Repair of Zither (Harp Mandolin) ??????

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

Re: Repair of Zither (Harp Mandolin) ??????

Postby Caley Hand » Mon Jul 23, 2018 12:15 am

Well, disaster has struck as usual, when it comes to painting something. I have always had disasters when painting something. I was trying to paint the sides of the Zither, when I knocked over my paint, splashing the instrument with the black paint. Now I will have to basically paint the whole instrument again, black on the back and sides, and the goldish colour on the front. I will just have to come up with new decals of some sort, or if possible, use the pictures I have of it, and create new decals. Not sure I can do that, but I will try.
Of course, the disaster was not limited to the instrument, but to furniture and the floor. I just do not know why paint and I do not mix without some kind of disaster happening.. So, I will stop the posting until I come up with some solutions, and something that is worthy of writing, and putting up pictures on. Caley Ann
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Re: Repair of Zither (Harp Mandolin) ??????

Postby Karl Wicklund » Mon Jul 23, 2018 2:03 pm

Well, that sucks. I’m sorry it happened.

But looking on the bright side, if it’s truly unsalvageable, now you don’t need to worry about saving the original finish. Maybe it’s an opportunity to personalize?
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Re: Repair of Zither (Harp Mandolin) ??????

Postby Caley Hand » Tue Jul 24, 2018 2:46 pm

Karl, All isn't lost, thank goodness. At least I didn't drop it, and break it. The positive in all of this is that those cracks I repaired will disappear under the paint, except in one spot where the decal shows the key to the notes accross the intrument just below the sound hole.

I've looked at more vintage Zithers online, and found many have either black fronts, or are finished wood appearance. Since the one important graphic is untouched, the key to the strings, I am going to paint the remainder black. I have had a lot of difficulty painting, and not only the disaster I mentioned. I never have been able to use a brush, and not get brush strokes. My first coat of paint I ended up using 400 grit sandpaper to remove as many of the brush stroke ridges as I could, and still did not get it all done. I then used a sponge brush, and for the most part, things are pretty smooth, though still having some of the original brush ridges. But I guess it will do. I definitely like the black paint that Home Depot made by matching the original black on this instrument. I guess there is always one positive in it all.

Of course, you Guys will probably shudder at what kind of decals I am going to use, but like I said, there are many vintage Zithers out there, and a lot have floral graphics. I found 1/2x3 inch floral border graphics, and also one graphic that will be able to span the sound hole, a floral wreath like graphic. Anyway, waiting for the graphics to arrive. Meanwhile I am continuing painting, something not as difficult as when I started. Caley Ann
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Re: Repair of Zither (Harp Mandolin) ??????

Postby Jim McConkey » Tue Jul 24, 2018 3:10 pm

Caley, if you read around the boards here, there are tons of stories where chisel slipped at an inopportune moment, something set a little off-center while gluing, and any number of other problems. These things happen to all of us, even the ones who won't admit it. But what you will also find here is the ways that we have dealt with those problems. Good luthiers turn mistakes into features. An unplanned inlay not only covered the chisel slip, but also added a unique touch to the instrument. The off-center neck simply had a shape that matched the headstock cut into the end of the fretboard, which not only hid the off-centeredness, but also gave the instrument a stronger theme. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Use this as an opportunity to make the instrument your very own, and decorate to your tastes. You will appreciate the resulting instrument so much more.
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Re: Repair of Zither (Harp Mandolin) ??????

Postby Caley Hand » Thu Jul 26, 2018 9:50 pm

Gents, Like I have said before, painting is not something that I can do. I can put it on, but not very well, and the picture shows just how bad I am at it. It is painted, and that is almost telling a lie, as I am not a painter. Never could figure out how anyone can get a perfect finish with a paint brush.

I put felt pad feet on the back, instead of the brass tacks that the previous owner had on it. At least they are soft, and will not mar the surface it is put on.

Paint is black everywhere except for the strips of wood that the strings sit atop. Those are done in imitation gold leaf.

I am still waiting for my vintage floral waterslide decals. I am hoping the decal colours are vibrant enough to show on the black background. Caley Ann
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Re: Repair of Zither (Harp Mandolin) ??????

