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Simon Chadwick's
Early Gaelic Harp Emporium

Harp plans

This page is for plans and resources for making a harp. For information on choosing which model to make, visit the Emporium harps page. It’s good to take the time to think hard about what size and shape of harp you want to make. The music you want to play should be the primary influence on your choice.

Making a harp is a steep challenge, it is as hard and subtle as making a violin. Perhaps more so, because harps are less common so there is not such a body of knowledge about all the subtleties. I think that the old harps are much better instruments than modern adaptions or re-designs, so I think that it is a good idea to aim to copy one of the old harps as closely as you can.

There are no ready-to-go plans or technical drawings for the old Irish harps. Instead, you have to gather what data and information you can to prepare your own drawings. More and more data is currently becoming available, especially laser-scans of the harps which allow you to take any measurements with millimeter accuracy, and to generate cross-sections and templates. If you are very keen on a harp that has not yet been scanned, you could consider commissioning a scan to add to the body of knowledge about these harps! So far, the following harps have been scanned: Mullaghmast, Kildare.

plan complete

A starting point for gathering other information is R.B. Armstrong’s book, The Irish and the Highland harps, published in 1904.

As an example of what you can do with Armstrong’s book, I have prepared plans and templates of the Hollybrook harp, an elegant 18th century Irish harp. These are available for free download, for people who want to make themselves an Irish harp or clarsach. More...

The Trinity College harp
To make a copy of the Trinity College harp, the best data and drawings available so far are in Paul Dooley's article, ‘Reconstructing the medieval Irish harp’, Galpin Society Journal LXVII, 2014. You can get a copy from the Galpin Society. As a supplement to the article, Paul has prepared a supplementary report on the different sets of measurements of the Trinity College harp, which can be downloaded from the Galpin Society website. Paul has also made some CAD models of the harp which can be downloaded from Paul Dooley’s website. I disagree with Paul's stringing and tuning analysis; instead, you can use my 2016 Trinity stringchart.
Paul’s article and supplementary materials deal with the measurements and structure of the harp. For info on the decoration and details, see R.B. Armstrong’s book and my web pages.

The Lamont harp
To make a copy of the Lamont harp, you can use the very detailed and comprehensive templates in Karen Loomis’s thesis. Karen has done CT scans of the harp (like a calibrated 3D X-Ray) and in her thesis she has used the scans to make very accurate templates of the components of the harps, specifically for harp-builders.
Lamont harp soundbox plan and cross-sections: vol.2 p.304-316
Contour map of soundboard thickness: vol.2 p. 298
Lamont harp neck cheekbands and tuning pin placement: Vol.2 p.215-217
neck outline and cross-sections: vol.2 p.240-243
Lamont harp forepillar vol.2 p.173-177
Karen’s thesis has a lot of other incredibly useful information, measurements, and close-up photograpsh of the construction of this harp. Get it, read it thoroughly and do what it shows, and you will have a very good harp! The only thing I disagree with is her suggested stringing regimes. you can use my 2018 Lamont stringchart.

The Queen Mary harp
To make a copy of the Queen Mary harp, you can use the very detailed and comprehensive templates in Karen Loomis’s thesis. Karen has done CT scans of the harp (like a calibrated 3D X-Ray) and in her thesis she has used the scans to make very accurate templates of the components of the harps, specifically for harp-builders.
Queen Mary harp soundbox plan and cross-sections: vol.3 p.416, p.452-462
Contour map of soundboard thickness: vol.3 p. 446
Queen Mary harp neck cheekbands and tuning pin placement: Vol.3 p.384-385
neck outline and cross-sections: vol.3 p.397-400
Queen Mary harp forepillar vol.3 p.354-358
Karen’s thesis has a lot of other incredibly useful information, measurements, and close-up photographs of the construction of this harp. Get it, read it thoroughly and do what it shows, and you will have a very good harp! The only thing I disagree with is her suggested stringing regimes. You can use my 2017 Queen Mary stringchart.

I’ll add more resources here when I can. Let me know if there is something you are specifically looking for.

Any questions? Let me know! I’m always happy to help and advise. It costs nothing to ask. If you find my information useful to you in making your harp, send me a donation! And a photo of your new instrument!