Fitting new levers to an old harp!
I was recently asked to fit some new Loveland levers to an old Oakwood lever harp. This is a job that I often get asked to do but I normally advise against it, mainly due to cost. The cost of supplying new levers, bridge pins, strings and the labour costs of fitting them can outweigh the value of the harp once the work is done. Also, the design, in particular the string spacing of older lever harps fitted with the hook style levers can cause problems when fitting newer style levers.
This harp was different though. I could see from the photos that the customer had emailed to me, that this was a beautifully made hand crafted instrument. Once I saw the harp in person I knew that fitting new levers to it would give the harp a new lease of life. I fitted some second hand strings so that I could check the harp over and once I was happy with it I began work on the restoration.
The first step was to work out what size levers and bridge pins I would need to order. Loveland harp levers come in many different sizes and the correct lever size depends on the string length and gauge/thickness. So after a bit of calculating, I had my order sent off to the States.
Whilst waiting for the levers to arrive I disassembled the harp, gave it a thorough clean and repaired some minor scratches. I fitted some new hexagonal bridge pins as the Loveland levers need bridge pins that allow for easy adjustment. The new bridge pins are threaded which means it's easy to screw them in or out to adjust the strings. There was a little bit of work needed to fit the new bridge pins because the original holes were too big.
Once the bridge pins were fitted, I could refit the tuning pins, reassemble the harp and put a full set of new strings on it. It takes a few weeks of tuning to slowly bring the harp up to full pitch. During this stage I got the calculator out again and worked out the semitones for each string. This would give me an idea of where the levers would need to go and once the harp was up to full pitch I could start fitting each individual lever.
The calculations I did, made regulating the harp a lot easier, there was only a few minor adjustments needed so that the levers were working perfectly. The new levers really did bring this harp back to life, it is probably the best sounding lever harp I have had the pleasure of working on. In my opinion this is down to the quality materials used and the fine craftsmanship.