Travel Dulcimer string angle issues

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
2 weeks ago
1,125 posts

Since I'm coming into this discussion rather late, all of my suggestions except one have been offered. If you go to the trouble of angling the end block under the peg head, you could angle the end of the peg head to fit flat against the fret board. You could flatten out the top of the peg head by the fret board to place the nut on or cut a dado to accept the nut. This probably the most work intensive suggestion.

And as Ken Hulme said, "Keep us posted - show us your solution."

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
3 weeks ago
2,137 posts

Keep us posted -- show us your solution...

mackelroy
@mackelroy
3 weeks ago
5 posts

John: Thank you for the advice on materials. You have confirmed some ideas for me.

Ken: Now THAT is a solution I'd have not thought of. So simple. I had thought about cutting an angle into the headblock and creating a new tuning head, but your photo has me thinking now.

Nate: You are absolutely correct that's what it's doing - pulling the strings down over the zero fret. Same general concept as Fender string trees, but it just introduces such a harsh bend in the strings that I believe is contributing to the middle string in particular going out of tune almost immediately.

You all have been helpful. I have some things to think about with this little gal.

John C. Knopf
John C. Knopf
@john-c-knopf
3 weeks ago
404 posts

Mackelroy, you could use several materials for the nut.  Bone, ebony, rosewood, Micarta, even brass.  Tennessee luthier John Maxwell even used clear plastic, though I don't know why.  You can get bone blanks at Guitar Center or an old-school music store.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
3 weeks ago
2,137 posts

Lots of things you could do, certainly.   Personally I would saw the tuning head and headblock on a downward angle, drill 4 new holes, and install autoharp tuning pins as tuners.  This is what Bobby Ratliff did on his Cumberland Travel Dulcemore that I won in a TTAD contest a couple years back. 

Those tuning pins are tapped into pilot holes, and thread the hole as you turn them to screw the pin deeper into the wood.  They hold tuning very well, and are easily adjusted using a clock key or autoharp tuning wrench.  Best of all, they only cost about 40¢ each.  

Bobby's tuninghead.jpg

NateBuildsToys
NateBuildsToys
@nate
3 weeks ago
278 posts

It looks to me like the spacer is not only meant to keep the strings at their correct distance, but also is meant to pull them down over the zero fret. That is why the strings are going through holes, and not just resting over the top like an actual nut.

mackelroy
@mackelroy
3 weeks ago
5 posts

I appreciate the advice. I have some new strings on order, and will try to do that. That faux nut/string spacer is going to be replaced as well. I want the strings to go over it, not through it as they currently do. . I have experience making/shaping nuts for guitars. Is there a preferred material for making one?

John C. Knopf
John C. Knopf
@john-c-knopf
3 weeks ago
404 posts

It might help if the strings were wound around their posts right at the surface of the peghead, rather than around the beveled area by the holes.  You would have to hold each string down at the peghead surface as you tighten them.  This could give you a few more degrees of break angle.  The straight peghead-mounting design is not beneficial to proper string action. 

mackelroy
@mackelroy
3 weeks ago
5 posts

Nothing wiggles. But if you were to snug it up to the fretboard, it’d bind the strings. Whatever the solution is, it almost has to include a different string spacer. 

NateBuildsToys
NateBuildsToys
@nate
3 weeks ago
278 posts

My mistake I thought the nails were screws. Are the nails loose? It visually looks like the spacer is meant to be flush with the edge of the fingerboard, but has been pulled out of place and tipped over by the force of the strings.

mackelroy
@mackelroy
3 weeks ago
5 posts

The “nut” is nailed to the fretboard. And if you look closely, you can see that the strings go through it, not over it. It’s being used as a string spacer. I would hope that wasn’t the maker’s design, but I also can’t tell you it wasn’t. The string angles coming from the tuning posts are not great. They’re tall posts, and you’d have to wind the string way down them to get an angle approaching “acceptable,” IMO.  

NateBuildsToys
NateBuildsToys
@nate
3 weeks ago
278 posts

if you were to tighten those screws, would the nut be upright and flush with the end of the fingerboard? It seems to be leaning pretty dramatically toward the zero fret and the screws look pretty loose. Maybe is just needs to be re-secured

NateBuildsToys
NateBuildsToys
@nate
3 weeks ago
278 posts

Is that "nut" screwed into the fretboard?? Thats a.....creative.....solution..... 

I think it would be simpler to replace the string spacer bar than to replace the tuners. Theoretically, if the spacer bar is lower than the 0 fret, it shouldn't matter that the tuners are higher than the spacer. The only challenge is anchoring the spacer to the headstock well enough that force from the strings doesnt lift the spacer up.

Lots of options for that, good luck!

Nate

mackelroy
@mackelroy
3 weeks ago
5 posts

I was gifted a dulcimer recently, and it's got me interested in learning this instrument. However, upon looking at this particular model, it's got some... quirks. In turn, I have questions. The label inside says it was made by a fellow named Walt Kirby out of Oklahoma City. I think he is no longer living (based on a quick google search). Anyway, it's a travel-size, teardrop dulcimer that in many ways seems solidly constructed. However, the string angle coming off the headstock needs addressing. Seems ol' Walt, or some subsequent owner, tried to remedy it by making strange use of a wooden nut. See the pics attached.

As you can imagine, this affects the instrument's ability to hold tune. I'm looking for advice on how to address this. Is it as simple as swapping the tuning machines out for low-post versions? Or, does it need more drastic attention? Ideally, I'd like to be able to put a different nut on that guides the strings, but sits lower than the zero fret. I'm open to ideas.