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Simon Chadwick's
Early Gaelic Harp Emporium

Wire

Dialogue book cover

I can supply you with wire strings for your harp or other instrument!

If you want to read up on the background to different types of metal strings, try my stringing history page. You may also be interested to look at the book by Daniel Tokar and Ann Heymann, Dialogue on Historical Wire for Gaelic Harps.


Ordering and pricing: There is no shopping cart here because there are too many options! Get in touch and tell me what you want, and I’ll tell you the total cost. The wire is priced per meter, but you can order whatever amount you like, e.g. a piece of yellow brass 73cm long will cost you £1.46 plus postage. Click here for payment instructions.

If you are not sure what wire you have, you can send me a bit of the old wire to try and match it.

If you want to improve the stringing and setup of your harp, I can draw up a completely new stringchart for it. See string charts for more info. If you don’t want to do the work yourself, you can even bring your harp to me in St Andrews to be restrung and brought up to pitch. Give me a call to discuss what you need.


Complete string sets for popular models:

Trinity College or Queen Mary harp stringset. My new (2016) scheme for medieval Gaelic harps, with na comhluighe at middle c'. Suitable for all replicas of the Trinity College and Queen Mary harps. 22 brass and 7 silver strings, plus one spare of each gauge, £279. I can also wind a brass toggle onto the end of each string for you: add £107.
Free download of this stringchart


The wire strings are fastened inside the harp by being tied round a toggle. I offer three different types of toggle now. I will also send you a free sheet of instructions on how to tie your own toggles.

toggle

For medieval harps, brass toggles work best, and Karen Loomis has gathered evidence from wear marks inside some of the medieval harps that brass toggles may have been used originally. £1 each on their own, or £2.50 each wound onto the ends of your strings.

toggle

Natalie Surina was inspecting some of the 18th century harps in the National Museum of Ireland, when she noticed they had toggles made from pieces of ordinary lead pencil. I suspect these are more likely from a 19th or early 20th century cosmetic restringing, than from 18th century use of the harps, but it is a fun experiment to try! I can supply you with one-inch cut lengths of quality German draughting pencils to use for stringing a big 18th century harp. 30p each on their own, or £1.80 each wound onto the ends of your strings.

toggle

The most boring option is plain wooden toggles made from dowel. I have sourced good quality hardwood dowel (either oak or ash). 30p each on their own, or £1.80 each wound onto the ends of your strings using the knot shown here.

Whatever toggle type you prefer, it’s always worthwhile having a few extra in your accessories bag!

loop

If your harp has no back access holes you need a thin and a thick wire to fish the strings through the soundholes. £3 each for thin ones, £1 for thick ones. Supplied with a free sheet of diagrams showing how to use them!


yellowbr

Malcolm Rose Yellow Brass £2 per meter
This is the best historical wire for stringing early Gaelic harps. I have most sizes in stock: 0.40mm, 0.44mm, 0.48mm, 0.52mm, 0.56mm, 0.60mm, 0.65mm, 0.70mm, 0.75mm, 0.80mm, 0.85mm, 0.9mm, 0.95mm, 1.0mm, 1.1mm, 1.2mm.

redbr

Malcolm Rose Red Brass £2 per meter
I use this softer brass wire to give extra richness to the long thick bass strings on baroque Irish harps. It can also be used in between yellow brass and silver on the earlier instruments. Sizes in stock include from 0.52mm up to 1.2mm.

Hard drawn Red and yellow Brass £10 per meter
I can re-draw Malcolm Rose’s red and yellow brass to make harder, springier wire.

latten

Daniel Tokar Latten £20 per meter
Tokar makes this harp wire to a medieval bronze-brass formulation with copper, zinc and tin, casting ingots and drawing it into wire by hand. This hand-working makes it harder and more brittle than harpsichord yellow brass, and it is more temperamental and harder to use.


iron

Malcolm Rose Soft Iron £2 per meter
This historical music wire is much softer and kinder on the hands than modern steel music wire. It is often used in the treble of the 18th century baroque Irish harps. Sizes in stock are 0.48mm, 0.52mm.


silver

Sterling Silver £25 per meter
I am hand-drawing this wire, so I can provide it at any thickness or hardness you require. Silver is softer and denser than brass, so can speak well where brass would be too slack or dull-sounding. It is typically used in the bass of low-headed medieval or Renaissance Gaelic harps.

Accidentally broken a silver string? If you send back the broken pieces I will credit you 50% of the cost of a replacement.


20 carat gold wire

Gold £POA
Solid gold monofilament strings are softer and denser than silver, and so will speak richly and cleanly where silver wire would be too slack or dull. It is often used for the bass strings of the small medieval Gaelic harps. I recommend 18 carat yellow gold wire for the best sound and durability. Gold strings are priced based on the current bullion value; they are generally very expensive (anything up to £200 or more per string, probably over £1000 for the whole bass octave). I don’t carry stocks of gold, but will make exactly what you need for you. Contact me for more information and to discuss the different options.


harpsichord loop

I can also supply iron, brass, silver or gold wire strings for harpsichord, spinet, cittern, psaltery, or other historical wire-strung keyboard or fretted instruments. please enquire. I can wind the harpsichord-style loop onto the end of each string for £1.50 extra per string.

Interested in black horsehair strings for Welsh harp, lyre or bowed instruments? I can work out the pitches and sizes that will work on your instrument, and supply you with prepared bundles of hair, selected arranged and knotted ready to install on your harp , lyre, crwth or jouhikko, along with an instruction sheet showing how to fit the strings. Horsehair strings are £2 each for thin ones, £3 each for mid-sized ones and £4 each for thick ones.