How many people does it take to change an Autoharp?

Answer: One. But it takes 4 hours.

Cal, have you lost it this time? If that was a joke, it wasn’t even funny. Just weird…

OK – as Ricky said to Lucy, “lemmiesplain.”

Last fall, I played at Covenant Village – one of my favorite places to play. Afterward, as I normally do, I invited folks to come up, look at the instruments, ask questions, etc. One lady asked me if I had ever played the autoharp. I said I hadn’t, but that I wanted to get one sometime. She said, “wait here…”

She came back with an autoharp that had seen a lot of use. She played it and loved it, but it got caught in some water damage. She took it to a shop, it was going to be a lot just to see if it worked, etc… In the meantime, her husband bought her a new one. And she’d been trying to decide what to do with the old one. So, she gave it to me, along with a new set of strings. “If you can fix it, you’ve got an autoharp. If not, junk it.”

So, “Otto” (as he’s now affectionately known) and I spent some time together today, taking him apart, including removing all the rusted strings. He got cleaned, treated with orange oil, and then began the long process of restringing him.


Bear in mind that an autoharp like Otto is a 36 string guitar. Actually, it’s more like stringing a piano – big strings all the way down to the little ones that could put the hurt on you if they snap in your face. (yes – I was wearing safety glasses the whole time)

Hours and 8 broken strings later, he’s semi-playable. Some of the new strings broke off the bat, others were, um… mishandled… But hey – I now have at least some idea of how to string him. Sort of.

And, when I next play Covenant Village, you better believe Otto will be there. Even if it’s only for “Michael Row the Boat Ashore.” (also known as “My Dog Knows the Bowling Score”) So, she passed along something that she had enjoyed, and with some time and some effort, I’ll enjoy it too.

Let’s hear it for the Small Graces – the little places where God meets us in the unexpected. 😀

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