In 1970 the Kureha Corp. of Japan invented a new kind of polymer that they named polyvinylinde fluoride (PVDF), now better known as fluorocarbon. This new polymer has a high resistance to humidity, finger oils, solvents and UV. The Savarez String Company, of Lyon, France, approached Kureha about making a musical-quality string for them to sell to violin, guitar, lute and harp players as an improvement to the gut and nylon strings that were currently in use. The result was the 'Alliance' brand of musical instrument string which has a higher density than nylon or gut, and lasts longer than either under a variety of conditions. The tone of the 'carbon' string is very focused and clear, and generally sounds better than gut or nylon. As these strings have become more commonly accepted into the harp community, they have been given names like 'carbon' or 'carbon fiber', or 'synthetic gut', so that is what one normally hears when they're being discussed. Below is some general information about the Savarez Alliance KF ("Kureha Fluorocarbon") strings that I thought you'd find useful:
1) The Savarez Alliance string has an ‘HPK’ in front of the string diameter for their part number specification. For example the part number for the blue .91mm string is “HPK91B” (Click the string package pictures above to enlarge for viewing). Please order by part number.
2) String gauges HPK105 and larger are available in 2.0m lengths, which enable you to get two string lengths from each one. The designation ‘A’ after the gauge is the 2.0m length. (i.e. HPK150A)
3) For the strings HPK74—HPK91, only one string length can be obtained, as they are only 1.0m long. The smallest strings from HPK45 to HPK69 are usually long enough to allow at least two string lengths, possibly three, depending on how much string you use for your windings & knots.
4) From time to time a string supplier might be backordered on some particular gauges of string, however it is permissible to use a gauge larger or smaller on the chart (i.e. replacements for HPK81 could be either HPK77 or HPK86).
5) You will notice that the strings from HPK160 to HPK101 are composed of strands of fiber (AKA: multifilament), and have the look and feel of gut. Do not get alarmed if you see these strands separate a bit at the tuning pin when you are winding the string up to pitch, as this is a normal occurrence. As long as they don't separate past the bridge pin you're okay.
6) You can expect some string breakages per year as normal, but if a string continually breaks at the same place, there may be a burr or sharp edge that is causing abrasion, thus a weak point on the string, and that is where it will break eventually. To remedy this, you'll need to get some fine sandpaper or abrasive cord and run it along the contact surfaces a few times to smooth them out. I recommend Mitchell's Abrasive Cord for de-burring, which is available from Dave Kolacny (Author of the book 'Troubleshooting Your Lever Harp').
7) The jury is still out on how often to change your strings. Regarding the wound bass wires, I'd say every 5 years or so, as finger oils, dust and corrosion will degrade the tone over time. However, the fluorocarbon strings last much longer than gut or nylon and so I advise that you not change strings except the ones that break as the cost and hassle of changing strings is really not worth it for the nominal improvement in tone.
String Changing Tips:
The Stretching-In Phase:
As fluorocarbon initially stretches more than either nylon or gut, a ’stretching in’ phase is necessary, so here's some tips on installing new strings on your harp:
1. After tying the ‘harp knot’ down at the sound board, pull string taut through tuning pin hole leaving no slack.
2. Holding the string taut, wind it on the pin a turn or two then overlap to 'lock' the string so it won't slip.
3. After a day or so of tuning, you might have five or more winds on the tuning pin (this stuff really stretches!). If the number of winds is excessive, the string might be pushed off the bridge pin when you engage the lever. To guard against this, unwind the string back to the tuning pin, and gently tugging on it to take up that last bit of slack, rewind on to pin (using the 'lock'). Bring it gently back up to pitch, and trim the ‘tail’ back to about 1/4” past the pin hole.
4. One way to deal with excessive string winds on the tuning pin is to use a technique I learned from pedal harpists, who use rather large diameter gut strings in the mid-range of their harps. The idea is to wind the string 'over itself' as much as possible, and the way I do it is to start this 'over winding' on the turn after putting on the lock, when you can lap the string between the first two winds. As you continue turning, the string will tend to have a more compact winding, and not coil quickly toward the neck
5. For strings that need to have a ‘harp knot’ tied to the end, insert the string through the soundboard from the outside of the harp, then reach into the box and pull through enough string to tie the knot. Toggles generally only need to be placed into string knots if the string is .81mm or less. Sometimes a burr on the end of the string (caused by the cutting pliers) will prevent it from easily going into the hole, so you might need to cut it at an angle, to ‘sharpen’ it.
6. The strings in the upper reaches of the treble are very thin and slippery, and the knots can sometimes not hold. If you Google "tying harp strings' you'll get some some nice videos and drawings of how to tie harp string knots, as well as other useful tips in string changing.
Note: Joe Lynch Music of Dublin has gone out of business
Brendan Garry, Prop.
10 Jerome Connor Place
Ireland D07 PF96
00 353 872502353
Vanderbilt Music Company
(USA distributor for Savarez Alliance KF & Savarez Bass Wires for Celtic Harp)
312A S. Swain Avenue
+1 812 333 5255
(Strings may be ordered directly from website)
(Euro-zone distributor for Savarez Alliance KF & Savarez Bass Wires for Celtic Harp)
(please see the website for string ordering)
(UK supplier for custom 10-bass-wire set)
UK WR8 9BT
Tel/Fax: +44 (0) 1386 750 631
(please see the website for string ordering)
(USA supplier for custom 8-bass-wire set and nylon strings)
PO Box 1137
Phoenix, Oregon 97535
Tel: (541) 535-7700
North Shore Strings
(USA supplier for custom 8-bass-wire and nylon strings)
4 Anthony Ave.
Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA 01944