Just received a John A Maxwell

Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
3 months ago
185 posts

Strumelia: Your Maxwell has a huge amount of charm and grace and should be a joy to play when strung up. I can tell you care about it. Maybe you can record a simple tune for us on it soon.   :)

I care about all the instruments I restore. They sort of become "friends" . Taking something that was meant to sound lovely, and again allowing it to do so is a good feeling. The tuners I have fixed to hold perfectly. I have tested them with a .032 string and it has maintained tuning over several days. That is how I adjust wooden pegs. If they can hold a heavy tension then they can hold the correct string. There are also a few other tricks I use on wooden pegs to hold them tight. 

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 months ago
1,897 posts

Agreed, that bass string someone put on is way too heavy. And yes someone might have been trying it out as a baritone. Wrong dulcimer for a baritone experiment, IMHO.  ;)

I have had some antique banjos and mandolins that absolutely had to be strung only with a slightly lighter gauge set than normal. Older instruments deserve a little love and tenderness I think.  heartbeat  




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 months ago
1,897 posts

Dusty's right- there is no room for fine tuning beads or any kind of fine tuners behind that bridge. But if the wooden pegs are well fit to their holes, and a drop of Peg Drops applied and let to cure, then the pegs 'should' turn smoothly and hold well... as they are supposed to do.

Nathina:I have fixed the wooden pegs to hold well, but like all wooden pegs, minuscule movement changes the note drastically. For me it is not a problem, as the same happens with HDs but I am wondering if this would be a problem for someone else?

People who buy dulcimers find out pretty quickly if they like wooden peg tuners or not. Some people won't buy vintage dulcimers by a known maker if they've had their pegs replaced with geared tuners. Other people won't buy dulcimers unless they have geared tuners. Those people aren't usually that interested in an antique or collector dulcimer. Don't worry about it, because you can't please everyone.

In general, it's best to keep an antique dulcimer with its original wooden pegs if at all possible. There are thousands of geared tuner dulcimers all over the place to buy if one wants or needs geared tuners. And only a finite number of pre-1970s dulcimers in their original configuration.
You can take pride in preserving an old instrument in a way that is faithful to its maker. Remember the word 'restore' means just that- to restore something to the way it was. Your Maxwell has a huge amount of charm and grace and should be a joy to play when strung up. I can tell you care about it. Maybe you can record a simple tune for us on it soon.   :)




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
3 months ago
185 posts

I still have to work on the wooden box. I will show before and after shots. The box itself, is designed specifically for the dulcimer, and is padded with the Maxwell Tartan. It is made out of spruce ply, but should not be problem to fix the missing wood piece, and the dents.  Probably will re-stain it as well. 

Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
3 months ago
185 posts

Dusty Turtle:

Strumelia: The string spacing is interesting. What string arrangement are you going to use?

Indeed.  It looks from the notches in the bridge that it is set up for 4 equidistant strings and a double melody.  But those of us who want a three string set-up would have to make some adjustments.

There are six positions on the bridge and nut. It can be set up for 3 strings, 4 strings equidistant, or any mix. (5 holes drilled in the foot.)

I'll post the spacing when the string sets arrive. This instrument is designed to move the strings pretty much anywhere across the fret board. I have already tried it with the old strings.


updated by @nathina: 12/17/20 04:30:49PM
Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
3 months ago
185 posts

Strumelia:

The string spacing is interesting. What string arrangement are you going to use?

I am going to set it up for the melody close, and then close for the middle, and equal distant for the bass. I think I remember that is how Maxwell normally set up his units.

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 months ago
1,373 posts

Strumelia: The string spacing is interesting. What string arrangement are you going to use?

Indeed.  It looks from the notches in the bridge that it is set up for 4 equidistant strings and a double melody.  But those of us who want a three string set-up would have to make some adjustments.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
3 months ago
185 posts

I fixed the tuning pegs. They are holding extremely well so there is no need for beads. The strings will be replaced to lighter gauge which is a trick I use to have pegs hold even better. Another thing, every time I have seen someone discuss peg "lube" they point to the insertion point, but there are two friction points on each tuner. The insertion and the exit. Both need to be prepped. 

On this instrument for some reason they were using a 0.32 on the bass string. Perhaps attempting to make a baritone dulc, but although the pegs will now hold it, they were not meant to be under that much tension. There are a few other tricks I was taught.


updated by @nathina: 12/17/20 04:10:09PM
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 months ago
1,897 posts

The string spacing is interesting. What string arrangement are you going to use?




