Thursday, June 3, 2010

Makenna Seaver helps to make her harp

Makenna got the BOX IN....It sat here for a few days as I wanted her to be here when we opened it and counted all the parts. cell phone in hand...she's sooooooooo excited.
It was fun getting all the parts out and seeing them. my harp is in the background.
This is how I do the braces. BIG CLAMPS then small clamps to hold the little small braces.
Makenna sanding the back.
Makenna's grandparents came to see her working. very dear folks.
We finished the box part of the box in record time. fun fun fun.
best glue to use...but when I put the trim on the harp, I use masking tape. We did this fast also as she's a great aprentice. I suggested that she take wood shop next year in school.
wayyyyyyyyy fun girl.
Here is Makenna sanding. This is her first experience with a sander and it's pretty loud for some small hand held thing, but get's 'er done. This is the bottom platform.
This is the pillar and neck part that has dried, she looked quite conderned when she first saw this part, looks like she's all bandaged up.
We did the first varnish of this harp today, 2 June 2010. Makenna is 14 and is a jewel of a young woman. We do a lot of laughing while working together. I'm having to do this on my front porch.....a very temporary "shop" and hopefully I'll get a shop built soon.
Here Makenna is "pretending to play" this harp that she's named FEONA.......a Scot name.
Makenna and her lovely mother. They are going to Scotland for a few weeks and when she comes back I'll have all the varnishes done and we'll string "Feona" up.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

big Suitcase Bass

This is Brad Stanton playing my big Suitcase Bass. He's really good and I enjoy his jazz style.


Here is the sides of the Mando-Ukulele. I enjoy doing wood inlay work on my instruments.
Here is a "Mandolin" body made into a Ukulele and as you can see, only 4 strings. I have nylon strings on it, not metal....and put a Nauvoo Star on it. These are $400.00.
It has cherry-wood sides and back and the front is solid Mahogany.

He also plays the banjo. This was a missionary that served in the Temple here for 23 months. I love this couple.

fold up harp

I was looking at some old pictures that I had on my family web site and came across this fun picture that was taken of me at the Last Harp Convention that I went to in Big Sky, Montana.....2005? anyway, this harp is made by a guy that makes artificial legs and arms and stuff like that. I was fasinated by this harp and it had a great metal strings, but some new type of strings that I want to learn more about even 5 years later. this whole harp fold up and you can put in a box and check it at the airport. VERY COOL.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

News Article in JournalPilot in Carthage, Illinois


Creating music only the start for Tukuafu

“The body is a musical instrument. When you sing, the way you stand straight, how you form your mouth lets you make a beautiful, rich sound,” said Irene Tukuafu, in her Nauvoo home, surrounded by musical instruments.

Irene, 68, believes her body and mind are instruments that must be used for the good of others. Music is a big part of Irene's life, whether singing, playing her many handmade instruments or making more instruments for others to enjoy. In the living room are a harp, dulcimer and hammer dulcimer, psaltery and a string base, all made by Irene.

She started using kits for the basic form of the instruments but adds her own touches and skills to make them unique.

“For many reasons, I do not say blatantly, ‘I make my instruments from kits.' Most folks when they make bread, do not grow the wheat, grind it and then make the bread. They buy the flour and make the bread,” Irene said. “I can say that for making my instruments. Why re-invent the wheel?”

Jerry Brown, the owner of Music Maker Kits, says Irene has made more harps from his kits then any other single customer - 43 so far.

“When one makes a kit, one must do many things to make that instrument look and feel and sound professional. I have the big pieces cut elsewhere as I want to save my hands for playing these instruments myself, especially the harp. (Those band saws are somewhat dangerous.)”

Some instruments she makes are for herself and family, some are gifts, and many are sold.

As she strums “Be Thou My Vision” on the harp she tells her own dream, her vision of putting harps into the hands of blind people.

“When you play a stringed instrument you feel it here,” she said as she taps her chest. “It is very soothing, healing.

“In Scotland in the 12th century, blind people were given a harp and if they became good enough, they got a cart, a horse and a driver. They were the local bards, singing the stories and the news of the area. I want to find a way to get grants to make harps to give to blind people.”

Beyond soothing for the harpist, she believes these blind musicians would have an important role in the healing of others, through harp therapy.

The story of how she began making instruments and what she still wants to do starts with her marriage to Tomasi Tukuafu in Hawaii in 1964. Tomasi is from Tonga, the last remaining Polynesian kingdom.

Early in their marriage, they moved from Hawaii to Canada, and as Christmas approached they were admonished by their bishop to do something for family and friends as a gift, rather than buying something. She asked her husband what the Tongans do for Christmas.

“He said they go sing to shut-ins. So that is what we would do. We took the children and went singing. It started simple, with a rattle or a tambourine that the children could use. My husband played harmonica and guitar.

“We have been married for 45 years, and I have never met a Tongan that can't sing,” she said.

They moved back to Hawaii (Canada was just too cold.), and the family grew with 14 children, and now 48 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. Tomasi taught high school math and science for 45 years.

“For two years, we lived in a grass shack my husband built. At the time we had five kids under six years old. But why do you need a house in the beautiful land of Hawaii.

