NateBuildsToys
NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
2 months ago
76 posts

By the way its worth noting that the vast majority of string instruments have intonation issues way up the neck. I'm not sure if this is because of how much a small imprecision can affect the tonality, or if it is simply the nature of string instruments that ideal intonation at the top of the fretboard is not the same as at the bottom.

All I know is that most of the guitars, dulcimers, mandolins, and every other string instrument I've ever looked at close with a tuner tends to be less well intonated further up the fretboard.

marg
@marg
2 months ago
568 posts

As it's set now, I am more concerned on having clear notes as I fret - it is not so high to be uncomfortable. I may sand it a bit more, I was just giving myself time to decide. Also in changing the strings I put on heavier ones (& a different brand) deciding now if I wanted to go a bit lighter on the melody. 

Thanks for all your help,  the Intonation  was the concern at first but it is right on now. 

NateBuildsToys
NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
2 months ago
76 posts

Glad to hear its going well! Clearly you are aware of the nickel and dime technique for setting action, and as others have said having the action a bit high is perfectly fine but may be less comfortable, and too low of action can produce buzzing. Typically  setting the action with a nickel will not be low enough to produce buzzing unless either the fingerboard is uneven or some frets are raised. If you have a straight edge which you can use to verify that the fretboard is perfectly consistent, as it should be, then you should feel safe reducing the bridge enough that the string just barely touches the top of a nickel sitting on top of the 7th fret. If it is comfortable to play and well intonated then this is not really necessary, although I will say that I personally really like the action as low as I can get it.
-Nate

marg
@marg
2 months ago
568 posts

(Now that you have conquered set-up, the next thing is you will start building dulcimers.)

musicwasntme   I feel good about learning to care for a dulcimer but - not there yet on building. Would love to watch someone from start to finish but I'm better at drawing one then building one.

Morning

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
2 months ago
812 posts

Marg, I'm glad to hear that it went well for you. A little high isn't too bad if it doesn't hurt your fingers. You can always sand it down a little more later if you need to. The biggest danger is string buzzing if you go too low. Then you would either have to make a new nut or shim the old one. Now that you have conquered set-up, the next thing is you will start building dulcimers.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

marg
@marg
2 months ago
568 posts

OK, careful, careful.

Sanded down - still space between nickel & string but much easier to fret, so will leave it here for now.

What would have taken someone maybe an hour or two to set up, has taken me 3 days but I learned a lot and took my time - checking with you guys as I went.

Team effort - Thanks again

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 months ago
1,485 posts

Yes, of course you can sand the bridge. Be careful, though, and go little by little. When you were working on the nut you really couldn't mess up since the zero fret was going to set the height of the strings down on that end of the dulcimer. You don't have that safety net when you work on the bridge.




--
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
marg
@marg
2 months ago
568 posts

Thanks Dusty, I was so busy working up at the nut - just wanted to make sure I could still sand the bridge.

marg
@marg
2 months ago
568 posts

Sorry, nut is sanded down, strings are on the 0 fret, it's the bridge (bottom end) I'm considering sanding.

So, I can sand the bridge to help  the action. I really think the dulcimer was set up for a noter


updated by @marg: 07/31/21 02:06:08AM
Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 months ago
1,485 posts

Marg, if the strings are really sitting on the zero fret so that the strings are vibrating between the zero fret and the bridge, the nut will have no effect on the action.  You might consider sanding down the bridge, however.  




--
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
marg
@marg
2 months ago
568 posts

One last question, I hope:

Nut sanded, new strings & tone is good  off the 0 fret -

But the action is still a bit too high - can I sand the bridge down just a bit?


updated by @marg: 07/31/21 02:04:40AM
marg
@marg
2 months ago
568 posts

Thanks Nate, I have it sanded way down and tiny slits cut in the wooden nut for the middle string  & using the nails for the melody & the bass.

All Good, thanks so much everyone

m.

NateBuildsToys
NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
2 months ago
76 posts

If it sounds good with the VSL starting at the 0 fret, hypothetically the instrument should work fine with just the nails and no 'nut' as a spacer. If you would like the wood nut to be there for aesthetic reasons, you could reduce it's height and make nice deep grooves in the top where each of the strings sit and use it as a spacer. The grooves would serve to hold the melody and bass string in place and keep them from pulling toward the middle of the fretboard due to tension, since the tuning pegs are near to the middle of the headstock, and the strings will want to move in a straight line from the bridge toward their tuning pegs unless something holds them at the edges of the fretboard, the way the nails do, past the zero fret. Alternatively if the nails serve the purpose of spacing the strings well enough, you could even sand the nut so low that it doesnt touch the strings and is simply there for aesthetics if you wanted to.

marg
@marg
2 months ago
568 posts

( feel comfortable sanding the nut way down)

  There was another nut in the case, no slits. I sanded that one down, saving the wooden one till I would see if I could get it to work. Hey, Hey - right on from open string to the 7th YEA!!!! Off some up pass 14 but I don't go that hi & if I would - think I would just use a different dulcimer. I even sanded the top more rounded like Nate said, for better pressure on the string.