Postby Steve Sawyer » Fri Jul 27, 2018 2:59 pm

If you have an image you want to use, you can make a water-slide decal from it. Take it to a commercial printing facility (I have a FedEx Kinko's about two miles up the road) and have them print the image on a sheet of water-slide decal film, which can be gotten online or at a local hobby shop. They run about $3 per sheet when purchased individually, and be sure to get the laser-printing type, not the inkjet-printing type (unless you have a color inkjet and want to try printing it yourself).

I did this for the logo on the headstock of my first build, and many years ago I needed to duplicate the design on a switch plate on a Delta jointer I was restoring. That one I printed myself with a color inkjet printer, which I no longer have. I had the headstock logo printed at Kinko's. Both came out amazingly well!!
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Re: Repair of Zither (Harp Mandolin) ??????

Postby Caley Hand » Fri Jul 27, 2018 3:47 pm

Hi Steve, Like I have said before, I live in the boonies, and therefore do not have access to such wonderful things as printing facilities. Everything I do has to be done by myself, or somehow ordered online.

As for adequate photos of the original instruments graphics, they are inadequate to create a full front panel graphic. Yes, from what I can see, the entire front was somehow stencil paitned, or a decal stuck to it.

So, I am just going, and doing my own thing. This is no longer a restoration project. It is just getting the instrument back into a semblance of useable shape. Caley Ann

PS I need to find a tutorial on how to paint instruments, and do it not using house paint. That paint is just too thick aund rubbery.
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Re: Repair of Zither (Harp Mandolin) ??????

Postby Caley Hand » Mon Aug 06, 2018 7:54 pm

I waited almost two weeks for a set of decals. They finally arrived. Anf they did not work. They were totally invisible on the black background. So I decided to just stay with the border decals that are designed for ceramic and glass work. The results are pretty undferwhelming.

But I now can start on putting the strings back on. Have to redrill a couple of anchor pins that were basically sticking upwards. Then I have the fun of figuring out just which string goes where. Even with what I considered detailed notes on each string and location, nothing is a given when I am doing it.
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Re: Repair of Zither (Harp Mandolin) ??????

Postby Steve Sawyer » Mon Aug 06, 2018 8:13 pm

Caley Hand wrote:Hi Steve, Like I have said before, I live in the boonies, and therefore do not have access to such wonderful things as printing facilities. Everything I do has to be done by myself, or somehow ordered online.


Sorry - I should have mentioned that you can order the water-slide decal sheets online and print them on any inkjet printer if you (or anyone in your neighborhood that you know) have one. I did just that (back when I still had an ink-jet printer) with a switch plate for a machine I was restoring, and as you can see in the picture below, it came out amazingly well. Just be sure to order the water-slide film that is specific to ink-jet, not laser printing.

Switch_Plate1.jpg
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Re: Repair of Zither (Harp Mandolin) ??????

Postby Caley Hand » Mon Aug 06, 2018 8:24 pm

Steve, no idea why you are apologizing. Yes, I knew I could print my own, but you have to have the right brand of inkjet printer that uses the right kind of ink. Some laser printer ink does not do well when it gets wet, even after drying. The only way to use such a printer with runny ink is to have a can of spray stuff that basically seals the ink under sealer.

These are waterslide decals, so they can be removed with some effort without hurting what's beneath them. But before I go to the expense of purchasing the waterslide decal sheets, and the spray fixative, I need to research more graphics for these Zithers, and find a photo that is actually clear enough to use in a graphics program. So far I have found nothing but low and medium resolution photos.. CaleyAnn
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Re: Repair of Zither (Harp Mandolin) ??????

Postby Steve Sawyer » Mon Aug 06, 2018 8:44 pm

Caley Hand wrote:Steve, no idea why you are apologizing. Yes, I knew I could print my own, but you have to have the right brand of inkjet printer that uses the right kind of ink. Some laser printer ink does not do well when it gets wet, even after drying. The only way to use such a printer with runny ink is to have a can of spray stuff that basically seals the ink under sealer


Yes. I just used some rattle-can clear spray enamel that worked fine, though I did so AFTER sliding the decal onto the substrate and allowing it to dry.
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Re: Repair of Zither (Harp Mandolin) ??????

Postby Caley Hand » Wed Aug 08, 2018 12:26 am

Steve, Yup, used a rattle can of Polyurethane. I just sprayed from about 18 inches from four directions, and called it covered. I guess you would call that type of spraying, misting.

