StewMac tools

Newbie here, building a 5-chord fretless zither

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

Newbie here, building a 5-chord fretless zither

Postby Gary Shannon » Fri Apr 29, 2016 1:12 pm

I just discovered this forum, so I thought I'd introduce myself and my project. I'm 70 and retired, with almost no woodworking experience, and what little music knowledge I remember from taking piano lessons as a kid.

After building a cigar box guitar and discovering that my fingers are too fat and stubby to work on a fret board, I stumbled on a you tube video of Etienne de Lavaulx playing a fretless 5-chord zither and realized here's an instrument I can probably learn to play. So I found a beat up old wreck of a Menzenhaur model 2-1/2 on ebay with the idea of restoring it. Once I got it, however, I saw that it was a hopeless case. Back and soundboard not just split, but broken; pins loose in the pin block, paint flaking off, and so on. So instead, I decided to take it apart, measure the pieces, and build a copy from scratch. I wasn't worried about sacrificing the instrument since the model 2-1/2 was a cheap mass-produced zither sold in the Sears catalog around the early 1900s and even today, it's as common as dirt.

I picked up a 1" piece of maple wide enough for the widest piece at the local home improvement center and set to work cutting out the parts and pieces. I don't have much of a workshop, just a bench under the car port, and no power tools beyond a drill and a hand held jigsaw, so I'm using hand tools for almost everything. The original was 1" thick, but since I'm using standard 1-by two pieces laminated give me a thickness of 1-1/2 inches.

I don't have anything to show yet, but I plan to have the frame glued up and ready to photograph this weekend. Since I'm a beginner at this I'm probably making every mistake in the book, and discovering new mistakes to add to the book. But, hey, I'm having fun. And with a little bit of luck I will end up with a playable instrument.
Gary Shannon
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Apr 29, 2016 1:18 am

Re: Newbie here, building a 5-chord fretless zither

Postby Barry Daniels » Fri Apr 29, 2016 2:02 pm

Welcome Gary. Sounds like a fun project. You can still buy zither pins if you want to replace the old ones.
MIMF Staff
Barry Daniels
 
Posts: 1722
Joined: Thu Jan 05, 2012 10:58 am
Location: Houston, Texas

Re: Newbie here, building a 5-chord fretless zither

Postby Gary Shannon » Fri Apr 29, 2016 5:01 pm

Barry Daniels wrote:Welcome Gary. Sounds like a fun project. You can still buy zither pins if you want to replace the old ones.

Thank you. Yes, I already have new zither pins for it. And I used an online string calculator to work out the best string gauges for all 41 strings. They all came out, not unexpectedly, pretty close to the actual string gauges of the original rusted out strings.

I'm going to tune it according to a "modern" tuning I found, so some strings will be slightly different gauges than the original:

chords: C maj, A min, F maj, D min, G maj (4 strings per chord)
Melody strings (21 in all): 2 octaves of natural notes from low C to top C plus B flats, plus 2 notes below (A and B), and 2 notes above (D and E).

This one is very similar to my project, but it has 17 pairs of melody strings and mine has 21 single melody strings. https://youtu.be/XN1marQo8-8
Gary Shannon
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Apr 29, 2016 1:18 am

Re: Newbie here, building a 5-chord fretless zither

Postby Gary Shannon » Wed May 04, 2016 2:37 pm

Here's the body of the zither. I originally thought I'd use stain/varnish on the natural wood grain, but the birch plywood I used for the back and soundboard doesn't really have very nice-looking grain, so I'm going to go with the look of the original and go with a glossy black finish, with some kind of decorative design in white or gold.

Image


Image
Gary Shannon
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Apr 29, 2016 1:18 am

Re: Newbie here, building a 5-chord fretless zither

Postby Gary Shannon » Mon May 23, 2016 12:26 pm

This was both my first attempt at woodworking, and my first attempt at building an instrument. The project has reached the point where the most prudent thing to do is to scrap it and start over. While I've made quite a few mistakes, I've also learned what not to do next time.

I think I'll scale back my ambitions a bit and start over with something like a simple plucked zither along the lines of a kantele or a gusli with 10 or 15 strings.
Gary Shannon
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Apr 29, 2016 1:18 am

Re: Newbie here, building a 5-chord fretless zither

Postby Peter Wilcox » Mon May 23, 2016 12:40 pm

If your zither (a very ambitious project) is truly not salvageable, you might consider trying something like a mountain dulcimer as a learning project, and that can also be played with fat fingers. (Or you could try a fretless bass or Dobro type instrument.) :D

It can be simple like this, http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to- ... /?ALLSTEPS

or more complicated, depending on your skills and tools.
Maybe I can't fix it, but I can fix it so no one can fix it
User avatar
Peter Wilcox
 
Posts: 871
Joined: Sun Jan 08, 2012 1:31 am
Location: Northeastern California


Return to Other Stringed Instruments

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

Your purchase from these sites helps support the MIMForum, but only if you start at the links below!!!
Amazon music     Amazon books     Amazon tools     Rockler tools     Office Depot    

The MIMF is a member-supported forum, please consider supporting us with a donation, thanks!
 • Book store • Tool store • Links •