Several of us are away at the Somerset Folk Harp Festival, and we may not be able to respond to emails and phone calls as quickly as usual. Thank you for your patience!
Flying with a harp can be one of the greatest challenges of a harp player's existence, especially since off-the-shelf flight cases haven’t been readily available for harps the way they are for many other instruments. We’ve found that harp players are quite resourceful on the whole, and have come up with all sorts of creative solutions to this problem, but there’s still commonly a feeling of dread when taking a harp to the airport. Will the harp survive the trip? Will the harp player survive the struggle of dragging an unwieldy box through the airport with all of their other luggage?
We set out to make this easier, and we’re thrilled to report that we have achieved the following goals with our flight case:
Keeps the harp safe from the unpredictable treatment of TSA officers, baggage handlers, and the weather
Makes it possible to avoid over-weight baggage fees ($75-$300 per flight, depending on the airline and destination)
Makes the trips to and from the airport as stress-free as possible
Fits a variety of harps, not just Dusty Strings models
Our one regret is that this project turned out to be far more expensive than we had anticipated. We know the price is not going to be easy for some harp players to afford, and we want to acknowledge that fact frankly and sympathetically. We spent lots of time and resources exploring lower cost avenues before ending up here. Our main purpose was to make it easier and more enjoyable for harp players to travel with their very own instrument, and to eliminate the hassles of getting a harp through the airport by oneself. It was difficult for us to finally acknowledge that we would need to sacrifice either our pricing goals or our usability goals.
After considering several different materials, we found that carbon fiber, though expensive, gave us the stiffness-to-weight ratio that would provide the best protection without pushing the whole package over 50 pounds. It also allowed us to make the case large enough to fit a range of different harps, and still give it a sleek and streamlined shape. This shape makes it possible to slip the case into the back seat of a taxi or load it on the bus, to easily handle both the harp case and a roller suitcase without needing a cart, and even to use the hard case as a substitute for a soft case when it isn’t practical to have both. We also put in some other features like a temperature insulating coating, recessed safety latches, and removable front wheels, and we chose to work with a small carbon fiber shop right here in Seattle, WA, USA. All of these things, as well as extensive development costs, are factored into the price.
We hope it will be a worthwhile investment in security and stress-free travel, as well as a classy and professional travel companion, but we recognize that it’s a stretch for many harp players. These are the times when we sincerely wish we were a larger company and could afford to make accommodations for touring artists, but that’s not something we can manage at this point. Instead, we’ve done everything we can to keep the price as low as possible!
Will this case fit my harp? See the Sizing tab for more information on this subject.
Can one case be used for multiple harps? Yes. The inner padding is designed to be custom-fit to your harp, but you could have multiple sets of padding that you swap out depending on which harp you're traveling with.
Will you be making a larger case? We designed this one around our 34-string harps, since those are more commonly traveled with than our 36-string harps, and have a better chance of coming in under the airline over-weight limit. It's not out of the question that we might design a larger case at some point, but the development costs are quite high, and it's not on our immediate list. We will be happy to gauge the interest in a larger case, so let us know what you're hoping for.
How does it work at the airport? You check the harp just like you would a suitcase. If it's under 50 pounds, you can expect to pay over-size baggage fees, but not over-weight fees. Generally with over-size baggage, there is an area near the ticket counter where you'll drop it off after it's paid for and tagged. Depending on where TSA inspections happen at that airport, you may be able to watch them open it, or you may not. We've tried to design the case to be as easy as possible to understand, so that TSA won't have trouble closing it back up securely. When your flight arrives, you'll pick up the harp at the oversize baggage claim, usually right near the baggage carousel.
Does the soft case fit inside? It's possible, but it will depend on the size of the harp and the thickness of the case. Keep in mind that the under-50-pounds goal is much easier to achieve when the harp is caseless, or clothed in just a thin sheet or dust cover.
How easy is it to handle? The case can be towed along behind or beside you on four wheels, and it basically glides effortlessly. It's just like a four-wheeled suitcase. You can also tip it up on the two larger wheels and push or pull it like a harp cart or hand truck, which is useful for going up and down stairs or threading your way through a crowd. The compact size means it will fit almost anywhere your harp would fit, so you shouldn't need to specify a van when you're calling a taxi.
If I can’t afford this, what are my other options? In our experience, harp players and harp builders are an extraordinarily creative bunch, and people have found many different ways to approach harp travel. Here are a few ideas we’ve seen and heard:
Do you guarantee that nothing will happen to my harp? We have put all our structural engineering know-how and our 30-plus years of harp shipping experience into this project, and we feel confident that it's a very good choice for flying with your harp. However, with the unpredictability of shipping services and baggage handling, there are factors that are beyond our control, and we can't make any guarantees. We highly recommend insuring your harp (and your flight case) before you travel!
How long will the case last? This is impossible to answer, given the unpredictable circumstances it might be subjected to. Travel can be rough, and the whole idea is that the case takes the beating so that the harp doesn't suffer. Cases that get a lot of use may need structural repairs at various points in their life, and we are happy to advise you on that front if it becomes necessary. Parts like handles and wheels and scuff pads are replaceable; just contact us to ask!
Can I put accessories in the case with the harp? You can! There is not a built-in solution because every harp is a different shape, but once you've got the foam fitted to your particular harp, you'll be able to see where there is extra space. We've found that a padded laptop or tablet case works well to hold items like tuning keys and extra strings and maybe even your harp stand. We definitely recommend padding around the accessories in case they get dislodged during transit. An even more secure solution would be to apply some industrial velcro strips to the accessory pouch and to the shell of the flight case so that everything stays where you put it.
Will the case look flawless when I receive it? It will not. Visual imperfections like scuffs, scratches, and discolored areas are an expected part of the manufacturing process. It's difficult to make something out of carbon fiber on this scale and have it look perfect, and if we held these cases to the same visual standards as our instruments, they would be significantly more expensive than they already are. Since your case will be covered in scratches after its first trip anyway, we've opted for performance and cost control over visual perfection.
This case will definitely fit:
This case will NOT fit:
If your harp is within those height paramaters, there are two ways to find out whether it will fit in the case:
Outside dimensions of flight case:
The foam configuration diagram and measuring worksheet referenced in this video will be included with your case. If you've lost yours, or want to see what it's all about before ordering a case, let us know and we can send you a copy.