Richard Wilts 1st Aeolian Harp

by Richard Wilts
(Murdock, Minnesota)

Aeolian Harp Sound Box of 1/4'' Birch Plywood

Aeolian Harp Sound Box of 1/4'' Birch Plywood

Aeolian Harp Sound Box of 1/4'' Birch Plywood Aeolian Harp Lid with Burnt Design Top of Aeolian Harp Sound Box and Lid Back of Aeolian Harp Sound Box

I saw a picture of an Aeolian Harp in an old 1956 handyman book and decided to make one. I tried to find 1/8" thick wood that was at least 7" wide but couldn't so I used 1/4" birch plywood and very good green treated wood for the ends; also it has a 3/4" square green treated frame running from corner to corner.


It has a 2-1/8" sound hole with eight 1/2" holes around it. The sound box is 26-7/8" long x 7" deep x 1-3/8" front x 5-1/2" back.

There are 12 strings made of 25# test fishing line monofilament. I was going to use 25# braided fishing line but read that the line had to be round, and I don't think braided is round. By the way, braided has a deeper sound. If anyone has used braided fishing line successfully could you tell me.

I used 4 hitch pins to hold the lid in place and 12 hitch pins and 12 tuning pins to hold the strings that I bought at The Music Maker in Stillwater MN. I couldn't find information on the strings, if they should be tight or loose.

After I put it together, I stained it with golden oak and rubbed Tung oil on it (three coats). Then, I burned the design into the lid and the sound box (before I rubbed the Tung oil on it).

I have no idea how to tune an Aeolian harp, so I pluck each string and tighten it until they sound clear. Now, I have to wait until there is a strong wind in the spring.

If there is anyone who knows where to buy 1/8" thick hardwood like maple, etc. that won't cost me an arm and a leg I would be interested to hear about it. If I make another one, I think a thinner skin for the sound box and no frame with hardwood for the ends.

I'm attaching some pictures of my Aeolian Harp.

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Beautiful Aeolian Harp
by: Don (Webmaster)

Richard, thank you so much for sharing your Aeolian Harp making experience with us. Your photos reveal a beautifully crafted wind harp instrument with its polished Tung oil finish and skillful wood burning decoration. When the warmer weather and spring breezes arrive, it should do you proud. Be sure to let us know how it performs. Indeed, you've inspired us all to get busy and build our own.

For suitable hardwood, search on Google for hardwood suppliers in your local area or state as most can supply hardwoods and suitable plywoods in various thicknesses and even ship it directly to your door.

Keep in mind that a piece of 1/8-inch thick hardwood about two feet long and 8 inches wide would tend to warp and not lay flat without some bracing, so you might want to consider using a quality plywood instead. Plywood would be stronger and less expensive.

You could also Google "guitar wood" to find suppliers that offer soundboard to acoustic guitar makers. Soundboard comes in a wide variety of wood types, and it's often sold in book-matched sets of two quarter-sawn halves (large enough for a guitar when joined). For example, each half could be approximately 8-1/2 inches wide by 22 inches long and thickness sanded to 0.125 inch. Kiln-dried braces are needed if warping is a concern, depending on the wood quality. Soundboard is great for its quality appearance and musical sound, but it can be expensive.

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Thanks for Your Comment
by: Anonymous

The smallest thickness of plywood I could find is 1/4", but I did find 1/8" hardboard at Menards. It's smooth and looks like peg sheeting without the holes or like Masonite. It comes in 4'x4' or bigger. I wonder if it would work? It wouldn't look that good. I was also thinking of using a thin sheet of Aluminum for the top and bottom of the sound box.

Does anyone have any information about using braided 25# test fishing line, the one that looks and feels like cloth?

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Aeolian Harp Materials and Strings
by: Don (Webmaster)

A thin hardboard that looks like Masonite should work okay for making a wind harp. Thin sheets of aluminum should also work, as the aluminum gutter harps produce a musical sound.

Almost any thin, workable material will serve the purpose; however, I expect that wood offers the best sound resonance. For instance, you don't see many aluminum guitars.

I recall reading somewhere that braided strings will often produce sounds superior to single-strand strings, likely because they offer a greater surface area for the wind.

Experimenting with strings of different diameters, surfaces (braided), and tensions is all part of the fun because they'll produce different sounds as the wind passes over them.

Be sure to follow the links beneath the title "Aeolian Harp Instructions" on my Aeolian Harp Plans page for more detailed information.

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