Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
5 days ago
1,747 posts

Exactly right.  Those bits are designed to work in a multitude of situations.

WantToLearn
WantToLearn
@wanttolearn
5 days ago
7 posts

Ken,

Thank you for the detailed description on setting the bridge/nut height.

There is a lot of excess material on the new bridge so it make take me some time to get it sanded down. I'm guessing that they make them so big as different instruments may have deeper bridge slots?

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
5 days ago
1,747 posts

After you trim the nut/bridge to length and slot fit, you're ready for The Nickel & Dime Action Adjustment!  You'll need: strings, a nickel, a dime, more of that sandpaper 60 grit and maybe 100 grit, and a hard-flat surface to sand on,

1.  Put the Nut and bridge in place.
2.  Put the strings on tight, but not tightened all the way to pitch tuned.
3.  Set the Dime next to the 1st fret; notice how large the gap is on both sides.  
4.  Balance the Nickel on top of the 7th fret (not the 6+ fret) and notice the gap there as well.
5.  Slack the strings enough to slide the Nut out of its slot.
6.  Place some 60 grit sandpaper on your hard surface, grit up
7.  Sand a dozen or 20 strokes off of the bottom of the Nut.
8.  Slide the nut back into place and re-tighten the strings.  Notice the gap.
9.  Repeat Steps 5-8 until the strings are almost touching the surface of the dime.

Now it's time to work the Bridge end of things.

1.  Slack the strings and slide the Bridge out of its slot.
2.  Sand a dozen or 20 strokes off of the bottom of the Bridge.
3.  Slide the bridge back in place and tighten the strings. 
4.  Balance the Nickel on top of the 7th fret and check the gap.
5.  Rinse & repeat until the strings are just touching the nickel on top of the 7th fret
6.  Now that the Bridge is lowered, you can go back, if you want, to the Nut
     and lower the strings a tiny bit more using some 100 grit sandpaper, if you want,,,

This is not the absolute lowest Action height you can have, but it's a good place to start.





WantToLearn
WantToLearn
@wanttolearn
6 days ago
7 posts

Parts from Folkcraft arrived today. After much sanding I got the bridge piece into the slot. The bridge is about 1/4 inch longer than the slot so I'll need to find a way to trim that part off. Next, someone previously mentioned setting the bridge height. I'm guessing that I'll want the strings set pretty close to the fret board so they don't have to be pressed to hard. I'm ready for your advice folks!

While I am pondering bridge height, should it be similar to the nut height? I test fit one string and it seems to be much higher at the bridge than the nut.

Mike 


updated by @wanttolearn: 10/13/20 10:56:00PM
Kevin63
Kevin63
@kevin63
one week ago
11 posts
Thank you Ken for your reply and expert knowledge. It’s so interesting to read everyone’s thoughts and opinions. You taught me a lot. Thank you!
Kevin63
Kevin63
@kevin63
one week ago
11 posts
Ken Longfield:

When I replace my strings do they include the chenille wrap on the loop ends that looks like fly fishing wrap?

No, if you buy dulcimer string sets. I am not aware of any manufacturers who offer this.

Why did they wrap the loop end with chenille?

This is a feature of some banjo strings. The chenille was added to prevent overtones and the string rattling on the banjo tailpiece which is made of metal. Dulcimer players would buy banjo strings in the proper gauges to put on their dulcimers because they were loop end strings. This was before dulcimer string sets became readily available. Under tension dulcimer strings can eat in to the end of the fret board depending upon how they are attached and chenille my help prevent this.

If by chance you say new strings do not include chenille loop ends since that was done in the 70’s, then why not wrap them any more?

Banjos still have metal tailpieces. Again, I am not aware of dulcimer string sets that come with chenille wrap.

Do new steel strings stretch like ukulele strings after they’re installed?

No, steel string stretch, but not as much as nylon ukulele strings. After steel strings are brought up to the proper pitch, they will stretch a little and need to be tightened. Like other materials, steel is subject to expanding when hot and shrinking when cold, so changes in temperature will require tuning. So will changes in humidity as that effects the wood of the dulcimer.

You can purchase strings for you dulcimer from The Dulcimer Shoppe in Mountain View, Arkansas. They offer sets for DAA or DAd tunings.

I hope this helps you.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
one week ago
658 posts

When I replace my strings do they include the chenille wrap on the loop ends that looks like fly fishing wrap?

No, if you buy dulcimer string sets. I am not aware of any manufacturers who offer this.

Why did they wrap the loop end with chenille?