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 months ago
1,373 posts

Nice job, Nathina.  That dulcimer is really shining.

Now that I see the placement of the bridge, though, I fear there is insufficient room for those fine tuning beads.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
3 months ago
738 posts

It's really looking good. Nice work.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
3 months ago
185 posts

This is the fully restored fret board and soundboard of the The John A Maxwell. Waiting for appropriate string set. Now onto repairing the case. Tuning has been checked and frets are good. Kept the lucite nut and bridge which was a trademark of his. I'll do a before and after on parts of the case when finished.

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Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
3 months ago
185 posts

nut to fret 26.5. It is coming back to fine shape. I am working on restoring it. Removing on dents and scratches, outlining sound holes, readjusting string.Currently working on the fret board removing any marks and polishing. It will be as new when I am finished. Maxwell #2645, 1974. I still have the wooden case to fix. The instrument is almost done. Just waiting for new shipment of strings.


updated by @nathina: 12/16/20 08:04:02PM
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 months ago
1,897 posts

That's a nice looking dulcimer, and looks to be in fine shape.  :)

What's the scale length?




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990

updated by @strumelia: 12/16/20 07:56:05PM
Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
3 months ago
185 posts

Pictures of the back, not a scratch and really shines, and a finished sound hole with a minimal outline.

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Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
3 months ago
185 posts

I wonder if I could make one out of modeling clay? Actually the pegs after reconditioning are holding well and the variation is within 10 cents.

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 months ago
1,373 posts

That's a great description of both the design and function of these things, @ken-longfield.

@nathina, since you don't have a model to copy as Ken did, you might make a prototype out of some material that is easy to mold and re-mold.  Then when you get the precise design of something that should work, make final versions out of ebony or some hard wood. 




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
3 months ago
738 posts

I replaced a "bead" on a Sunhearth dulcimer I purchased. The original probably broke and was replaced with a black Lego brick. I cut a new one out of some scrap ebony I had. It matches the other three originals quite well. It is not round like a bead, but is more trapezoidal in shape. There is small hole drilled through it longitudinally for the string to pass through. This bead slides between the saddle and tail to adjust the tension on the string to sharpen or flatten it.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
3 months ago
185 posts

Dusty Turtle:


Nathina, a small number of luthiers used fine tuning beads on their dulcimers.  One was Keith Young.  Here is a discussion of someone replacing a missing one.  You can see that they require no serious modification of the instrument yet make those friction tuners a lot easier to use.  I think I remember a couple of other discussions here about fine tuners.  If I can dig them up I'll edit this comment and add the links.




Thanks. From what I see, the beads are hand made and specific to the instrument. So it requires, a selection of basically square or flat beads from the bead store to select the right one. 


Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 months ago
1,373 posts

Nathina, a small number of luthiers used fine tuning beads on their dulcimers.  One was Keith Young.  Here is a discussion of someone replacing a missing one.  You can see that they require no serious modification of the instrument at all yet make those friction tuners a lot easier to use.  I think I remember a couple of other discussions here about fine tuners.  If I can dig them up I'll edit this comment and add the links.

EDIT:

Here's another discussion about fine tuner beads

And here's another in which I share a picture of an autoharp my uncle made with metal fine tuners for each string.  It was a prototype and we joked that it looks like the autoharp has braces.  On his new builds he puts a nice piece of wood on a swivel that covers the fine tuners.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie

updated by @dusty-turtle: 12/16/20 12:40:13PM
Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
3 months ago
185 posts

Strumelia:


Nathina:


I have seen the beads but I am not familiar with what they do. Where are they obtained, or are they just "beads"?



googling "dulcimer fine tuning beads" yields THIS .


 Are these any beads? Didn't find anything on specific type, wt, style of bead?

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 months ago
1,897 posts

Nathina:

I have seen the beads but I am not familiar with what they do. Where are they obtained, or are they just "beads"?



googling "dulcimer fine tuning beads" yields THIS .




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
3 months ago
185 posts

Strumelia:

I agree, Ken. 
I think you meant "Peg Drops" and behind the bridge, not the nut...right?   ;)

Warning- biased opinion ahead!:
I'm a big advocate of keeping vintage/antique collector dulcimers in original configuration. There is not an unlimited supply of antique dulcimers, and some we think of as not terribly valuable today might be precious and rare 30 years from now. Whatever your personal preferences, it is true that any collectable dulcimer will be diminished in value if you remove its wooden pegs and replace with geared. Or add extra frets, etc. I usually just suggest that if one wants geared tuners (and most folks do..they are convenient!) one should just buy a more modern dulcimer that has them already rather than alter an antique.

