tape and old newspapers will work well for this. Work in light coats. Several light coats are better than runs. Follow the instructions on the can.
Allow the finish to dry overnight.
When you are done refinishing the harp, it is time to put on your strings.
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.
Once all the strings are replaced, you may now tune your harp. This is a new soundboard and it will take time for it to adjust to the tension of tuning. It will take several tunings to achieve the best sound from your harp. Tuning too fast can cause the strings to snap. Tighten a little each day until you reach the proper tune. A harp-tuning sheet is included with your kit, and will give you details concerning this.