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The Nyckelharpa (or "Keyed Fiddle") is the national folk instrument of Sweden.
I made my first Nyckelharpa in 1999 thanks to a grant from the Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council.


 The design is based on the blueprints from the book I bought from Soren Ahker. I eagerly awaited the arrival of the original 1998 copy and was somewhat surprised (?) that the text was printed in Swedish! A bit of a barrier that for some reason I either didn't think about at the time or simply knew that the numbers, measurements and dimensions would be the same...   which thankfully they were. 
(A few years later, this fine instruction manual was printed in English but I have Yet to see a copy of it!)

   

Anyway...This is how it turned out. I was quite pleasantly surprised that it turned out as well as it did. For at the time, I had never seen one in person and certainly had Never played one before.

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My next project was to build a

Moraharpa.

 

This is the old medieval form (or ancient ancestor) of the modern day Nyckelharpa. There is a stone carving on a church in Gotland, Sweden.

Below is an excerpt taken from the American Nyckelharpa Association web-site:


The oldest "evidence" of nyckelharpa use is a relief (left picture) on one of the gates to Kallunge church on Gotland from about 1350 depicting two nyckelharpa players.


I built this one from photographs off the internet. Its a very simple design and also has a very limited playing range.
(It must have been more of an accompaniment to some sad, droning vocal lament...so common in Medieval Scandinavia)


It turned out real nice, too but it was like driving in only one gear. A friend of mine, who is part of a local Medieval reenactment group, bought this one.  
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My next attempt was to build a "Fiddleharpa". The standard size Nyckelharpa is tuned like a Viola and I wanted something that could be tuned and played like a Violin.
 I experimented a little with the design, as this one has a carved arched top and back. I have found that this didn't necessarily add to the sound of the instrument, as the first one I made (with a flat top and back) actually sounded better! I also added in a 4th row of keys for the 'G' string. (This was apparently nearly un-heard of at the time, as I recall very few builders had tried this) Times have changed though and it is now quite common to see several different varieties and experimentation going on with the making of these instruments.  

 



Made of highly figured Maple for the back, neck and keys. Walnut for the sides, tailpiece, peg box and top lid.





The soundboard is made of Western Cedar and is adorned with an intricate grapevine design in soft lead pencil.












Each key is attached to the left side peg box by little brass rods that are easily visible when you press in a key. This makes it easier to see where you are with the lid down.








The keys are rounded to make it easier to slide up and down the scale. The lid is a non-traditional addition that can easily be removed if it gets in the way of seeing the moving keys.


The 'E' string tangents are made of pieces of oblong aluminum rods (actually model airplane parts) It was an experiment that worked. The rest are pieces of Cherry wood stained black.







4 Ebony 1/8 size Cello tuners for the main strings and a set of Gotoh Mandolin tuners for the under strings. (I added in a piece of tree branch as a thumb rest) Scale length, from nut to bridge, is 14 inches.
(About the same scale length as a Mandolin)


The case is made of Pine and Plywood and is padded with foam 

and lined with felt.








There is a small storage compartment with a lid. A half-size Violin bow an a leather strap is included.






The back of the case will have 4 black rubber furniture bumpers, as soon as I get them installed.


The lower side of the case has rubber furniture bumpers to keep the hinges from scratching up the furniture







Nice soft braided leather belt for the strap.
 





Here's something you'll probably want to know:

Over the years, I've actually had to re-build this thing twice. Over time, the pressure of the strings (and a less than solid neck joint) has caused the 'Harpa to bow up until it looked like a Swedish Cod Boat! The solution to this was to re-angle the peg box, raise the bridge and re-align the strings with the tangents. I've done this twice now, and I'm positive it has 'settled' and bowed up about as much as it can.

You can see by the blue line down below that the line between the nose and the tail is not perfectly straight, but ever so slightly bowed. This will not affect the sound or playability of the instrument. It's just one of the unique and quirky things about it that makes it special.  



No sound sample or price tag yet. I'm still finishing up some minor details and adjustments. Hopefully those will up soon and the FiddleHarpa will be available by the end of November.

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