Do I keep it and fix it up or play it as is

Butch Ross
Butch Ross
@butch-ross
one month ago
21 posts

Ken and Strumelia both have given you really excellent advice. The only 2 things I'd add is 1. You need new strings, you should change strings every couple of months as a rule (not that any of us do) and it's unlikely the seller put a new set on. 2. spend the money on the tuners. They're easy to replace, easier than the restringing will be. You can get them from Folkcraft for $18 and I'm pretty sure, based on your pictures, they'll fit. 

I also get what you're saying about appearance, and that's not silly. But I say just live with it if you can, it's a "bird in the hand" after all. As Strumelia said, If you practice, in 6-8 months you'll have a much better idea of what you really want. 

Skip
Skip
@skip
one month ago
354 posts

Other than the tuneing machines, your MD really doesn't look too bad from the photos. You can do the obvious things needing fixing yourself, new strings [normal maintenance], replacing tuneing machines is pretty easy although selecting new ones is a bit harder. Just pull and replace the end pins, they're probably escutcheon nails or brads. Don't worry about the scratches/chips, it's part of having a used, probably older, instrument. I heard a pro country singer used an older guitar that actually had holes worn through the top. Don't use anything with silicone in it to clean the outside since it cannot be removed, it will prevent any refinishing or other repair work to the wood.

Bottom line, don't pay for anything more than tuneing machine installation at most.

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
one month ago
2,103 posts

My own thoughts are that a VSL of between 25"-27" is really ideal if one is intending to play in the key of D a great deal. (most dulcimers play in D more than in any other key). Once you get in the longer 28-30" vsl range, you are going to start breaking strings a little more often, and the shorter you go ...say 22-24", the heavier strings you will need to put on in order to play comfortably in the key of D.

That's the reason epinettes (which often have a typical vsl of only 21" or so) are usually tuned higher for the key of G (3 steps up from the usual dulcimer D). And dulcimers longer than 28" scale length often do better when tuned to C (1 step lower than the usual D).

Beginner dulcimer players often worry that they 'need' a shorter vsl because they have small hands. What they don't take into account are two important factors: 1) They be using also their thumb while fretting ...which extends their reach way beyond what most guitar players do using only four fingers ...and 2) Because of the drone-friendly tunings of dulcimers in the first place, one frequently is making use of open strings while fretting chords. So it's not really all that common or critical to make a long stretch when chording. When it does come up that a long stretch is needed, your thumb can neatly solve the issue most of the time.

While I wouldn't necessarily recommend a 28-30" vsl dulcimer to people with smaller hands, I think that vsl's of 25-27" are great for people with any size hands, even small hands.  Just my two cents.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
one month ago
2,006 posts

IMHO FB Marketplace is not a particularly good place to shop for dulcimers if you are inexperienced with them.  Neither is Goodwill.  Most of us who really care about our instruments would not sell there, I think.  

FYI the New Harmony Pudge has a 24"VSL, considered by many to be a most excellent length, and hardly too small for you.  I build and play a 24-25" VSL instrument as well as 28-30" instruments.  The McSpadden Ginger has a nominally 24" VSL and the same notion applies.   

IMHO, with your lack of experience you are fretting (all puns intended) far too much over the VSL.  After you've played everyday for 6 months, you'll have some idea of what  "too big" or "too small" mean to you personally.

What exactly is the issue with the tuners?  Are they too tight?  Or too loose and don't keep the strings in tune?  Have broken knobs?  We can talk you through fixing them if they are too tight or too loose.  No need to spend money when a quick fix with a screwdriver will do the job.



updated by @ken-hulme: 10/15/22 11:21:55AM
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
one month ago
2,103 posts

(runs and hides my trusty can of Pledge before anyone sees it...) duck




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
kkimura
@kkimura
one month ago
3 posts

Ken Longfield:

Please, please, never use Pledge on a dulcimer or any other instrument made of wood. Pledge contains substances that make it virtually impossible to repair cracks, dings, and scratches because they prevent the absorption of stains to match the color of the wood. This causes any repair to stand out like a sore thumb. Instead use a good instrument polish like the ones sold by C. F. Martin, Gibson, Fender, and other guitar makers.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

I didn't know that about Pledge.  Let me retract my advice about using Pledge on GinaB's dulcimer.