I am now on the final stretch. I put in the string retainer pins, and then the tuning pins. I've started putting the strings back on. Right now I am putting the thick ones back.

I have finally realized that piano wire is probably only good for wires under .030. From what I have read, the wires starting at that size are wound bronze type strings. So, those piano wires I purchased .030 and over will only be good for crafts.

I need to locate a website that lists all the sizes of wound type strings up to about .064, as I will more than likely need some. I've already had one wire give up the ghost. It was just too brittle to take the twisting. I am guessing that is probably normal for strings that are old, and have been stretched.

Might get the strings in by tomorrow, but tuning them might take some time, as this will be the first time I have ever done a tuning of a stringed instrument. CaleyAnn
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Re: Repair of Zither (Harp Mandolin) ??????

Postby Caley Hand » Wed Aug 08, 2018 5:01 pm

Newest on the Zither saga. I was going on in my usual slapshod manner, not understanding why I was not getting some strings placed properly (askew at an angle acreoss Zither face). Well, I finally got smart and counted the tuning pins, then the hitch pins, and discovered that not only do I have missing strings, but I also have a couple missing hitch pins.

Seems hitch pins are expensive when you include shipping. Does anyone recommend a substitute I can get from Homely Despotty?

Also, due to my discovering that my piano wires are really only good for about .020 and under, does anyone know of a source of music strings above that size, and wound music strings .030 and larger. Of course, these strings need to be able to be shortened to fit this instrument. I looked at guitar strings, and they do not look like they can be shortened

As for doing loops in the music wires, that did not require a special twist pliers tool. I just used my vise grips to hold the crossed wires in place, then used another set of pliers to twist the two wire ends a few times. I used a nail to make the proper sized loop.

Right now I have gotten in the frustration mode, so I am stopping work on this for a few days. I did manage to get 75 percent of the strings in place, though a few are anchored to the wrong hitch pins due to a few of those missing in action. Some of the strings I thought I had labeled, somehow lost their tags, so I am going to have fun trying to figure out where those strings go9. I am using the length method, where the string comes over the bridges, and then hits the tuning pins. They all have a bend at that point, and I am hoping my method of madness will work.

So, just waiting for you Guys to point me in the right direction of replacement strings, and hitch pin substiitutes. CaleyAnn
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Re: Repair of Zither (Harp Mandolin) ??????

Postby Bill Raymond » Thu Aug 09, 2018 2:12 am

Perhaps you could find some nails of the right diameter for hitch pins. Cut them to length with a diagonal cutters and file the cut end. Some guitar strings can be had with loop ends instead of ball ends, or you may be able to remove the "ball" from the loop in the end of the string.
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Re: Repair of Zither (Harp Mandolin) ??????

Postby Caley Hand » Thu Aug 09, 2018 10:06 pm

Bill, Thanks, that is just what I did this morning, and just happened to have a couple of the correct diameter. I just snipped them to the length I needed.

I went ahead and loosened the strings in preparation for having to move a few over to the correct anchor pins.

This Zither is really strangely setup when it comes to the string notes. I'm not sure how many strings a guitar has, but it seems they are grouped in four, with a thick string followed by decreasing diameter strings. There are four sets of strings like this. Then the last 34 strings are for the most part paired, with only two being individual strings. The pairs are of course one thicker and one thinner string, but the size difference lessens as you move to the right on the board. All of this is going to make figuring out what the missing strings sizes are interesting. I guess the important thing is trying to get each of those missing strings replacements to match the note on the chart on the front of the Zither.

One thing I have noted about the old strings is that many of them sound odd, not sharp like I hear from most instruments. I am wondering if these near 80 year old strings might just be stretched to the limit, and have lost their resonance, or whatever you would call it. I think I will be replacing them slowly, as I figure out what kind of strings will work on this instrument. I get the feeling it is going to be a lot of trialf and error when it comes to those strings over .020. CaleyAnn
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Re: Repair of Zither (Harp Mandolin) ??????

Postby Chris Reed » Fri Aug 10, 2018 5:31 am

Your zither has the notes for each string printed on the top, so you can reverse engineer the rough sizes you want from guitars and mandolins.

