resurrecting 2 autoharps

Ruth Lawrence
Ruth Lawrence
@ruth-lawrence
7 years ago
41 posts

$35 for the Silvertone - wow!

I'm looking forward to the beginner's autoharp workshops at Winterfest. Best of all, the choir director is also attending a workshop with me, and the autoharp repair guy is loaning us each a harp so we can participate. People are so nice and generous with their knowledge and tips.

Cindi Zechman
Cindi Zechman
@cindi-zechman
7 years ago
14 posts

I still have the old Oscar Schmidt I bought for my daughter when she was 3 (43 yrs ago) from the Sears catalogue for a whopping $35 (a lot of $$$ back then.) The fact that it is still in one piece testifies to the fact that she NEVER played it (her loss, my gain.) I just sent it to my brother to rearrange the bars to a more logical placement and when I get it back I'm hoping it'll be easier & more fun to play than before. One can never have too many instruments.....

Ruth Lawrence
Ruth Lawrence
@ruth-lawrence
7 years ago
41 posts

Thank you for this information! It's much appreciated. I neglected to update this post, but I found a repair person who will be at Winterfest in Irving, Tx later this month who will look at the harps and check the strings, restring them etc. (Yes, I discovered sets of strings are pricey. But it is what it is.) Very please you've give me the info on how to clean them up, I can do that before taking the harps to him - it will save him time and be good education for me. Thank you again for the help.

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
7 years ago
723 posts

Hi Ruth, I am sorry I did not see this post earlier. Robin Thompson just alerted me to it. While you can certainly use strings that are 40 years old, be prepared for some breakage. You can clean the strings using Scotchbrite or one of the artificial steel wool products. You can also use steel wool, but it is very messy and hard to clean up. You can unscrew the covers over the chord bars to clean underneath. Just keep the chord bars in the same position as you take them off so that you can put them back in the same place. You might list the bars on a piece of paper from left to right or vice versa. There are little springs under the chord bars. Be careful that they do not pop out. You can spend a great deal of time searching for them. Don't ask me how I know that! You might find a music store in you area the will sell a single autoharp string to replace the broken one. Sets of 36 autoharp strings are fairly expensive. Yes, you do need to use autoharp strings and not guitar strings. The autoharp strings are wound to fit the harp. It is not a difficult task to restring the harp. Another thing to watch out for is the felt falling off the chord bars. After 40 years the glue that holds the felt in place can dry out. You may need to glue pieces of felt back in place. Other than that, you should be able to clean the harps with something like Murphy's Oil Soap and then use a good guitar polish on them. To get the crud on the inside of the instrument use a vacuum cleaner with a narrow attachment to reach into the hole. You do not need to put it around, just get over the hole and let it suck the stuff out. I hope this helps. If you have any more questions, feel free to send me a private message or you can email me through FOTMD.

Ken

'The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Ruth Lawrence
Ruth Lawrence
@ruth-lawrence
7 years ago
41 posts

Chronograph? That's auto correcting text for you!

Ruth Lawrence
Ruth Lawrence
@ruth-lawrence
7 years ago
41 posts

Hi, tonight I rescued 2 autoharps from the church choir room. They'd been there so long no one could remember the who or how of it.

Anyway, one is an Oscar Schmidt Silvertone 15 bar, 36 string. One high E string is missing, but as it was in it's case, is in very good condition as far as I can tell. A little googling told me Silvertones were made between 1965-1967 and sold through Sears and Roebuck. It came with a 7 inch record with instructions for tuning, but sleeve is there, but no record.

The second autoharp is the Japanese Sekova chromaharp, these entered the US market in late 60s. While the Silvertone is maple (veneer I assume), the chromaharp is that sunburst coloring, you see on guitars. I found a serial number and would like to date that also. It's also 15 bars and 36 strings and has all the strings. However it wasn't in a case so is very dusty and grit etc has fallen into the soundhole which I can't shake out.

All I know about this instrument is the above text, thanks to Google!. Do strings that could 40+ years old have to be changed? The info that came with the chromaharp says strings do need not need to be replaced, except if they break. There is a tuning device, but plastic handle is so brittle, it's broken off. I'm wondering whether I should try tuning or not.

Apart some dusting, I haven't done anything else with them. I've got permission to see if they can be made playable again. So, where should I start? Can I unscrew the bars to clean underneath them? What do you clean the strings with? And best way to get the grit out of the body of the chronograph? Or should I find someone to restring them? I'm in Dallas Fort Worth area. Sorry for all the questions, I'd like to bring these alive again, I hate to see neglected instruments.


updated by @ruth-lawrence: 02/19/19 03:45:19AM