DragonFly Harp #12: 5-11-2011 to 6-11-2011 Disaster!

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Blog entry by Donna Menke posted 06-18-2011 05:58 PM 3148 reads 1 time favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 11: Almost Finished! Part 12 of DragonFly Harp series Part 13: 6-19-2011 Finally Really Finished »

The harp broke as the strings were tightened- way back to a month ago. I was devastated, since I had little time to fix it (and everything else I had to do) in time for the show, carving and box-making seminars in June. I will show you here what I did to finish the harp for the first time and discovering the BIG PROBLEM.
With the next blog installment, I’ll go into what I did to fix the BIG PROBLEM.

The figure on the soundboard is very erratic- looks like a mistake though I actually chose to use that section of the aircraft ply thinking that it looked interesting. I decided to ‘fix’ the problem by adding a light wash of blue-green dye to the wood to complement the mother-of-pearl dragonfly wing inlays.. It already had a finish on it with the Arm-R-Seal, so I had to work quickly to try to avoid blotching. I experimented with the dyes first to get a nice greenish-blue, but I forgot that the wood already had a yellowish tint to it- resulting in a more greenish hue than I’d wanted. So- I tried to sand it to make it less obvious, but as you can see in the photo the 400 grit paper filled in almost immediately. It did lessen the impact of the puke-green a bit.

I also applied a second coat of finish to all surfaces of the harp and stand after a light sanding. It looks better with more coats,but it takes forever to get to all the areas.

Now this is what I was aiming for when I was first thinking about how to improve on the bulky and squared top on the Limerick/Rainbow harp. It took a lot of work to shape the wood , but it was worth it to me.

Here is another view of that curve with me adding the tuning pins and bridge pins. I’d rather hit my fingers at this point then hurt my harp finish.

My favorite part of the harp- of course- the dragonfly inlay. So much work- but it is worth it now to have it exactly as I wanted it. Not to be too critical, but if I had it to do over again I would have integrated the inlay a bit better with the overall design of the harp. This way though it is like a piece of jewelry the harp is wearing. Not a bad thing.

This is a close-up of the grain I sought first to emphasize- and then to minimize. It is what it is- no changing now- it has the string grommets in place.

Here I am pulling one of the 26 strings through the brass grommet in the soundboard, and then up to the tuning pin. Time consuming process- then tuning. They say it takes 50 tunings on a new harp to get it to stay in tune more than a minute or two. The strings stretch, the wooden neck bows, and the soundboard bellies up; so it always goes flat. Tuning was fun though, because I knew that very soon it would sound really good. It was already proving that the changes I made to the Limerick design did not reduce the sound at all. It sounded great- for a minute or two anyhow.

This is how the ends of the strings are secured on the inside of the harp. They need to be very well secured or they will pull through the soundboard as the strings exert a whole lot of pressure. This was my last moment of happiness for a while. Note the darkness at the bottom of the harp interior- before any strings are tightened.

This is what I discovered after 3 days of tuning twice a day. It is fortunate that I’d decided to take some photos of the ‘finished harp’ and saw the light shining through the bottom interior. Ye gods and little fishes- what a disaster! I knew how to fix it,and I knew it was not a quick fix. What was amazing to me was that I’d thought that the joint would hold with just a thin line of glue. What a dummy. I should have known better. In the close up of the front you can see how the bottom of the pillar kept the soundboard from pulling completely up- and breaking.
I will show in the next entry just how I fixed the problem, but first I want to show you the pictures I took right after loosening all of the strings so that the soundboard would not crack/break.

How sweet it is to see everything- well almost everything- working out so well.

Back side- still does look like a ‘walking man’ I think.

Here is how the shelf part of the stand works. Some music could sit there too. I like this feature.

-- "So much wood. . .so little time!"

8 comments so far

View sailboard's profile


2 posts in 3024 days

#1 posted 06-18-2011 06:03 PM

I thought I took on tough projects, but this was really something special! Congrats to you.


-- Sailboard, Florida

View Donna Menke's profile

Donna Menke

617 posts in 4684 days

#2 posted 06-18-2011 06:13 PM

Thanks, Steve, and the blog isn’t really done yet. You will enjoy the way I fixed it. It cannot come undone now- no matter what. Remember- no gain without pain- LOL.

-- "So much wood. . .so little time!"

View BarbS's profile


2434 posts in 4503 days

#3 posted 06-18-2011 07:28 PM

Oh Donna, what a heart break that must have been. That you Fixed it is wonderful; looking forward to more blog!


View sras's profile


5108 posts in 3547 days

#4 posted 06-18-2011 10:00 PM

I somehow had missed your latest posts. I am glad to have caught up. Also happy to hear that your fix worked out. I’m looking forward to the rest of the story. Beautiful instrument!!

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View S4S's profile


2118 posts in 3099 days

#5 posted 06-19-2011 01:23 AM

Looking forward to your solution , Beautiful work !

View Diane's profile


546 posts in 4540 days

#6 posted 06-19-2011 04:35 AM

Thanks for showing up, can’t wait to hear and see the rest. Glad you were able to fix the problem it had.


View Donna Menke's profile

Donna Menke

617 posts in 4684 days

#7 posted 06-19-2011 03:03 PM

Thanks Autumn- and others- the mother-of-pearl dragonfly wings have gotten a lot of attention on the harp in the show. They may not recognize the skill involved in the inlays- no filler at all- but they know beautiful when they see it. Just to give you an idea of the quality of this show- one of our ‘Best in Class’ winners recently one ‘Best in World’ with his aquatic themed carving.
This is an idea of my competition in the same class as the harp:
So I don’t feel too bad-

-- "So much wood. . .so little time!"

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 4578 days

#8 posted 06-30-2011 03:04 PM

ooooh my—- my heart stopped, I’m sure!

I love the shelf! Brilliant.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

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