Go to this site, and find the calculator where you type in the scale length and it tells you the lengths of each string (it actually gives you the fret spacing, so you need to subtract from the scale length to find the right length.

http://liutaiomottola.com/formulae/fret.htm

A guitar is around 25.5 inches, so plug that in. You can now calculate the string lengths for 24 notes (same length for each string).

I'm guessing you want similar string tension to a Medium acoustic guitar set, which gives this table.

Lengths are in inches (decimal), strings 1-6 from a guitar set are:

(1-6_ Top E (plain) B (plain) G (plain) D (wound) A (wound) Low E (wound)



Code: Select all
       1  2  3  4  5  6
       12 16 24 32 42 53 (string gauge)
25.50  E  B  G  D  A  E
24.07  F  C  G# D# A# F
22.72  F# C# A  E  B  F#
21.44  G  D  A# F  C  G
20.24  G# D# B  F# C# G#
19.10  A  E  C  G  D  A
18.03  A# F  C# G# D# A#
17.02  B  F# D  A  E  B
16.06  C  G  D# A# F  C
15.16  C# G# E  B  F# C#
14.31  D  A  F  C  G  D
13.51  D# A# F# C# G# D#
12.75  E  B  G  D  A  E
12.03  F  C  G# D# A# F
11.36  F# C# A  E  B  F#
10.72  G  D  A# F  C  G
10.12  G# D# B  F# C# G#
9.55   A  E  C  G  D  A
9.02   A# F  C# G# D# A#
8.51   B  F# D  A  E  B
8.03   C  G  D# A# F  C
7.58   C# G# E  B  F# C#
7.16   D  A  F  C  G  D
6.75   D# A# F# C# G# D#
6.37   E  B  G  D  A  E


(G#=Ab, A#=Bb, D#=Eb, which your markings might say instead)

So, if you measure a string as 7.5 inches, then the table says that these string gauges could give you the following notes:

C# G# E B F# C# (this range covers 2 octaves)

You should be able to work out possibilities from this. Short strings should be thin, longer strings thicker. You can guess at intermediate sizes.

I'd say start with your shortest string , which I think is a high C from the picture. The thinnest string (12 gauge) gives you high C at 8.03 inches. If your short string is shorter, you'll want a thinner string, maybe 10 gauge. Basically, work out as close a fit as you can, and try some strings before you buy a big batch of wire in different sizes. You'll probably find that 8 or 10 sizes of wire will get you pretty close.

Hope this helps!
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Re: Repair of Zither (Harp Mandolin) ??????

Postby Caley Hand » Sat Aug 11, 2018 9:48 pm

Chris, Thanks for going to all that trouble. Unfortunately my Zither is not a guitar Zither. It is an oddball type called a Mandolin Zither. So, fret positions will not help.

What I need to do is figure out just what sized string goes into each string position. What I have done is create a chart containing all 46 strings. I labled each column as follows: String Number, String note printed on the graphic on the front of the Zither (to include the note about some strings being one to two octaves Lower than the associated string with the same note in that four note grouping), and I measured the length of the strings from bridge support to bridge support.

I really do not understand what part of the string actually does the majority of the resonating, but I am guessing between the bridge supports.

Here is how my strings are arranged. First are the groups of four: C<,G,C,E; G<<,G,B,F; F<,A,C,F; A<,A,C,E The "<", "<<" indicate the number of octaves lower.

Thewn the strings are paired for the following notes: C,C; D,D; E,E; F,F; G,G; A,A; B,B; C,C; D,D; E,E; F,F; G,G; A,A, B,B; C,C

The trick now is to figure out what sized music wire/string is need for each position based on the require note, and the length of the music wire/string, based on measurements on this Zither that go from 17.5 to 7.0625 inches. I am hoping that there is some kind of online calculator I can use to determine what I need based on what little information I have gathered from my notes and measurements. CaleyAnn

NOTE: I forgot to measure the diameter of each string that is already on the instrument. This may make things a bit easier when using online formulas. I also failed to note whether the note is created by a music wire (.020 and smaller), or a wound brass string (.022 and larger). So, more work to put on the chart before I can determine exactly what I need
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Re: Repair of Zither (Harp Mandolin) ??????