GinaB
GinaB
@ginab
one month ago
9 posts

I searched FB marketplace for MD's for sale within 250 miles of me, in Oklahoma, and there were over 10 of them. Some were cheap things that I was advised to not purchase. I'm not sure about the smaller versions such as the Pudge and the Ginger, I think they might be too small for me. I might have to go to Arkansas to try one out, just window shopping at that point I think. I don't know if Branson has any music stores with MD for sale, but several of the ones I found on FB for sale were there. 

I think I have decided to get the estimate to see how much this professional repair guy will charge to fix this one up. I'd hate to try and sell it like it is. The person purchasing it would have to invest money in new gear machines, strings, and possibly more. The nails on the tail look rusty to me too. 

I'm going to see what happens with that and continue playing this one for now. 

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
one month ago
920 posts

Please, please, never use Pledge on a dulcimer or any other instrument made of wood. Pledge contains substances that make it virtually impossible to repair cracks, dings, and scratches because they prevent the absorption of stains to match the color of the wood. This causes any repair to stand out like a sore thumb. Instead use a good instrument polish like the ones sold by C. F. Martin, Gibson, Fender, and other guitar makers.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Wally Venable
Wally Venable
@wally-venable
one month ago
27 posts

I'm with John.

I'd get tuners which match the originals (more or less). Easy to remove and install.

If you don't have an electronic tuner, get one. They can save a lot of strings if you aren't skilled at tuning, and of course the tuner can be moved to your shorter VSL instrument. My preference is a KORG tuner with a clip-on guitar pickup, but I have also been happy with the cheap ($4 from China) JOYO type

John C. Knopf
John C. Knopf
@john-c-knopf
one month ago
326 posts

If I had it, I would unscrew the tuners, give the body a good cleaning-- steel wool, maybe a coat of Deft semigloss spray lacquer, and paste wax (or Pledge!).  Replace the tuners, either with the same type as what you have, or even upgrade a bit. Check the fretboard for flatness, put new strings on and go at it!

kkimura
@kkimura
one month ago
3 posts

Some furniture polish like Pledge on the top and fret board may make it look better.

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
one month ago
920 posts

Gina, here a a few comments for what they are worth. $200 to fix that dulcimer sounds like a lot of money. A new set of similar tuning machines is a little less than $20. It shouldn't take more than a half hour to take the old ones off and put the new ones on. 27 inches is not an extremely long VSL for a dulcimer, but today most folks who play chord melody style prefer a shorter VSL. Folkcraft makes dulcimers with shorter VSLs. Even if you had the pieces broken out of the lower bout sound hole, it would be very difficult to repair. Personally, I would not spend anymore money on this instrument. I'd take the tuners off, clean them as best I could, reinstall them, put on new strings, and use it to learn to play until I could afford a new one.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
one month ago
2,006 posts

IMHO spending $200 to fix a $100 dulcimer is not worth it unless you happened to luck onto an historical instrument from a known master builder (it has happened, but rarely).  Spend the $200 on another instrument.  Keep you eyes open here for someone selling an instrument that you could become attached to, at a price you can afford!

As Richard sez, we can talk you through cleaning up the instrument you have, adjusting the tuners so they work as properly as possible, and other issues.  

As a new player I recommend you copy, print and read the following booklet I wrote a few years back for beginners called
I Just Got A Dulcimer, Now What?   It's an illustrated glossary of dulcimer terms, so we all speak the same jargon, plus answers to many beginner questions about tuning, playing, care and feeding.  Tips like how to never breaks another string when tuning...

Ken Hulme's "I Just Got A Dulcimer, Now What?" Article - Strumelia | fotmd.com

The Beginner Players Group here is the perfect place to ask beginner questions.  You actually have to Join the Group to read most posts and make your own posts there.  Start a new post with your question(s) rather than tagging in on someone else's post -- it will help others like you find the answers you asked for.  

GinaB
GinaB
@ginab
one month ago
9 posts

Richard Streib:

I understand your quandary. Over the 28 years I have messed with dulcimers, for me, I have found that second to the sound of the dulcimer, I need to enjoy the looks. I do like nice looking and well finished wood. From what you are saying, it sounds like you may have a hard time enjoying the looks of this dulcimer. (perhaps I read you wrong?)

