Has anyone ever tried making their own strings?

If it's not a guitar or a bass guitar discussion, and it's got strings, put it here.

Has anyone ever tried making their own strings?

Postby Liam McGillivray » Thu Feb 08, 2018 3:12 pm

Has anyone here ever tried winding their own strings?

https://youtu.be/YbizZatTilU
https://youtu.be/4_MVOZnhLVc

Seeing those videos, I suppose it wouldn't be terribly difficult to make a string winder and wind some strings with wire if you didn't mind it being rough, although it would likely take significantly more effort to make them with precise, even spacing.

I was thinking that I might attempt this if I needed extra-long strings. The longest electric bass strings I could find are for a scale length up to 40". Upright basses have a 41" scale length, but there's a smaller variety of string types available for those. I haven't found anywhere to buy strings longer than that, so that might require custom strings.

But making custom strings could give you more options. You can use as many windings as you like in materials such as stainless steel, nickel-steel, nickel, cobalt, copper, bronze, brass, aluminium, aluminium bronze, silver. You can also make each layer roundwound, flatwound, polished or ground-wound (although it might be hard to evenly grind at them).
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Re: Has anyone ever tried making their own strings?

Postby Bob Orr » Thu Feb 08, 2018 3:43 pm

No I don't think so and for good reason. I think the tooling costs for a set up that would produce anything remotely usable would be prohibitively expensive unless you were going to sell thousands of them.
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Re: Has anyone ever tried making their own strings?

Postby Bryan Bear » Thu Feb 08, 2018 4:00 pm

I bet somewhere on the internet a similar answer answer has been given when someone asked if anyone considered making their own acoustic guitar. I'm not disagreeing with you Bob; I can't imagine making my own strings either. But, people do amazing things all the time. I do think it would be more likely if the motivation was born out of wanting to do it not wanting to make it practical or profitable.
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Re: Has anyone ever tried making their own strings?

Postby Charlie Schultz » Thu Feb 08, 2018 5:20 pm

There was a discussion "Over-Wound Strings Breaking" on HPSCHD-L back in November of last year that got into making overwound strings.

You can find the archives here: https://list.uiowa.edu/scripts/wa.exe?A0=HPSCHD-L but I'm not sure if you have to subscribe to the list or not (it's free).
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Re: Has anyone ever tried making their own strings?

Postby Jim McConkey » Thu Feb 08, 2018 5:55 pm

Our old staff member, Amy, once made her own gut strings and described the process here (probably still in the Library), but I can't remember anyone trying metal strings here.

Have you looked at electric double bass strings? D'Addario makes some. Double bass strings should be long enough for extra-long standard basses.
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Re: Has anyone ever tried making their own strings?

Postby Barry Daniels » Thu Feb 08, 2018 6:44 pm

I believe you have to draw the line somewhere. My line is building everything except for strings and tuning machines, and most of my tools. However, I do make my own jigs and guitar specific tools.

We once had a new member show up on the MIMF that kept going further back with the technology. He started with wanting to make guitars, then tools including a bandsaw. He finally jumped the shark with talking about mining ore to build the bandsaw. I don't think he actually built anything.
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Re: Has anyone ever tried making their own strings?

Postby Bryan Bear » Thu Feb 08, 2018 7:04 pm

Barry Daniels wrote:I believe you have to draw the line somewhere. My line is building everything except for strings and tuning machines, and most of my tools. However, I do make my own jigs and guitar specific tools.

We once had a new member show up on the MIMF that kept going further back with the technology. He started with wanting to make guitars, then tools including a bandsaw. He finally jumped the shark with talking about mining ore to build the bandsaw. I don't think he actually built anything.


Yep, everyone has to decide for his or herself where that line it. I find myself having to redraw that line when my imagination gets going. I feel an internal pull that is trying to get me into blacksmithing. I have to keep reminding myself that I don't have enough time for the hobby I have, I don't need a hobby that will allow me to make custom tools for the first hobby. That said, I can completely understand if someone else were to go that route just as I can understand when someone buys something that could be easily made.

I missed the mining ore for a bandsaw threads. I'd like to read those. I have plenty of time for smelting while I wait for my next guitar top to grow. I planted it last week.
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Re: Has anyone ever tried making their own strings?

Postby Barry Daniels » Thu Feb 08, 2018 9:39 pm

Ha!
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Re: Has anyone ever tried making their own strings?

