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Old Harp Sings Again

My friend T recently inherited a beautiful Lyon & Healy Style 16 from her mother. Built initially around 1920, the harp hadn’t been played in about 10 years and had been kept in storage. When T asked me to help her replace the many broken strings and determine if the harp was in playable condition we discovered a crack in the neck.

crack in neck of harp

Harp Doc Peter Wiley inspected the harp and said that replacing the entire neck would be expensive - or at least more than T wanted to spend. The crack didn’t go all way through the neck laminations and there was no way of knowing if it had been there for several years or if it had happened when the harp was recently transported. Peter suggested we could try the epoxy method which could possibly extend the life of the instrument without a large expense. It was worth the gamble and I was curious to see what the harp would sound like after all these years so I enthusiastically took on the project.

After taking most of the old strings off to relieve the tension I masked off the area around the crack, laid the harp down and filled the gap with a special slow-curing epoxy.

masking off the crack in the harp neck

In order to make sure the epoxy didn’t pour out, I upended the harp so gravity would help the liquid flow down into the crack.

upside-down harp getting neck repair

After a 24-hour curing time the harp was righted again. The action was a bit sticky and grimy so I lubricated it with a very light oil and worked it into the mechanism. I covered the body of the instrument with a sheet of plastic so the oil wouldn’t drip and stain the soundboard until after it had a chance to evaporate.

harp covered with plastic during neck repair

After I installed a full new set of strings we were happy to discover that this old harp has a rich, full, warm voice that had just been waiting to sing again. Now that it’s playable, it needs to see the Harp Doc again for a regulation so the pedals will be accurate. What a thrill to know this old beauty has a new life!

old style 16 with new strings