Kinloch Builds a Harp Guitar…

Well, perhaps “builds” is a bit of an overstatement (Its chances of winning “most beautiful new instrument” at the next Harp Guitar Gathering seem rather slim, though the lighted side dots may give it an edge…) – but, hey, whatever works!

I have a guest blogger today – fingerstyle wiz Kinloch Nelson (KIN-law), who some of you know has shown up at the last two Harp Guitar Gatherings now, but sans harp guitar.  Every time I ran across him, he was deep in concentration with yet another harp guitar he was trying out.  I know he’s borrowed a couple while he searches for his dream instrument (or maker).  But those loans were only temporary and he apparently still can’t decide.  Meanwhile, he’s still dying for an instrument!  So here’s his (temporary) solution, in his own words:

kinloch6“Here is a fun and affordable way to enter the harp guitar world.  Try building one!

“This instrument was a project guitar from the start.  It was a junk classical with its top peeling off when I found it.  A friend of mine had a set of X-braces lying around, so we finished peeling off the top & replaced the classical bracing with the X braces so I could put steel strings on it.  Then I put a truss rod in the neck, and then lights in the fingerboard for fun. I narrowed the neck a bit fooling around with neck shapes etc.   Played it for a while and then it sat for 3 years.

“So the object was to convert it to a harp guitar without taking the guitar apart.   It’s a sloppy job, lots of steel filler epoxy, but no matter…full steam ahead. (I do wish I had thought to use birch plywood everywhere.)   Most of the stress is carried on the aluminum tube & walnut dowel strut between the headstock & a second end block.  String posts (coat-hanger wire) are in the new end block which doesn’t touch the soundboard – there’s a 13/32” space there.  Recycled tuners.  The headstock is birch plywood & walnut. The strut rides up & down on a bolt, and the whole thing is stabilized with an angle bracket at the body, while a couple little angle brackets link the headstocks.





“There probably is some torque-warping of the top, and there is certainly some down-bearing stress on the soundboard.  But I’ve been measuring it & it has moved very little.  Maybe these forces are balancing themselves out.  Time will tell.


“The harp system adds mass, thus soaking up some sound energy.  But what gets lost is made up for by the harmonics and sustain of the harp strings.  Way cool!  In the meantime the guitar plays well and is fun to learn on.   It doesn’t sound great but it doesn’t sound bad either.  Lots to discover here and new worlds to conquer!”

–      Kinloch Nelson


  1. Michael Schreiner Says:

    Congratulations on your ingenuity. I especially like the bass headstock shaped like Argentina. I think it will even fit in one of Gregg’s Harp Guitar bags. VERY UNIQUE and coolish.


  2. Gregg Miner Says:

    Kinloch just did a quick, no-frills recording of the instrument at a friend’s studio – check it out:
    He says:
    “I was doing some work at a recording studio the other day and brought along the harp guitar to show my buddy at the studio (GFI Recording Studio in Rochester NY), figuring he would get a kick out of it. After the wows and laughs he suggested we record it! So we did. Here’s what we got in the short time we had to record the new ax. He used two Neuman mics set at about 3 feet away. We also blended in a bit of the Fishman internal mic just for immediacy & some mids. There is a tiny bit of compression but no eq. I said I would send you a recording sometime and here it is!
    Cheers, Kinloch”

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