FInished Autoharp by Brian Higgs

Autoharp

This is fantastic story, almost like a fairytale about a woodworker and a musician.

Here’s Brian Higgs, the story’s woodworker, to tell you the tale..

Closing the Gap Between a Musician and a Woodworker

Finding something in common is such an important aspect of building a relationship. So, when your daughter, the apple of your eye, falls in love with a lad with prodigious musical talent it should be pretty easy to spot a subject to use to forge the link. What do you do, however, if there is not a single strand of musical DNA in your body? What if, “Tone deaf” would not even come close to expressing the gulf that is your musical inability! Conversations on music that you both like, and he can play, can fill the gaps for a while. But they soon run thin. So how do you close the gap?

Well, if you have long been in awe of the skills of the Luthier, and you have a love of wood, why not make your future son-in-law a musical instrument? Surely, that would be more than just a conversation piece?

A Violin? – far too specialist for a first project.

A Guitar?  – an interesting project but he already has several variants, both acoustic and electric.

What was that slightly battered instrument you saw him play in one of his performances? – an “auto-harp”?! A sound box, with lots of strings, and a mechanical device that allows chords to be played – that should be possible!!

Design wise, I wanted it to look as though it has been made from a single piece of wood, but it must incorporate the hollowness of a sound box, whilst having the strength to take the tension of strings.

Brian Higgs making his Autoharp

This is where Logie Timber were incredibly helpful. From a solid slab of Ash, beautifully figured, they took three slices. The first, and third, of 5mm thickness and the second, middle section, of 30mm. I was able to create the sound box by cutting out the cavity shape from the 30mm middle section and sandwiching this between two matched layers of 5mm thickness. Once glued together these again became a single piece of wood and, when sanded and polished, the beauty of the Ash was simply stunning.

Autoharp by Brian Higgs

thickness of the middle layer was perfect to set in the 24 steel pegs that would carry the strings and allow for their tuning. It also provided the stability for the construction of the bar array where alternate keys of Ash and Ebony gave the instrument its 9 fixed Chords.

So, the piece was made; and tuned as best that a woodworker can tune a musical instrument. Then tuned properly by the musician, it was played for the first time. The sound was utterly beautiful.

When someone of talent makes music come from an instrument, it brings utter joy to the person who made that instrument. It is particularly “special” when the musician is someone that has a personal relationship with the maker of the instrument.

The “gap” was closed!

Brian Higgs

November 2021

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