“My husband is so considerate and loving. At one point, when we had 12 children, he knew I needed a break. He urged me to go to the University of Hawaii to take some music classes,” she said. She baked bread, sold it at a local health food store, and that paid for the gas and fees to take the classes. Her first class was in early music.

At one class, a woman brought a harp, and Irene fell in love with the sound. She bought a harp for her husband for Christmas. The class pulled her into a love for early stringed instruments and introduced her to national harp conventions.

The hammered dulcimer, she learned, is a precurser for the piano. The bowed psaltery is an instrment with “true sound” with unfretted strings that dates back more than 2000 years.

At conventions she saw harps of all kinds and sounds, and learned everything from how to improvise on a harp to contracts for playing at a wedding.

Her first harp kit involved a little barter to reduce the price.

“I saw a harp this size at a harp convention. It sold for $6,000. When the seller learned I was from Hawaii he said, ‘I am an Eagle Scout, I've wanted to take my family camping in Hawaii. Can we come and camp on your property?' It was a deal.”

She used the wood working shop at the school where her husband taught to assemble that first harp kit. Since then she has made many more harps, often letting the new owner become involved.

“I've done what that man did for me. He showed me how to use the tools, how to make the box, how to set the strings, and let me do it. When you make a harp box, that harp is yours.” Irene has created a blog about the people who have her harps.

Irene has taken a course in International Harp Therapy taught by Christina Tourin. The modular course took her to several locations, including San Diego where she first saw the harp used in hospice care.

“Music is so soothing, so healing. One woman said, ‘Don't come in. I don't want anyone to see me like this.' Can you imagine how it would help her to have a blind harpist to come share music with that patient?” Irene said, emotional at the thought. She is a certified harp therapy practicioner.

When they moved to Nauvoo from Oregon in October 2006, they rented a house with a large basement that could accommodate her growing shop of woodworking tools, where she makes furniture, nativity sets, gifts and much more, besides musical instruments.

Coming to Nauvoo started her next major project, building a round house in the Yurt fashion from the Mongolian age and time.

“An original Yurt house would have a hole in the ceiling to allow smoke from the center fire to escape, not unlike a teepee. I will have a fireplace, but there is a skylight in the top,” Irene said. Again, she started with a kit for the roof, and is working with a builder to fashion the “circular” structure with 27 sides, each four foot wide.

“The front part is made from these wonderful antique logs from Pennsylvania,” Irene said. “I got information from Dave Hardle (of Nauvoo Log Cabins) that someone had built a log cabin and had these left over. Huge logs 15 to 23 inches tall and flatted on the sides to be eight inches deep, all cut into four-foot lengths.”

The front half the home is made of these antique logs, with an added room attached at the back. She and Tomasi hope to move in by the end of February.

“I picture holding small harp conventions there, music parties where people bring their instruments and play,” she said.

Irene and Tomasi are adamant about staying active and learning new things. Tomasi plays Scrabble with two young teen-aged boys, and teaches violin.

“He was a teacher all those years. He has such a way with the young people.

“We play Scrabble every day. Keep a journal. Write to your descendants and to the ones you have not yet met,” Irene said.

“They say the problem with Alzheimer's is that the brain stops making those connectors. You need to learn new things each day. Keep the mind active. Learn to play an instrument. I've sold at least five harps to people from age 50 to 63. Music keeps you alive.

“I want to make harps until I jump into my pine box...which I will make myself. It may be an odd looking bookshelf in the garage, but when the time comes, it will be there.”

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Harp for Hannah

This is lovely Hannah Petersen, her father Clark (Kent) Petersen, worked off this harp. I had Hannah come help me work on it. Hannah is 14, 5 foot 9 and is a jewel to be arround. We had so much fun making this harp together. This is before the strings and varnish are on.
She carried the neck out to the sunshine for the harp's first "photo shoot"....all together. She said she named her harp "Celeste".
We glued the neck to the pillar and let it dry for a few days.
Here the harp "box" is done.
Here is Hannah with "Celeste".....Cherry wood.
She wanted to wait just before Christmas and so I took it over there two days before. Her daddy had been gone to a big job in Missouri and came back the day before Christmas. Note the decorations on the bottom of the sides and on the top. I tole painted these and then put a stain on them, plus varnish. It was fun fun fun.
Hannah is home schooled and is sooooooooooo sharp. It's hard to think of her as only 14. You can see by the books at her house that the whole family are book readers and learners. IN FACT, all the family are learning to play the harp....even the dad and mom. I love it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

These are my lovely Psalteries. The lowest note is "middle C"....
Here is a close up of these bowed psalteries. They are $400.00 and that includes a tuner, cord, and instruction/information book. Psimple Psaltery.
there are the benches that I do make on occasion. I'm too busy to make these now, but at a later date I'll take making these again for the harp students that want them. This is $200.00
Here is my music stand that I used now. This also is $200.00. Nope, I'm not making these now, but will resume making these after I move into my new house and you can view that blog as well @

I'm never too busy to make a harp, I love making these sooooooooooo much. I expect to move into my new round house (yep, finally getting a round to it).....but it will have not a car port or shop as yet. I may have to put all my tools and shop equipment in storage until Spring when I can find a way to build the carport and shop....I'll keep you posted.