Yes, that is correct as Skip said.
"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."
OK, here's a photo of my (I think) following instructions on creating a new, larger loop. Larger one to the left, original one to the right. Have I got it now? (and I want to thank every experienced person whose patience I have tried about what may be a very simple solution to my problem)
Yes, technically, but the only one you fit over the peg is the one you make. You could cut the string but I'v never been able to make a new loop that doesn't come apart. The homemade ones I've seen have about a 1/2" tail perpendicular to the string to help prevent that and the wraps are tight together.
Roy, Ken and Skip's suggestion is how I would handle the problem with the size of the loop. Put the non-loop end of the string through the loop, put over the end pin (knob, as you called it), and pull tight thus making a larger loop. It is a lot easier than trying to make a new loop. I suggest buying bulk strings from JustStrings.com. It is less expensive than having to buy sets all the time. Twelve 0.012 strings cost $4.03 plus shipping and you can get five 0.022 D'Addario strings for $12.26. I think that works out to 4 sets of strings for $16.49 plus shipping with a couple of extra 0.012s. BTW, you can also make larger loops using ball end strings buy looping the plain end of the string through the ball. Best wishes as you work to make this dulcimer playable. As I recall it has a beautiful sound.
"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."
Most strings I've bought for either dulcimers or banjos have at least 8" surplus length. I'd just clip off the loop and make a new loop right there. Use the pencil or a dowel to help make the loop around, and avoid making bends that are too sharp when you twist the end.
Something here might help:
you might use a screwdriver rather than a pencil if the loop is sized better that way.
So, two excellent ideas. If I can't file the knob down to more easily fit the loops, I'll try Strumelia's larger loop method. For wrapped, larger strings I'd have to use the unwrapped end that's meant to fit into the peg hole, rather than the wrapped end, I'd assume? Thanks
Why not just clip the loop off the end of the string and make a new larger loop? I've done that. Use a needle nose pliers and wrap the end of the string around a pencil and then make several twists using the pliers. cut the excess end off. avoid nicking the string with the pliers while bending or twisting the loop end.
Ok, I received the lighter strings today (Vega light banjo strings - 9, 10, 13, 20, 9). Promptly broke both 9's and the 20 trying to string them up. Interestingly, it wasn't while tuning - this dulcimer has one 3/16" diameter knob (sticking out about 1/4") on the bridge end on which to fit the string loops (as opposed to screws or multiple knobs). In order to do that, the loops have to be slightly stretched due to the size of the knob. That seems to sometimes weaken the loops, causing them to break. I think I saw banjo string sets that claim to have larger loops, so I might try them.
In addition, I slightly sanded the pegs, as Randy had recommended, only allowed for a few wraps before cutting off the excess at the pegs as Ken said, and installed the strings left to right - for some reason I had been connecting the bass string to what was the middle peg (see my prior photos). I'm back to 12, 12 and 22, in C G G tuning. The pegs seem to hold, but it's maddening to get them tuned just right, even to each other - I'm reading that that is an acquired skill.
So thanks to all of you, I'm getting there!
For wooden pegs that are slipping under tension, I agree with Lisa that the Original Ardsley Peg Drops are the way to go.
However, if your pegs are stuck and difficult to turn, a second product comes in handy. W.E. Hill Peg Composition helps to lubricate the shaft of the peg so it will tune smoothly. The peg compound comes in a small tube and it looks like a tube of chapstick. I find the Hill Peg Composition very good for restoring old pegs to usability. If you have an old peg that has "frozen" in position, you will first need to tap it back out of the peghead with a small hammer. The Hill Peg Compound can then be rubbed onto the peg shaft before re-inserting the peg into the peghole.
So for slipping pegs you want the peg drops. But for sticking pegs you want a tube of the Hill peg compound.
FWIW Roy, I always use PegDrops brand on my wooden pegs, and ONLY that. Everything I've tried has been too slippy. I make sure all other products are gone from the pegs completely, and then I follow the bottle instructions exactly, only like two drop per peg right in the spot where they touch the box as they spin, and spinning them there a bit. Then i let them 'cure' overnight before putting them to the test. They have liquid rosin in them and are just right for my wood peg banjos at high tension.
Roy, maybe you already know this but- a heavier string and a lighter string, if tuned to the same note over the same scale length, ...the heavier string will be tighter/tauter and the lighter string will be a little more relaxed. That's why it helps to go to a lighter string if the heavier string pulls so much that the pegs can't hold it.
28" is a 'slightly' long scale these days- many dulcimers are now built 25.5 to 27" vsl... which makes sense since dulcimers used to often be tuned to the key of C rather than today's standard key of D. It's not uncommon to see older dulcimer instruction books from the 1960s or 70s written for key of C tuning.
Tuning peg shafts are seldom very thick.
Full size (4/4) violin pegs are .25" at the tip
1/4 violin pegs are .23"
1/8 violin pegs (the smallest) are .196 at the tip
You can buy an inexpensive standard taper reamer for under $20 on Amazon (I think I paid $12) and standard violin pegs can be had from internationalviolin.com from $.95 each on up depending on size and wood. The standard taper matches the taper of standard violin pegs without any tweaking. All you do is insert the reamer in the large end of the hole, push gently and twist a couple times, test fit the new peg, and repeat as necessary.