  I like the wood better, since I don't have anything else white but good for now. I will need to replace the strings, they got a work out today. I'm leaving the nails in since I would have small holes to fill and I don't want to change what the builder did too much. 

Thanks for all the help, I'm slow but learning much from y'all

m.

marg
@marg
2 months ago
568 posts

( the intonation is correct at the nut or at the zero fret)

Intonation is correct at the zero fret, not at the nut

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 months ago
1,485 posts

Nate asks all the right questions here.  You might try simply removing the nut and allowing the zero fret to do what it's supposed to do.  Then you could check the intonation and the action.  If the dulcimer functions correctly, you can feel comfortable sanding the nut way down, since, as Nate says, it's only purpose is to space the strings correctly.




--
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
NateBuildsToys
NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
2 months ago
76 posts

Well you could potentially put a sliver of wood, folded paper, or something else directly on top of the zero fret to raise it 1/16 of an inch or so but this would only be a temporary fix to the issue of the fret being too low and would lose some sound quality and volume, and would also most likely result in slightly too high of action on the first couple of frets.

With that being said I'm still not sure what to make about the interesting set up with the strings resting on the nut or 'spacer.' I call it a spacer because typically the zero fret would function as the 'nut' or the end of the scale length of the vibrating strings; the small piece of wood between the zero fret and the headstock just serves to hold the strings the correct distance apart. Since this dulcimer also has nails for this purpose and the strings were resting on the nut rather than the zero fret, this instrument is intriguing to me.

I'm really not sure why the spacer was so high or why it was backwards. Were you able to get the strings in solid contact with the zero fret or hesitant to sand that much off? 

Also have you checked whether the intonation is correct at the nut or at the zero fret, as skip suggested?

Can't wait to learn more!
-Nate

marg
@marg
2 months ago
568 posts

(the builder just shim something over the 0 fret)

What could act as a shim for over the 0 fret?

Could I maybe place something right in front of the 0 fret, creating another 0 - like the size of a tooth pic? I have sanded the nut but hesitant to sand anymore.

( found that how rounded off the side of the nut facing the headstock is can affect the pressure )

This was good info.

NateBuildsToys
NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
2 months ago
76 posts

Wow this dulcimer leaves me curious about many things. The combination of a zero fret, nut, and nails to space the strings is very bizarre to me since the strings did not touch the zero fret and the nut was not spacing them. It seems like all the nut is really doing is preventing the strings from touching the zero fret. I would think having that big of an inaccuracy at the very beginning of the fretboard would change the vsl and ruin the intonation. Obviously this can be easily fixed by reducing the height of the nut with sanding, but it does make me wonder, did the builder just shim something over the 0 fret like you did the entire time they owned it, or has this instrument been out of tune its whole life?

By the way on the topic of the direction of the nut, I have found that how rounded off the side of the nut facing the headstock is can affect the pressure it puts on the string at its breakpoint. The more rounded it is, the better the pressure of the string is dispersed across it, however when you put the nut in backwards, this can put a lot of pressure on one single point where the string breaks away from the nut toward the headstock, which can affect tuning stability and cause more string breaks at this point.
I don't think it's the biggest deal ever, but when I tested this by putting new strings on a dulcimer and seeing how high I could tune it before the strings broke with different nut shapes, I found that a nut with a squared off side facing the headstock broke at that point at a much lower tension than a rounded off one.

marg
@marg
2 months ago
568 posts

Update:

I Always like making a new (for me) dulcimer mine. This one had the rounded-off plug of wood where a hole had been bored into the scroll (I think Patrick's grandfather just didn't finish this part) anyway, I didn't like the look of the plug. While thinking of what I can do -

I inserted a fleur de lis  ⚜️🎶💓

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
2 months ago
812 posts

Bob:

Yes but it doesn't really matter since it has a Zero fret.

I beg to differ Bob. Aesthetically, it makes a difference. It just looks better when the rounded portion of the top faces away from the fret board. Also, it makes it easier to gauge the depth of the string slots for the strings to ride on that zero fret.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Bob
Bob
@bob
2 months ago
88 posts

Ken Longfield: On that particular dulcimer, the nut is installed backwards.

Yes but it doesn't really matter since it has a Zero fret.

marg
@marg
2 months ago
568 posts

(may be a modified kit)

Interesting idea. 

