Ken Ellis Luthier
© Whippoorwill Acoustics LLC, 2015-2023
Caring for your Whippoorwill Acoustics Autoharp Your Whippoorwill Acoustics autoharp is designed to provide you with a lifetime of musical pleasure. In order for your investment in this fine instrument to reach its maximum potential, follow these guidelines. Play your autoharp often. The more you play it, the better it will sound. This is called “playing in” and is a phenomena widely recognized by musicians, even though nobody understands why it works. Tune your autoharp before you play, and before you put it away after playing. Any wood instrument that is kept in tune tends to stay in tune. Wood instruments reach a stasis point when under stress (autoharp strings exert a total tension of 1800-2000 pounds of force, which is a lot of stress), and you want that stasis point to be in tune or close to it. If that point is widely out of tune, the stresses will tend to pull the strings out of tune, making it very hard to keep it in tune. Keep your instruments in a comfortable environment. Temperature and humidity extremes will cause the wood to expand or contract, and being under 1800+ pounds of tension the results of this motion can be catastrophic. Room temperature and humidities between 40% and 55% are safe. Note that the environment in a closet can often be very different from that of the adjoining room. If you do store your instruments in a closet, use a monitor to check the temperature/humidity ranges in that part of your house. Rapid environmental changes are much worse than gradual changes. If you do need to transport your instruments through extreme cold or heat, transport it in a case and give the case time to adjust to room temperature before opening it. Never, ever, even think about using the tuning pins to grip an autoharp when you pick it up. Never. Not ever. Just don't. This could loosen the tuning pins so that they slip, making it impossible to tune. Autoharp design is a balance between being massive enough to resist the string tension and light enough to vibrate so that it can produce a beautiful sound. While the autoharp structure is designed to survive the rigors of living in the real world, treating it as a delicate work of art will ensure that you will never end up with a series of unfortunate events that result in a catastrophic failure. Definitely avoid dropping, sitting on, or otherwise placing undue stress on your autoharp. The French polish finish on your autoharp is an alcohol-based finish, so don't spill your beer or wine on it. Any product containing alcohol will dissolve this finish. It has not been tested against other common solvents, like finger nail polish remover (acetone), etc., but you have no business spilling beer on or using solvents near your fine instruments, anyway. Now some instrument finishes have been known to react to insect repellent, sun screen, makeup, and even some folk's sweat, creating unsightly blemishes. Our French polish finish has not been tested for compatibility with these materials, so is not guaranteed to be resistant. However, if the finish does become damaged, it is much easier to repair than most instrument finishes. If the worst happens, contact us and we will be happy to make arrangements to repair your autoharp. The finish is somewhat water resistant, so water will not damage it as long as it is wiped off quickly. The finish on your autoharp can be cleaned by gently wiping it with a microfiber cloth. You can dust the wood underneath the strings using a soft bristle brush. If you use a cleaner or polish, spray or dab the polish directly onto the cloth, then use the cloth to clean your instrument. Applying the polish directly to the finish may allow the liquid to penetrate the finish and soak into the wood underneath, possibly causing the finish to lift off your instrument. Do not use a cleaner/polish that contains silicone, like many brands of furniture polish. It will make it extremely difficult to repair your instrument, if the need ever arises. Kyser Musical recommends that you do not use their guitar polish on a shellac-based finish. I have also found that Martin guitar polish will soften the finish. With a little common sense and these guidelines you should be able to keep your autoharp in fine shape for years of enjoyable music.
Autoharp Care