Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge. As I’m an ignoramus regarding most matters I heartily agree. I’ll poo-poo facts and figures whenever I can. However, I realised last month that I was badly in need of some information. I’ve written a novel all about a harp-maker and there’s nothing in it about actual harp-making. Why? Because, although I claim to know a little about harps, I’ve never attempted to make one and am (or was) spectacularly vague about how it is done. The novel lacked a vital ingredient: authenticity.
I therefore set off on an exciting expedition to South Devon in pursuit of harp-making knowledge. My destination was the workshop of Tim Hampson. Tim repairs old harps and makes new ones which range from classical pedal harps to Clarsachs (traditional Celtic harps like mine) to Welsh triple harps.
The moment I stepped into his workshop I knew my novel would be richer for it. My imagination had got me so far, but there were many details that hadn’t occurred to me: the chisels, tapes and pencils scattered on the workbench, the array of machinery, the beautifully drawn diagrams of harps-in-progess…
Tim was generous with his time and patiently took me through the process of making a harp, spelling it out in layman’s terms whenever technical descriptions prompted one of my blank looks.
Here are just a few of the scenes I snapped to jog my memory. Impressive, eh?!
And here are some of the tools of the harp-making trade.
This is a band saw... and this is a planer-thicknesser... a wood-turning lathe... and a sanding machine
Happily, I am now equipped with another tool for my own project: the important knowledge I was missing.
The experience also made me reflect that making a harp is in itself a bit like writing a book. You start with a plan, you gather materials, you carefully consider structure and you get the overall shape of the thing, then you hone and hone. It is only after a long period of painstaking work that your product goes out there to fulfil its purpose – for a harp, to make music; for a book, to be read. In both cases (hopefully) to move people and to add an extra dimension to their lives. And to reach much further than the creator can ever imagine…
I would recommend a visit to Tim’s, especially if you want to buy a harp! His website is http://www.harpmaker.eu