Postby Caley Hand » Sat Aug 11, 2018 11:06 pm

Finally got the music wire/String diameter measured. The old strings are very inconsistent when it comes to their diameter. But their placement tells me that they are grouped pretty much to size as the strings get shorter. On the longer strings whre I was missing a couple, I looked at the other strings in that area with the same note to either side, and came to the conclusion they are the same diameters also. In other words the note "C" on the right one is .026, and the one to the left is also .026, then the one between must be .026. I hope my logic is not flawed. The other strings that were missing were those on the right side of the Zither, and those were grouped in pairs for each note. So, after measuring everything, it was really easy to determine the wire/string diameter.

So I think I have solved the missing strings diameter requirements. Now I just have to find a dealer that sells bronze wound strings .022 through .080, and then make my order. I have decided that since these wires/strings sound flat, regardless of how I tune things, I am going to replace all of them with new ones. I just hope it is not my hearing that is defective. Actually I have been told I have pretty poor hearing, but am not deaf yet. :-) CaleyAnn
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Re: Repair of Zither (Harp Mandolin) ??????

Postby Chris Reed » Sun Aug 12, 2018 4:20 am

Caley, guitars and mandolins use the same wire. Just different lengths/diameters (and different ends to fix to the bridge or tailpiece).

So my table might help you here.

From your post, your shortest string is about 7 inches and is an E. The table suggests that (for acoustic guitar tension) an E string of 12 gauge should be 6.37 inches long. That's pretty close, and at 7.19 inches the same gauge sounds a D. So a 12 gauge string might work, but it would be rather taut compared to a guitar. An 11 gauge string should be very close.

Why don't you buy a single 11 gauge string by mail order (this will be long enough to make at least two strings of 7 inch length, possibly three). Or even cheaper overall, buy a set of cheap acoustic guitar light gauge strings, where the top E is 11 gauge (maybe $5 delivered?). This gives you six strings to try out in different positions.

Fit the thinnest (top E) to the zither, tune it up and play it. Does it sound right, or is it a bit floppy (which is likely to make the note you play sound a bit wobbly)?

If it's about right, you know you can use the table to work out the other string gauges, at least approximately. If a little floppy, you need a 12 gauge there.

Use the table to find out where other strings in the acoustic guitar set might work, and try them out there. If they work OK, you can estimate the missing sizes and buy them as individual strings.

The problem is going to be working out which octave you want at each position. For the lowest (longest) string, which is a C, you have two choices from my table - the thickest (53 gauge), or the 24 gauge G string. If the existing strings at that end are somewhere between 22 and 26 gauge, it looks like it's the 24 gauge string to try. Also, I doubt the thick string will fit the hole or slot in your zither pins!

This is just experimenting with your $5 set of guitar strings, to see what you need. But I think it should work pretty well.

And the notes it will give are largely in the mandolin range (except the longest strings, which I think are in the mandola range, next size up in the mandolin family).
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Re: Repair of Zither (Harp Mandolin) ??????

Postby Caley Hand » Sun Aug 12, 2018 1:53 pm

I finally decided to fill the empty slots with temporary strings. They are the correct diameter, but they are not quite what I want. I am still trying to determine just what kind of strings Zithers use nowadays. One lady, "ZitherGril" on YouTube showed how to put on a new string on an old Zither. The string was either silk, or nylon covered. Apparently not all strings are outwardly looking like metal. I now see plastic type strings, the ones with the nylon coverning, wound and unwond. Kind of confusing. I'm not quite sure what the general type string most commonly used is for Zithers.

I attached a photo of it, with all the missing strings filled in with nice silvery music wire. You can tell the difference in the photo. I am guessing all the others are quite oxidized, and need replacing.

This is only an experiment for me, trying to repair something that was probably not worth repairing. But I have learned more about these instruments, and hopefully I can continue to increase my knowledge. Mr. Garside(unfortmately deceased) had a video on how to make a simple Zither. I plan on making a few myself, but really want to make one that is higher quality. Also want to string it to the Munich type setting, instead of the Vienna. Apparently the Munich stringing is supposed to be easier to work with. I need to read more about this. But I think that these two setting are for guitar type Zithers that use a fret board. If I remember one video of someone playing this type, they basically used the four strings above the fret board, and occasionally strummed the other strings that I think are called Melody strings

I appreciate Everyone who has helped here. It has been fun. I always like doing something new and interesting. Once I have gotten more done on this instrument, I will post more. Thanks again. CaleyAnn
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