Popular Woodworking 2003-04 № 133, страница 33

Popular Woodworking 2003-04 № 133, страница 33

Great Woodshops

Well-tuned Woodworking

You can build a harp, but it takes a maestro to build a lyrical instrument.

As woodworking projects go, a harp isn't a very complicated one. It's fairly simple joinery and doesn't require much in the way of specialized machinery. While many woodworkers could produce an attractive structure, it takes a passionate, trained expert to make this stringed frame sing like the voice of an angel. William Rees is one of those experts.

Rees's background wouldn't lead you to believe he could be one of the top harp luthiers in the country. Originally a high school science teacher with a degree in biology, Rees grew up playing classical guitar and started building instruments as a hobby. Not content with mainstream guitars, he opted for more esoteric instruments such as harpsichords, lutes and eventually harps.

He brought his technical knowledge of guitar and violin making, and applied it to harps with melodious results.

His passion turned to business as he fine-tuned his harp-making skills and found a

While William Rees has a hand in every stage of production in the shop, he gets the final touch on each harp, stringing and tuning the instrument to ready it for sale or delivery.

market for his harps. His harps run from around $850 on up to $6,000, with the average price less than $2,000. His customers include professional performers such as Celtic harpist Carol Thompson (who records on the Dorian label) and television star Hal Linden ("Barney Miller") who, we understand, is an accomplished musician. Neil Young even purchased a Rees harp; but it was for his wife and son, so fans shouldn't look for a forthcoming harp album.

Born and raised in northern California, Rees and his family (wife Pamela, and sons Garen and Bryant) moved east to be closer

William's son Garen is the detail expert in the shop. He adds the decorative touches that personalize all of the harps, making each one unique. The decorations include painted Celtic or other designs, and applied carvings. Harps on Main prefers applied rather than relief carvings because they stand out more from a distance, such as from a concert-goer's seat.

to the majority of their customers, and because of the strong music and arts programs in schools in the Midwest. Harps on Main, the company's name, is truly a family business. His wife spent years working as a contractor for the defense department as an optical physicist and now is the company's business manager. Garen adds decorative details to the harps, applying his artistic talent into the painted designs and carvings. Bryant follows Dad's skills doing the woodwork on the harps. Rees is happy to plan for the day when his sons will take over the business.

The family chose scenic Rising Sun, Ind., because of its central location and smalltown atmosphere. They also got a great deal on the turn-of-the-century speakeasy-turned-meeting hall, right on Main Street, and they discovered they were on the cutting edge of a cultural revolution in the city. While business continues to grow and thrive there, the comfortable, small-town feel remains.

Building a harp requires a good knowledge of design, some trial and error, and exacting construction quality to make sure the instrument is stable and strong. But the construction itself is fairly simple, requiring mostly glued butt joints, some doweling and basic box construction. A certain amount of artistic flair is allowed in the shape of the pillars and necks, and decoration adds opportunities for personalization and whimsy.

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34 Popular Woodworking April 2003

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