Having found that a steamed top wasn’t really working well enough – I really think this old timber is very dry and brittle – I decided to go back to what had been my original plan, to form the rough shape of the top from a few pieces (rather than carving the whole top from a single piece, which I couldn’t find the wood for anyway).

I did find a very helpful supplier of the right sort of timber – sawn Sitka spruce – in Robbins timber, who provided me with a very reasonable quote (though delivery is not cheap of course – I was wishing I’d found them before I went down to Halsway a few weeks ago!).

The thing is, that having started making a nyckelharpa from a recycled piano, I am really keen to make it completely from the recycled wood. That means making the top from much thinner pieces that is ideal, with quite a lot of gluing to make the top rather like a barrel. Let’s see how it goes!

Here’s an early stage of gluing – I am using the former made for steaming as a frame to help clamping:

two battens Continue reading

Before completing the second attempt at the top of the instrument, I decided to complete and glue on the headstock – in my design it’s rather closer to a guitar headstock that to a violin pegbox. The old kontrabas nyckelharpas had all the strings tuned using wooden pegs set near the top of the instrument, all vertical (if the instrument is lying on its back).

I decided that I wanted to have mechanical fine adjustment for the sympathetic strings, and rather than using the set of tuners fixed together in a row as is common on acoustic guitars or mandolins (and normally used on the three row chromatic nyckelharpa), I thought I would try individual tuners as found on most electric guitars. I carefully designed the layout to get a clear path for the string between the tuning peg and the nut, and had excellent advice from Kjell Lundvall who had suggested that I lean the headstock back at a small angle to get a better path for the strings across the nut.

headstock shape Continue reading