Postby Randolph Rhett » Fri Feb 09, 2018 2:17 pm

Barry Daniels wrote:We once had a new member show up on the MIMF that kept going further back with the technology. He started with wanting to make guitars, then tools including a bandsaw. He finally jumped the shark with talking about mining ore to build the bandsaw. I don't think he actually built anything.


Anti-depressants can really mess with your mind. Just sayin'...
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Re: Has anyone ever tried making their own strings?

Postby Barry Daniels » Fri Feb 09, 2018 4:58 pm

Ha! That is consistent with my diagnosis.
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Re: Has anyone ever tried making their own strings?

Postby Daryl Kosinski » Sat Feb 10, 2018 6:16 pm

Long ago I built a 2 string fixed neck washtub bass. I used weed wacker line. A single one for the high string. The lower string was 2 pieces of the same line twisted together with a electric drill. A lot of stretch but after a while it worked well.
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Re: Has anyone ever tried making their own strings?

Postby Alan Carruth » Sat Feb 10, 2018 7:16 pm

I made some twisted brass or bronze strings for the English guittar I built some years back. They were pretty authentic, and worked OK. I've used fish line oon small harps, too. I've often thought about making a sort of 'serving hammer' to make overspun strings, but have so far resisted the temptation.
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Re: Has anyone ever tried making their own strings?

Postby Liam McGillivray » Wed Feb 14, 2018 5:00 pm

Barry Daniels wrote:I believe you have to draw the line somewhere. My line is building everything except for strings and tuning machines, and most of my tools. However, I do make my own jigs and guitar specific tools.

You're right that a line must be drawn somewhere. But would winding the strings really take more work than building the guitar (or whatever the instrument is) itself? I'm sure it would be very difficult if you wanted to assure an even distribution of the strings mass. But if you didn't mind doing a more rough job, judging the eveness only by eye, then I suspect that it could be even less effort than making an acoustic guitar.

Maybe that's not true if you're already very used to building guitars. I suppose it's a slightly different skill-set. But since you already make some of the tools for making guitars, you might be able to make a winding machine using a steel axle longer than the string being made, a pair of gears at each end, some wood to hold it together etc. It would take significant effort, but I doubt that it's ridiculously hard compared to building your first guitar.
I can imagine someone who makes their own strings saying "I wouldn't build an entire guitar. I must draw the line somewhere."

I don't know yet if I'm going to attempt to make my own strings. The issue is that the winding machine I make would probably just sit at my hackspace unused afterward. I might manage to make a temporary one using two stepper motors (one on each end of the string) instead of using a steel axle to make both ends rotate.

If I could make a custom bass string, I would want it to have a nickel-steel alloy for the inner windings and brass for the outer winding, making it usable for magnetic pickups while the higher density and flexibility of the brass would allow the strings to be thinner for a given note, and more flexible.

Alan Carruth wrote:I made some twisted brass or bronze strings for the English guittar I built some years back. They were pretty authentic, and worked OK. I've used fish line oon small harps, too. I've often thought about making a sort of 'serving hammer' to make overspun strings, but have so far resisted the temptation.

Twisted strings? I have thought about the idea before, but have never seen them. They must be easier than making true wound strings. How do they sound? Are they very flexible?
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Re: Has anyone ever tried making their own strings?

Postby Clay Schaeffer » Thu Feb 15, 2018 1:18 pm

www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_Cwe_pz0Uo

Here is a very good video of some Japanese ukulele enthusiasts visit to Aquila strings (captions in hiragana). Toward the end you see overwound strings being wound by hand. The workman doing it says they are more uniform than machine wound strings. I'm sure he has had a lot of experience doing them and has become expert at it.
The tooling looked fairly simple overall, and not to difficult to replicate. Hand made strings, like hand spun yarn might be a fun "artisanal" craft. (and maybe more profitable than guitar making <g>)
Making your own tools can be a fun thing to do, but as has been said, you have to draw the line somewhere. Making a plane or spokeshave you will have much longer than the things you build with them is not irrational. I built a machinists style tool chest using bubinga that I will probably hand down to one of my children. Our hobbies don't always have to turn out "product".
Again, string making doesn't look like it is too far beyond what an interested amateur could accomplish and might be in relation to guitarmaking as fly tying is to bamboo rod making ( another tangent you might like to go off in, Bryan :lol: )
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Re: Has anyone ever tried making their own strings?

