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.

Re: Has anyone ever tried making their own strings?

Postby Clay Schaeffer » Mon Mar 12, 2018 10:03 pm

www.amazon.com/Loos-Bronze-Strand-Break ... F32+inches

Another possibility. Stranded cable can be found down to 1/32 inch and in various alloys. For those odd musical creations it might work.
Clay Schaeffer
Posts: 1217
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:04 pm

Re: Has anyone ever tried making their own strings?

Postby Alan Carruth » Sat Apr 07, 2018 6:20 pm

Sorry to be so long getting back.

Those twisted strings sounded pretty 'normal', if you know what I mean.

In the early days with either plain gut or metal strings to only way to get a low note was to use a long string. Eventually the gut string makers found out that if you made them with a high twist they would work better when tuned low. In effect the twist angle lowers the Young's modulus, and also makes the strings less stiff, so they're less inharmonic. In the English guitar I used the same brass or bronze wire (I can't remember which alloy it was) for the two lowest courses, but twisted the lower ones more. This made the strings a little fatter, and much less stiff. Eventually, if you twist them too much, they break really easily.

It's also possible that twisted metal strings came from the practice of twisting a piece of wire more or less loosely around a gut core. Here the idea was to add mass without adding strength or stiffness. It's a short jump from there to twisting two metal strings together.

Metal wire was expensive. Being hand made it was also probably less uniform than we're used to; starting and stopping, and drawing at different speeds, could easily lead to stress risers and changes in diameter, either of which would make them less than satisfactory for musical instruments. OTOH, gut was expensive too: they used to say it took a whole sheep to string a lute, and it didn't hold up very well in humid environments. A metal string made of something like bronze, or even gold or silver (with a lot of alloy) might have been enough more durable to be worthwhile. 'Golden harps' are frequently mentioned in old ballads, but it's possible they meant 'harps with gold strings'. There is one that talks about a minstrel who retrieved the remains of a drowned maiden, and used them to make a harp: he used her 'golden hair' for the strings. When he got it down the harp sang about how the maid had been pushed into the water by her sister, at the sister's wedding, iirc. Welch harps did use horsehair strings, I believe. At any rate, early Irish and Scots harps were metal strung. It's not inconceivable that they would have used twisted strings in the bass; they were pretty low headed, and normally use over spun these days.

Harp string suppliers can make lots of different things, and at a price that's not too outrageous, considering.

If I were making overspun strings I'd probably use a miniature 'serving hammer' of sorts. These are used on sailing ships to wrap twine or light rope around a length of standing rigging, where it is likely to be chafed by another standing or running line. The 'serving' line is on a spool that is mounted to a board. The line runs over a pulley of some sort that incorporates a tensioning mechanism, such as the 'Scotch tension' that is common on spinning wheels. There are a couple of forks that fit over the rope that is to be served. Once the line is secured to the rope the line is pulled tight so that the forks ride on the rope. The tension is engaged, and the whole shebang is rotated around the rope to apply the serving line. This obviates the need for a lathe with two live centers to spin the rope/core, and can accommodate any length. I haven't tried this yet: I seem to suffer from no lack of projects, but see no reason why it would not work.
Alan Carruth
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Joined: Sun Jan 15, 2012 1:11 pm


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