There a number of people on this site who can give you some good advice on how to clean this dulcimer up yourself--I am not one of them. Perhaps you could get the build up off the tuning machines, get them oiled so they work smoothly  and get  the wood cleaned up to look nicer. Then you can play it and save up for one that is nicer with a shorter vsl. I have personally purchased more than 5 dulcimers, several sight unseen, which were bought by the original owner as an impulse buy, played very little if at all, then put away and stored. One of them still had the noter stick and the pick sealed in its little envelope that had not been opened.  I say this to let you know that used or second hand dulcimers are not something to avoid out of hand if they have been stored in a home with controlled temp and humidity--not in a rental storage unit, not in a damp basement or in a hot attic.

Just my 2 cents. Best wishes with this project whichever way you decide to go.

Thank you. I agree, I look at it and I feel like it just really looks old and worn out. I can play it okay, I do have to lean a little bit when I'm playing on the first fret but it's not awkward.

I was looking at the Ginger and the Pudge, but I want to strum one and sit with it on my lap to see if it feels okay. I'm short and have small hands. So maybe one of them would work better. McSpadden is about 6 hours east of me. New Harmony is a lot further away so I'm hoping to find one in a music store somewhere. 

I do think I want to get an estimate first then go from there. I just don't know what I'll do with that information yet. 

Richard Streib
Richard Streib
@richard-streib
one month ago
198 posts

I understand your quandary. Over the 28 years I have messed with dulcimers, for me, I have found that second to the sound of the dulcimer, I need to enjoy the looks. I do like nice looking and well finished wood. From what you are saying, it sounds like you may have a hard time enjoying the looks of this dulcimer. (perhaps I read you wrong?)

There a number of people on this site who can give you some good advice on how to clean this dulcimer up yourself--I am not one of them. Perhaps you could get the build up off the tuning machines, get them oiled so they work smoothly  and get  the wood cleaned up to look nicer. Then you can play it and save up for one that is nicer with a shorter vsl. I have personally purchased more than 5 dulcimers, several sight unseen, which were bought by the original owner as an impulse buy, played very little if at all, then put away and stored. One of them still had the noter stick and the pick sealed in its little envelope that had not been opened.  I say this to let you know that used or second hand dulcimers are not something to avoid out of hand if they have been stored in a home with controlled temp and humidity--not in a rental storage unit, not in a damp basement or in a hot attic.

Just my 2 cents. Best wishes with this project whichever way you decide to go.

GinaB
GinaB
@ginab
one month ago
9 posts

I'm new to the dulcimer world. I have a quandary regarding the MD that I bought. It's huge, 27" VSL, and needs work.

36" long, 9 1/2" at the widest part, and from the counter top to the top of the tuning buttons is 4". Most bags are only 9" wide and 3 1/2" tall. So my MD won't fit in any off the rack sort of gig bag. I sew, so I could make one and I do have supplies to make a sturdier sort of case for it eventually. If I keep it. 

It is very corroded and chipped up. I paid $100 for it and feel that was a good price to pay. The man built it, it's labeled 001. Then he built more and sold them for a while in the 90's. This one sat on a shelf for more than 20 years. It needs a lot of work. One of the strings broke while I was tuning it one day and the music store here in town tuned it to something weird. When I got home I couldn't find the pitches. I was turning the buttons and I eventually broke a second string, second melody D though so it wasn't important. 

I found someone that can do the work, a music store east of Tulsa. I think it will be a couple hundred plus. 

That would be at least $300 invested in this MD. I do think it will be well over $200 for the repairs and putting planetary gear machines on it. All new tuning parts. 

I can add a few photos? I'll try. The gouges on the front and chips on the edges bother me. They keep me from really loving this MD. I know that's silly but I want to really love my instruments façade.

My quandary is do I spend the money to have this one professionally "fixed up", with maybe putting a darker stain on the wood to cover up some of the damage, and refurbished or do I save that money to buy a smaller MD from either McSpadden or some other company that has a shorter VSL? 

What are your opinions? 


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