Building Nyckelharpas

Earl is willing to teach a class if there is enough interest. See the Builder Workshop page under Activities for more information.

Earl started building nyckelharpas with a kit from Sören Åhker. We have copies of Sören's instruction book in stock. This book is in English and includes full-size plan sheets for a standard full-size and a child- (or small adult) sized nyckelharpa. The full size has a mensur length (nut to bridge) of 400 mm while the smaller plan has a 340 mm mensur length. The plans are metric (in millimeters).

Sören also sells “kits”. Please be aware that his nyckelharpa kit consists of rectangular wooden blocks of appropriate sizes that make the various parts of the instrument. These kits are very rough by American musical instrument kit standards.

There is a DVD available that follows Sören as he builds an instrument. The DVD was made by Rita Leydon and is available through her web site.

The other source for plans is Björn Björn. He sells basic plan sheets. These contain no detailed building instructions like what Sören provides, just the scale drawings. Once you are comfortable building nyckelharpas, these plan sheets are enough to go by.

If you think you are interested in building a Nyckelharpa, we recommend that you obtain a copy of the Sören book/plans and the DVD from Rita.  After you have reviewed it please contact Earl about any parts you might need.  He can put together a full kit, but you can probably get most of the wood you need for an initial instrument locally.

If you are building a nyckelharpa and have questions, please feel free to contact Earl.  He is willing to provide distance assistance to help you get your nyckelharpa done. It doesn't matter if your instrument materials came from us or not.

We have the following supplies in stock:
•6 in-line guitar tuners
•bridge blanks
•cello fine tuners, both full- and 3/4-size
•thick stock butternut for sides and necks

Most of the rest of the materials should be easily obtainable in the U.S. Contact Earl for more information and prices.

A note on tuning: In Sören's book, he recommends tuning the sympathetic strings for an advanced player. We recommend that you tune them chromatically, starting on G for the lowest sympathetic string and going up by 1/2-steps to the F sharp on the highest string.

Our son, Ian has been taking the lead on developing a CNC key box kit for the Sören Åhker plans.  The keys have been modified slightly to also work for the Bäckström plans. He has also developed the other parts needed for the key box.  The key box kit is available in several stages. Ian is in the process of creating his own business and will be taking this over once that is set up. For now, contact Earl for prices. Note: This is for a 400 mm mensur length (nut to bridge), with a 100 mm wide neck.  The Sören plans include a 340 mm mensur length plan that is often made as a nyckelharpa for children or small adults.
key box parts

Basic parts: The CNC key guide strips and keys along with the other parts pre-sized to correct thicknesses needed for making a key box. The key strip notch locations are per the Soren plans. The notch depths are slightly shallow and will need to have the final depth cut to match the key thicknesses. The final depths are typically done using a band saw with a stop block. The key neck/finger tips are oversized so the builder will need to cut them to final length and shape the tips as they want to. This allows for some maker customizing.

fitted keyboxAssembled Key box with initial fitting of the keys: This includes fully assembled key guides. The notches have been cut to final depth to match the key thickness. There are 2 cross braces. The assembled key boxes have not been cut or trimmed to a final length. The keys are trimmed at the tip and neck and fitted to the key guide notches. This includes the bent keys. The keys are not cut to final length. The key tips have not been shaped. This allows for some maker customizing.

shaped keyboxShaped and fitted key box: The key box sides are trimmed and shaped to a reasonable final shape. The notch in the left cover plate is located at the 12th key (octave on the A string). The keys are cut to final length. The tips of the keys are shaped to a reasonable key tip shape. The keys have numbers stamped on them.

A set of pre-shaped sticks for making the tangents is also available.

(Note: any text that is a different color and underlined is a link to another web page. Clicking on it will take you there.)

(This page last updated 11/29/2018)