This is a feature of some banjo strings. The chenille was added to prevent overtones and the string rattling on the banjo tailpiece which is made of metal. Dulcimer players would buy banjo strings in the proper gauges to put on their dulcimers because they were loop end strings. This was before dulcimer string sets became readily available. Under tension dulcimer strings can eat in to the end of the fret board depending upon how they are attached and chenille my help prevent this.

If by chance you say new strings do not include chenille loop ends since that was done in the 70’s, then why not wrap them any more?

Banjos still have metal tailpieces. Again, I am not aware of dulcimer string sets that come with chenille wrap.

Do new steel strings stretch like ukulele strings after they’re installed?

No, steel string stretch, but not as much as nylon ukulele strings. After steel strings are brought up to the proper pitch, they will stretch a little and need to be tightened. Like other materials, steel is subject to expanding when hot and shrinking when cold, so changes in temperature will require tuning. So will changes in humidity as that effects the wood of the dulcimer.

You can purchase strings for you dulcimer from The Dulcimer Shoppe in Mountain View, Arkansas. They offer sets for DAA or DAd tunings.

I hope this helps you.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Kevin63
Kevin63
@kevin63
one week ago
11 posts
In reading this thread brings up a few questions for me. I’m fairly new to the dulcimer as well.

- When I replace my strings do they include the chenille wrap on the loop ends that looks like fly fishing wrap?

- Why did they wrap the loop end with chenille?

- If by chance you say new strings do not include chenille loop ends since that was done in the 70’s, then why not wrap them any more?

- Do new steel strings stretch like ukulele strings after they’re installed?

Lastly, my dulcimer is circa 1976 made by The Dulcimer Shoppe in Mountain View Arkansas. See photos.

Thank you for your reply.
Kevin
Kevin63
Kevin63
@kevin63
one week ago
11 posts
Ken Longfield:

It looks like string tension has pulled the pins toward the saddle. One reason this could happen is the pins are too short to take the pressure of a tightened string. Ken's suggestion to use at least 1" brads is one solution. Another reason this could have occurred is that the wood is not very hard. And yet another is too much pressure on the pins from over tuning. Two other solutions for this problem are to use screws instead of brads or to move the brads from their current position to the end of the dulcimer. The latter might cause the strings to imbed themselves in the end of the fret board as they pass over the top of the dulcimer.


The saddle in the second photo shows quite a bit of damage and needs to be replaced. In replacing it you need to measure its size; length, width, height. If you can't find the exact size for replacement you will need to purchase something a little larger and sand it down. Two places to look for parts for dulcimers are www.folkcraft.com  and https://mcspaddendulcimers.com .  You may have to search the sites to find what you want.


Ken


"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."


John C. Knopf
John C. Knopf
@john-c-knopf
one week ago
225 posts

Tailpins made of nails aren't a problem with loop-end strings.  When I started with dulcimers in the mid-70s, all of the strings were loop-end, sometimes with green chenille wrapped into the windings! 

Ball-end strings can be converted to loop-end strings by removing the "ball".  If you dare, take heavy electrician's pliers and squeeze the thing until it cracks, then remove the pieces. VOILA!  A loop-end string!

John Gribble
John Gribble
@john-gribble
one week ago
117 posts

I suspect someone who didn't know better forced the brads down to hold the strings in place while tuning. A bad move, and probably not done by the maker.


updated by @john-gribble: 10/09/20 07:17:04AM
WantToLearn
WantToLearn
@wanttolearn
one week ago
7 posts

I removed the strings a couple days ago. In two cases the brads just fell out. New parts will be here on Tuesday and I'll be back to update you all on my progress.

Also, the in other cases the strings couldn't be removed without puling the brads out. It seems to me an odd way to do something when you know you're going to have to replace the strings at some point.


updated by @wanttolearn: 10/09/20 07:10:43AM
John Gribble
John Gribble
@john-gribble
one week ago
117 posts

You know, unless the pins/brads/nails are loose, you don't have a problem. Typically they aren't driven all the way in, but leave a small amount of the shaft exposed, on which the loop sits. The head helps keep the string from sliding off. Consider simply replacing the strings (who know how old they are!) and find someone to help you and your wife get started playing!

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
2 weeks ago
1,747 posts

When you're ready to set the new nuts/bridges, start a new thread here so that we can talk you through the simple process of setting the "action height" -- distance of strings above frets -- to something that won't slice your fingers!


updated by @ken-hulme: 10/08/20 06:47:38AM
WantToLearn
WantToLearn
@wanttolearn
2 weeks ago
7 posts

Darn!  My loss for sure. There's tons you could teach me I'm sure. 

Parts are ordered, so I imagine early next week I can get to work!