I have seen the beads but I am not familiar with what they do. Where are they obtained, or are they just "beads"?

Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
3 months ago
185 posts

Just finishing off the head.  Just need to polish. This is the peg paste I use.

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Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
3 months ago
185 posts

There won't be unnecessary changes unless they have to be made to make the unit playable. Museum style restoration, fixes the finish, removes dents and scratches, may recolor or change the stain if necessary. He used lucite nuts and bridges which stay. It will be the same instrument, only will like it was just made (I hope). This will be for resale. I was thinking about making it into a baritone which seem popular at the present, but will leave it as it is, unless it won't sell. Although it it turns out as i hope, I might not want to part with it.


updated by @nathina: 12/16/20 11:35:42AM
Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
3 months ago
185 posts

IRENE:

very cool Nathina.   I know I love to see the "before and after" photos of all  kinds of job but especially musical instruments.   I got some PERFECTION PLANETARY PEGS for the next one I'm going to make.  you might like to research that in this site and elsewhere.   aloha, irene

That's what I am wondering. I have fixed the wooden pegs to hold well, but like all wooden pegs, minuscule movement changes the note drastically. For me it is not a problem, as the same happens with HDs but I am wondering if this would be a problem for someone else?

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
3 months ago
738 posts

Like the others here have said, I would enjoy seeing photos of before and after. I can't tell if your goal is to resell the dulcimer or keep it for your own playing. If your goal is to resell the instrument, it will no longer be an historically correct John Maxwell dulcimer and will not be attractive to any collectors, but as a refurbished instrument for modern playing styles it might be attractive to some players. 

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 months ago
1,897 posts

I agree, Ken. 
I think you meant "Peg Drops" and behind the bridge, not the nut...right?   ;)

Warning- biased opinion ahead!:
I'm a big advocate of keeping vintage/antique collector dulcimers in original configuration. There is not an unlimited supply of antique dulcimers, and some we think of as not terribly valuable today might be precious and rare 30 years from now. Whatever your personal preferences, it is true that any collectable dulcimer will be diminished in value if you remove its wooden pegs and replace with geared. Or add extra frets, etc. I usually just suggest that if one wants geared tuners (and most folks do..they are convenient!) one should just buy a more modern dulcimer that has them already rather than alter an antique.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
IRENE
IRENE
@irene
3 months ago
175 posts

yeah, I also do so much agree with what Dusty and Ken said here.   It all depends on what you're going to use this dulcimer for.   Keeping things original is wonderful for the collectors out there, even if it be you.   Start preparing a wall or other fun ways to display your accumulating dulcimers.  Keeping the history of where you got them and what you did to restore them to their glory.   aloha, irene

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
3 months ago
1,790 posts

I agree with what Dusty said...  unless you're going to make it yours, rather than 'flip' it, I would leave the tuning pegs alone and add simple fine tuner beads behind the nut if you can.  If you don't have it, a couple drops of "Peg Dope" work wonders for making pegs work smoothly -- loosen the peg, put a couple drops where the peg fits into the scroll side, then re-tighten

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 months ago
1,373 posts

That's definitely a cool project, Nathina. I second the motion to make sure you take some "before" pictures so we can see the work you do.

While it is true that few people today enjoy friction tuners, you might pause before replacing them with modern geared tuners.  Once an instrument is "vintage" there is certainly an interest in maintaining it's original construction.  Then again, if you want to play the instrument regularly, by all means make it your own.  A compromise might be to install fine tuners behind the bridge if the design allows.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
IRENE
IRENE
@irene
3 months ago
175 posts

very cool Nathina.   I know I love to see the "before and after" photos of all  kinds of job but especially musical instruments.   I got some PERFECTION PLANETARY PEGS for the next one I'm going to make.  you might like to research that in this site and elsewhere.   aloha, irene

Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
3 months ago
185 posts

Just received a John A Maxwell that I am refurbishing. So far peg holes are round and tapered. Strings are being replaced and laid properly. Never sure why somebody has to use the entire string length on the pegs. Pegs will be refinished. All dings fixed. And the action will be adjusted, way too high. Will be fixing its wooden case. By the time I am finished it will be museum quality refinishing and ready to go. Frets are now placed properly. This is a fat hour glass version 4 str. Ball Strings to be replaced This is walnut on walnut I think. Added strap buttons. I will post pics when finished.

I am wondering if I shouldn't change the pegs to starite tuners. What do you think? I seems that very few understand violin peg tuning.


updated by @nathina: 12/15/20 09:12:15PM