For strings on 28"
D = .019 or .020 plain steel. You can use a .020 wound if you like
A = .012 or .014 plain steel
To both Ken's, on bass string recommendations - .018 or .020 plain, or .020 wound, for my 28" VSL? And yes, the tuning peg shafts are thin - looking at the possibility of replacing them, even violin pegs seem somewhat wider in diameter, which would require reaming the holes or sanding down the new pegs, neither of which I'd be comfortable doing. Even replacing them with Grover dulcimer tuners would require alterations. I agree with Ken Hulme that I should perhaps try to salvage the original pegs. Thanks
It really is a very nice dulcimer although, as I recall, the shafts of the tuning pegs are rather thin. I think dropping down to a 0.020 wound string for the D would be good. The 0.012 are about right for A, but you could try a 0.014 which is 0.001 heavier than the suggested string on the Strothers' String Size calculator. 0.012 is 0.001 lighter. You might be able to get away with a 0.011 or 0.010 if they don't get too floppy when tuned up to pitch.
"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."
Carl E. LaTray from Frankfort, NY 1969 #1. Never heard of him. Dulcimer Godmother Jean Ritchie (originally from Viper, KY) lived in Port Washington, NY and she & husband George Pickow made similar instruments at that same period of time. Co-incidence? I dunno.
Carl passed away in 2013. Here's a link to his Obituary, which says in part " Carl was also a skilled craftsman known for his beautifully created woodwork of dulcimers, guitars and various woodworking designs.
Carl LaTray Obituary (2013) - Utica, NY - The Observer-Dispatch (legacy.com)
That is a very fine "first build" dulcimer you have there. It would be interesting to see the last dulcimer he built!
The footed back is very traditional, it allows you to set the instrument on a "possum board" and then set it in your lap, which allows the back to vibrate and gives you more volume.
The arched fretboard was known in a few traditional dulcemores, but was pretty rare back in 1969. It isn't particularly common today but can be a functional "accent". The arches allow the fretboard to remain rigid but gives a significant reduction in mass, making the whole instrument lighter and more responsive.
Ken, I thought you might like to see more photos of my dulcimer. Attached are photos showing the label, back with feet, and a side view showing what I'm told is unusual, 'open' fretboard sides. Reminds me of a Roman aqueduct. There are openings cut in the dulcimer top, somewhat corresponding to these fretboard openings.
Thanks for the info, Ken. I happened upon this dulcimer four years ago at a guitar show, took it home cleaned it up and restrung it. Reading Jean Ritchie's books and other research explained what I had, in the way of staple frets, hand made pegs, etc. The label shows it was made by Carl E. LaTray, of Frankfort, NY, dated March 20, 1969, and he designated it "No. 1". Couldn't find much on him, except that he did make instruments as a hobby, and passed away in 2013, at the age of 85. The strings I currently have on it are D'Addario's, 12, 12, and a wound 22. I suspect they are too heavy for the instrument, which may contribute to the peg slipping problem (?). The VSL is 28" exactly. I didn't think I needed as many wraps around the pegs, but when I wrap less of the 22 gauge string it consistently snaps as I'm turning it up to tone, for some reason. I have actually tuned it as you suggest - a bit sharp and let it settle back to tone. Ken Longfield and I had been communicating on this forum some time ago about this instrument, and he took a look at it during a visit to my area. I'll try for lighter strings and less wraps if that's what you recommend. Thanks again.
That is a very nice older "Kentucky style" similar to a J.E. "Uncle Ed" Thomas dulcemore with staple frets under only the melody string -- thus intended strictly for Noter & Drone or Fingerdancing style play. There is no 6+ fret.
If you look through the rear sound holes with a flashlight, is there any sort of maker's label, or written name/date in the wood of the inside bottom?
Personally I would do everything possible to keep the original pegs functioning. Although they are "in the style of" I don't believe those are commercial pegs.
What is the VSL? That's what we need to determine which strings you'll need. Is the bass string wound? It's hard to tell. Many/most traditional dulcemores did not use wound bass strings, which contributes to the 'high silvery' sound of traditional dulcemores rather than the deeper more mellow tone of modern dulcimers.
You do not need all those wraps of string around the pegs. Through the hole and around twice is all that's necessary; then cut of the excess to avoid birds nests in the pegbox.
If you have a micrometer, you could mike the strings and see what is currently installed. But with the VSL and knowing you want to tune DAA, we can use a calculator to determine more exact gauges. However, for VSLs between 24-26", a pair of plain steel .012s for the melody and mid drone, and a plain .018 or .020 for the bass are a good place to start.
Tuning a bit sharp, with a push at the end to lock the peg is the technique I use. Then as you play a bit the strings stretch just a hair reducing the sharpness. Since we mostly play solo, the exact notes of the tuning are not super critical, although too sharp or too flat don't sound very sweet together.
What is your VSL (distance between nut and bridge)? String gauges are dependent on the VSL and the open tuning of the strings. I take it you're trying to tune DAA.
The age of your dulcimer isn't really a factor; but without a photo or two we can't tell whether the builder used hand-made pegs or regular commercial violin pegs.
I personally build several 24"-26" VSL dulcemore patterns, and use what are called 1/4 size Violin pegs and a standard violin taper reamer to taper the holes in the peghead. Those pegs are about the dimensions you mention, and they tune just fine to D and even E and high -- with appropriate gauge strings -- without any issues.
So I changed the (old) strings, sanded the pegs as suggested and applied a little paste. The pegs are a bit more usable, but still won't stay put at anything above C-G-G, and even that combination is actually flat (really B#-F#-F# - yes I know there's no B#). Should I perhaps try lighter gauge strings? I'm currently using D'Addario 12, 12 and 22w. Also, my dulcimer is a hand made instrument from 1969, with what seem to be pegs on the smaller side - 2" long shaft, but a diameter of 1/4" tapered down to 3/16". Thanks
Wooden friction pegs get polished slick and hard. Unpolish the pegs and the holes by scratching/roughing with sand paper. Don't sand any wood off! I forget what grit I've used but 80 or 100 may be good to start. If you are industrious and patient and work with finesse you can refurbish the pegs.