(rounded-off plug of wood was glued )

What would be the idea to 'bored in the scroll' only to glue a plug of wood (not something more decorative)? An idea starts but then changes needed? Maybe he was thinking of carving something but time ran out & just glued till he could get around to carving the plug.

  How ever this grandfather built the dulcimer - kit or not, he did well. I'm still thinking the high action and the 3 strings close together, he had to be using a noter.

thanks again,

m

  


updated by @marg: 07/27/21 09:32:51PM
Skip
Skip
@skip
2 months ago
291 posts

It's not necessarily a kit. It may be a modified kit, made from scratch or with made from a variety of purchased parts.

marg
@marg
2 months ago
568 posts

( large hole was bored in the scroll, and a rounded-off plug of wood was glued into it.)

yes, but not all the way through - Do kits do the scallop raised fretboards? Lots different from a regular kit.

(eliminated the nails)

I think the nails were there to hold the 3 strings close together the 2 melody & the middle string -  maybe for playing with a noter. The Bass was where it belonged. 

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 months ago
1,485 posts

Ken Longfield: On that particular dulcimer, the nut is installed backwards.

Nice catch, @ken-longfield! I guess they don't call you "eagle eyes" for nothing!




--
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
John C. Knopf
John C. Knopf
@john-c-knopf
2 months ago
276 posts

That scroll design is unique in my experience.  Looks as if a large hole was bored in the scroll, and a rounded-off plug of wood was glued into it.

marg
@marg
2 months ago
568 posts

(the nut is installed backwards) Not sure Ken if you meant besides sanding to also turn the nut around or switch out with the bottom bridge but I did turn it around and those two things seems to take care of  things. 

Thanks again guys,

m

Still the mystery of the kit, it does seem to have the leaves of Cripple Creek and the same nut & bridge but not the head scroll (circle on the sides - different) or the raised fretboard, or wooden knobs - hmmm

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
2 months ago
812 posts

On that particular dulcimer, the nut is installed backwards. When it was built slots.should have been cut in the nut to space the strings. That would have eliminated the nails. I would sand down the bottom of the nut so that it is not so high and cut slots in the nut. You want the slots deep enough for the strings to ride on top of the zero fret.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Skip
Skip
@skip
2 months ago
291 posts

I think I would check the tuning before doing anything. Check using the 0 fret as the starting point then using the nut as the starting point. The frets should only be correct using one or the other. There is a significant difference in string length there. It may have been set up to use a slide, as in dobro style

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 months ago
1,485 posts

marg: Would I slit the nut or sand the bottom to lower it so the strings touch the 0 fret? I'm better at sanding some off the bottom, don't that.

Marg, I'll let the builders answer that question.  I would think that if the distance between the 0 fret and all the strings were the same, you might consider sanding the bottom of the nut.  But if that distance varies, you might also need to deepen the slits.

The good news is that you don't have to be so precise to the left of the 0 fret. If the frets (including the 0) are set up correctly, they should come off the 0 fret and the action and intonation should be good.




--
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
marg
@marg
2 months ago
568 posts

(the strings should touch the 0 fret)

Would I slit the nut or sand the bottom to lower it so the strings touch the 0 fret? I'm better at sanding some off the bottom, don't that.


updated by @marg: 07/26/21 07:45:43PM
marg
@marg
2 months ago
568 posts

Thanks Dusty,

Yes Cedar Creek, cripple Creek but the head scroll is different & it has the raised scallop fret board. 

Don't need who made the dulcimer but what kit it's may be from - and back in the 90's if that is different then kits now.

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 months ago
1,485 posts

I can't help identify the maker of the kit, but I would bet those little nails by the nut are to help space the strings appropriately, since the can come in at any number of angles off the tuners.

Yes, the strings should touch the 0 fret.  The strings should vibrating between the 0 fret and the bridge.  There should be no space between the strings and the 0 fret.

I've seen those leaves and hummingbirds on several dulcimers, not just Cedar Creek.  It looks nice in general.




--
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
marg
@marg
2 months ago
568 posts

Someone's grandfather made this dulcimer sometime maybe in the 90's from a kit.      Can anyone tell who's kit it's made from? The case has a McSpadden sticker on it but that doesn't necessary mean it's their kit. Also there are leaves & hummingbird more like Cedar Creek.  Lots of photos and a raised scallop fret board - hope these clues help.

Questions also:

Why are there little nails to hold the strings in place up at nut?

The strings coming off of the nut, are they suppose to ride over the 0 fret (touch or above)? Maybe the slits were not cut into the nut - therefore high action and off a bit up at the 6+ fret. (I place a small stick under the strings up at 0 fret - that helps the tuning up the fret board - so maybe I just need the strings to ride over the 0 fret?)


updated by @marg: 07/26/21 07:21:57PM