Before the top can be attached to the body, there are a few more things to do. First, decide how to progress; during steaming, the top had separated into three parts (as expected) since the old piano soundboard was made of strips about 10cm wide.

The three sections had been kept in the forming mould, but did spring back a bit when released. So I decided that it might be best to fit them individually, rather than try to re-glue them into a single curved piece before attaching it to the body. That meant measuring up, and cutting the sound holes in the right places, and adding the bass bar, before attaching the pieces to the body. Here’s the bass bar being glued:

bass bar

That also made a decision for me that I’d been thinking about. I was thinking of putting the bass bar on the “usual” side (as in a violin or viola, on the side of the lower frequency strings), and the sound post on the “usual” side for a violin or viola. This is not how the old kontrabas instruments were made! It is clear from Swedish museum photos (example) that the sound post was on the “bass” side, and also is fitted into the bottom of the instrument, rather than being wedged as in the violin family.

So that meant I also really needed to cut the hole for the sound post before fitting the top – which I have done, on the “bass” side as with the traditional kontrabas nyckelharpa. This is because if it were on the other side, the soundpost would have been close to a join in the top, which I thought not ideal.

However – there was a problem! When I started fitting the pieces of the top, I discovered that during steaming a crack had started in one piece – though not in an important place, and most of it would have been cut away after the top had been fitted. More importantly, another crack developed in the centre piece as I started to fit it before gluing. I suspect that the soundboard from the old piano (nearly 100 years old) had dried out so much that the wood has become very dry – and even steaming has not made it as flexible as newer wood could be.

So, I have decided to go back to my original plan (before I thought of using the old piano wood) – I will form the rough shape of the top by gluing pieces together, then cut out the curved top in a similar way to how I made the belly curve of my wire strung harp.

A couple of years ago I got back on a bike. This has turned out to be great fun and excellent for helping me to get fitter. I post my (longer) rides on Strava – you can view them if you have an account.

I had a day messing about with software. The hard disk on my ancient Toshiba R100 laptop (2003, mainly used for music!) has been dying since the spring and finally packed up last week. It had a 40Gb hard dive, a tiny thing (the R100 is a very small format, no CD drive). I found out that this Toshiba drive format had also been used in things like iPods; it has a compact flash interface. I managed to find a 60Gb replacement on Ebay for just £20; I put in in the laptop and the disk drive worked fine but when I installed the current version of Debian Linux (8.6.0) the graphics was totally knackered – these days the software assumes all the hardware will tell it what it does, and my ancient hardware doesn’t.

However, this was solved by finding the three years old version of Debian (7.4.0) that I still have on a CD-rom and installing that – and it works. Hooray – I can get all the music, photos etc. back on it now, and it will be available once more for the occasional LibreOffice presentation to the radio club when needed.

Family and friends coming across this website might realise that it’s a new one! We have had our old website at

for quite a while now, and it has always been a hand-crafted site. That of course means it is not trivial to add new stuff to it (though not at all difficult). However, in this busy age of a full retirement it will be nice to have something a bit more convenient, and since I’ve used Joomla for a few years now for both the Lothians Radio Society and also the GM microwave round table websites, it seemed a good idea to try it for a home site.

Another reason is that over the last year or two I’ve started to use Facebook for family and friend communication – and for group stuff like the Edinburgh Shetland Fiddlers or nyckelharpa people. It’s great for that, but I realised I’d started to blog stuff there as well, which is not ideal as Facebook is not properly structured (and the people who run it are forever changing how it works), whereas here we will have full control over where things are kept. My current major project is the kontrabas nyckelharpa, but when I get back to amateur radio stuff, that will be blogged here as well.

Since I’d picked up the “” domain when it became available, it is hosted there, and the old site will continue until I’ve decided how best to organise all the stuff in it. It may well become the archive.

Harpacam photos from another great session in the Steam Packet Inn, Isle of Whithorn, with a lovely bunch of musicians. The nyckelharpa had a great time 🙂


There are usually tourists visiting – I have lost count of the number of times I have been asked about the instrument I play.


A link to Olov Johansson’s post about his new Esbjörn Hogmark nyckelharpa – so I don’t lose it! Thanks for a great description Olov – I found it helpful particularly when looking at my kontrabasharpa resonance.

New Nyckelharpa!Here it is! My new three rowed Nyckelharpa built by Esbjörn Hogmark. It isnow fully adjusted and…

Posted by Olov Johansson on Friday, 16 September 2016


We like to travel. Since we’re now retired we can’t call this “holidays” any more – but we’ll blog about our travels here.