 

John C. Knopf
John C. Knopf
@john-c-knopf
2 weeks ago
225 posts

OK, so not around the corner from my shop!

WantToLearn
WantToLearn
@wanttolearn
2 weeks ago
7 posts

Thank you all. I sort of knew what needed to be done and you've helped me decide how to go about this. I'm going to attempt repair instead of writing it off as a poor decision to purchase them. If it doesn't go well, I'm not out much in the way of money and I'll have learned something in the process.

Oh, to answer John's question I'm in Wayne Nebraska.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
2 weeks ago
1,747 posts

Thanx Ken, I completely missed the bridge in that second photo.  You're right, that looks like a common Delrin(tm) bridge from McSpad or Folkcraft, and it really needs replacing.  

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
2 weeks ago
658 posts

It looks like string tension has pulled the pins toward the saddle. One reason this could happen is the pins are too short to take the pressure of a tightened string. Ken's suggestion to use at least 1" brads is one solution. Another reason this could have occurred is that the wood is not very hard. And yet another is too much pressure on the pins from over tuning. Two other solutions for this problem are to use screws instead of brads or to move the brads from their current position to the end of the dulcimer. The latter might cause the strings to imbed themselves in the end of the fret board as they pass over the top of the dulcimer.

The saddle in the second photo shows quite a bit of damage and needs to be replaced. In replacing it you need to measure its size; length, width, height. If you can't find the exact size for replacement you will need to purchase something a little larger and sand it down. Two places to look for parts for dulcimers are www.folkcraft.com  and https://mcspaddendulcimers.com .  You may have to search the sites to find what you want.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
2 weeks ago
1,747 posts

Those brass brads are very common as string pins even among the best of dulcimer builders; they do not get tapped in to hold the string in place.  Pressure of the strings being tightened is what holds the strings on the pins.   

Are the existing pins actually loose, or are you just interested in making them look more aesthetically pleasing?  

The 'odd' bit is that someone used a ball-end string to make a loop-end rather than using all loop end strings.  I suggest using only loop-end strings on instruments with this string-pin arrangement.  Or, if you want to be able to use ball-end strings as well as loop-ends, use headless string pins of small enough diameter that the ball of ball-end strings can be slid onto the shaft of the pin.

The simplest repair is to just put new 1" brads in place a half-inch up from the old positions.  Sink them in about as far as the existing brads -- say 3/4" deep,  Then sand and fill the old holes with glue-dust or wood putty.

You didn't post any photos of the nuts/bridges, so we can't tell what kind they are, how they are set into or onto the fretboard, or whether they actually need replacing.  

WantToLearn
WantToLearn
@wanttolearn
2 weeks ago
7 posts

John, Ken:  Thanks for your quick responses. One other thing is that both instruments will need new bridges and probably tuning pegs. Do you know of a reputable website for purchasing these items?

Thanks again,

Mike

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John C. Knopf
John C. Knopf
@john-c-knopf
2 weeks ago
225 posts

Ken's right-- it would be best to see a photo or two.  The fix shouldn't be that difficult, based on what you've said.

Are you by any chance in Wayne County, MI?

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
2 weeks ago
658 posts

Mike, without a photo to see exactly what is going on with the dulcimers, I'm giving advice blindly.You could pull out all the string anchors and fill the holes with some type of wood. If it is a small hole, you might be able to use a round tooth pick. for slightly larger holes you might find a dowel that fits. Once glued in you can put in either small brads or nails. Not knowing how thick the end block is, it could be that the anchors don't go far enough in to the block not to bend. Another option is to use small #2 brass screws of 1/2" to 3/4".

I hope this helps with your problem. If not, feel free to ask again.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

WantToLearn
WantToLearn
@wanttolearn
2 weeks ago
7 posts

I just bought two Dulcimers at a surplus auction at the local college. Perhaps it wasn't a good idea as the photos weren't very good and pre-inspection isn't a thing at the auctions. I did get them pretty cheap so perhaps it won't be a bad deal.

The problem the both have is that the anchor(?) pins at the base of the instrument and not in good shape at all. They look like someone tightened the strings to tight and they are pulling out. Odd thing is that they look like small brass brads like you would use in finish carpentry. A couple of them look as though you would have had to set the loop end on the string and then tap the 'brad' into place to hold it. 

It makes me wonder if these were just poorly constructed and then abused by the students over who knows how many years.

My question is this: My wife and I want to learn to play (retirement hobby) but now I wonder if I should try to repair them. Could new holes be drilled for a more proper hitch pin/anchor?

Thanks for any help you can offer.

Mike