Postby Clay Schaeffer » Thu Feb 15, 2018 1:44 pm

Another video-
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iTasqplOtQ
www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRQq_0VM110


You can buy washed intestines used for sausage casings at some meat processors and butcher shops. My father used to make his own sausage - another tangent to go off on.
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Re: Has anyone ever tried making their own strings?

Postby Liam McGillivray » Thu Feb 22, 2018 6:07 am

Clay Schaeffer wrote:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_Cwe_pz0Uo
Here is a very good video of some Japanese ukulele enthusiasts visit to Aquila strings (captions in hiragana).

Correction: The subtitles are written in Japanese; a combination of the Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji alphabets. I can read kana myself, but not kanji. I'm still better off listening to it in English.

It's interesting when at 8:00 they say that all the world's string makers have families that come from the same place. Given how easy it looks, I'm somewhat surprised by this. But I suppose the companies that are biggest tend to be the first to enter the business.
I copied the Katakana spelling from the subtitles to try to find the spelling of the places name, but didn't find anything. Not "Sala Vecchia", nor "Sale Vecchia", but it must be something with "Vecchia" as that word does come up in search results. The closest I could find was Bussana Vecchia; a former ghost town abandoned due to an 1887 earthquake, and repopulated in the 1960's by a community of artists. Interesting...

Clay Schaeffer wrote: Toward the end you see overwound strings being wound by hand. The workman doing it says they are more uniform than machine wound strings. I'm sure he has had a lot of experience doing them and has become expert at it.

You're right; It didn't look too difficult. Making the machine doesn't look too complicated and operating it also looks rather simple. I noticed that he made a string with space between the winding, which must give it more flexibility.


On another note. What are some good strings to use for long-string instruments? I know that you can just use plain steel wire if you want thin strings. But for thicker strings, like wound strings? It seems like some such as this one use steel wire rope. Is there any wound (music) strings available in extra long lengths? If there isn't, it's probably because it would require a bigger winding machine to make them.
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Re: Has anyone ever tried making their own strings?

Postby Bryan Bear » Thu Feb 22, 2018 12:16 pm

Clay Schaeffer wrote: Again, string making doesn't look like it is too far beyond what an interested amateur could accomplish and might be in relation to guitarmaking as fly tying is to bamboo rod making ( another tangent you might like to go off in, Bryan :lol: )


Luckily for me, I don't care much for fishing <G> I could see myself forging the hooks though. Darnit, there I go again!
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Re: Has anyone ever tried making their own strings?

Postby Clay Schaeffer » Fri Feb 23, 2018 11:03 pm

"What are some good strings to use for long-string instruments?"

Moderately long (40") overwound strings can be had from those who sell Harp guitar strings - www. Harpguitarmusic.com

Liam,
You are right they did throw some kanji and katakana in there too . I only glanced at the first few subtitles.
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Re: Has anyone ever tried making their own strings?

Postby Liam McGillivray » Thu Mar 08, 2018 4:32 am

Clay Schaeffer wrote: Moderately long (40") overwound strings can be had from those who sell Harp guitar strings - www. Harpguitarmusic.com

Thank you. 40" is a relatively long scale length, but not enough to be classified as a "long string instrument". True long-string instruments are never handheld, and have scale lengths often over 5 metres. They may be a temporary set-up with string being stretched between walls, trees, fences, etc. They may also be permanently installed into a building. Ellen Fullman is famous for playing a long-string instrument.

A music shop I recently entered had a chair with strings on the sides to be played. One person sits inside to listen, while another stands outside to play the strings. Two of the strings were wound, and must have been even longer than 40"/1m. I wonder where they get those.
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Re: Has anyone ever tried making their own strings?

Postby Carl Peberdy » Sat Mar 10, 2018 8:20 am

Re twisted strings:

I suspect this is not the kind of thing you want, but it does give an idea of the sound while also offering an alternative method of tuning!

http://barthopkin.com/instrumentarium/twist-harp/

I have also seen instruments using 'twine', for want of a better word.

Denis Havlena also illustrates how he makes wound strings - amongst a great deal of other things!

http://dennishavlena.com/make-stg.htm I'm sure I've seen this method explained elsewhere, but can't think where at the moment.


Cheerio,

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