Rebuilding an old Hungarian Citera

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Peter Bryan
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Joined: Sat Mar 14, 2020 4:06 pm

Rebuilding an old Hungarian Citera

Post by Peter Bryan »

I am new to the MIMF so I'll start by saying "Hello" to everyone.

My daughter found this old Citera at a garage sale and bought it for me. Though I've had some experience with guitars, and autoharps, this is the first time I've ever seen a Citera. I am interested in where I might be able to find parts (if you look at the pictures I'll attach, you can see some of the tuning keys are in terrible shape and some are broken off in the body). I also have no idea what kind of strings this instrument takes. They look almost like banjo strings.

As you can see from the pictures, this instrument only has a single fretboard, unlike most that I have seen that have a double fretboard.

Any help or advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers,
Peter
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Jim McConkey
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Location: Way north of Baltimore, MD

Re: Rebuilding an old Hungarian Citera

Post by Jim McConkey »

Welcome to the Forum, Peter!

Very similar to some old German hummels. Most modern instruments use square tuning pegs. I don't know anyone who makes these flat ones. You might have to take a hammer to the end of a screw and make your own.

The strings, at least over the fretboard, would be very similar to modern dulcimer strings, I would guess 0.008 to 0.020" kind of range. There are on-line string calculators you can use, if you know the pitch. The drones are probably bigger, but I don't know how they were tuned. What is the length of the instrument between the two rods at the ends? See below for some links on tuning.

Try just plain water, or with a couple drops of mild dish soap to clean the instrument up. Just wet the surface and rub with a rag, then wipe off all excess moisture.

Here are a couple resources on tuning:

https://books.google.com/books?id=ge1Ee ... ra&f=false

http://www.afolk.hu/bolt/index.php/en/T ... ither.html
MIMForum Staff - Way North of Baltimore

Peter Bryan
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Joined: Sat Mar 14, 2020 4:06 pm

Re: Rebuilding an old Hungarian Citera

Post by Peter Bryan »

Thanks very much, Jim. I will check out the links you sent and continue my research before I start disassembling the instrument.

In answer to your question about the size...32" long, 8" wide at the base narrowing to 5 1/2" at the head, and 2 3/4" deep. There were 19 tuning pegs, some of which are broken off in the head. Strings were held in place at the base with very small pins (similar but smaller than those used to hold the strings of an "A" type autoharp.

Many thanks,
Peter

Peter Bryan
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Joined: Sat Mar 14, 2020 4:06 pm

Re: Rebuilding an old Hungarian Citera

Post by Peter Bryan »

With your helpful links I have determined that what I have is a Great "C" citera.
Thanks again,
Peter

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Jim McConkey
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Re: Rebuilding an old Hungarian Citera

Post by Jim McConkey »

Is your 32" length the whole instrument, or just between the bridges (the metal rods across the top and bottom)? You need the distance between the rods.

To figure out the string gauges, the most obvious first choice is to measure the strings that are on there, if you have a caliper. If you can measure those, I would first use a string calculator like this: http://www.mcdonaldstrings.com/stringxxiii.html to determine what the tension is on each string. It should probably be in the 10-20 lbs kind of range, and you want it to be similar for most strings.

Then, you can use this calculator https://wahiduddin.net/calc/calc_guitar_string.htm to put in the pitches for each string and it will tell you what size strings to use. You probably need ball-end strings (any guitar store will have them, or order at LMII, Stew-Mac, etc.) to fit the pins, but check your pin sizes.
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Peter Bryan
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Joined: Sat Mar 14, 2020 4:06 pm

Re: Rebuilding an old Hungarian Citera

Post by Peter Bryan »

The length between the bridge rods is 26 1/2". There are only 4 strings left on it. 2 are on the fretboard and are .015. 2 are outside the fretboard and are .035 Also, the pins where the strings fit are actually tiny finishing nails (I'm pretty sure this was hand made) with heads. The strings that are on it have no ball ends. Whoever built this has just looped the string around the pins and put twists to hold them in place. I have a long way to go before I can start thinking about strings. I have to research where I can get pegs for a start. I also have to extract a few broken pegs from the headstock. I will have to research things like dulcimer pegs to see if they will fit. Lots to do. Anyway, thanks for the information. It will certainly come in useful when I reach that point.

Clay Schaeffer
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Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:04 pm

Re: Rebuilding an old Hungarian Citera

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

The pins look like they are hand made, and that may be what you will need to do to replace them. If the tuning pins are "stuck" heating them with a soldering iron may help to unstick them. You don't want to get them so hot they burn the wood. Where they are broken off flush with the wood and if you can't drill them out, it may be better to just drill a new hole for a new pin.
You can buy loop end strings or you can carefully crush the "balls" to make ball end strings have a small loop. You can also buy wire twisting pliers from Harbor freight to make loop ends in music wire.

https://www.harborfreight.com/search?q= ... g%20pliers

Peter Bryan
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Re: Rebuilding an old Hungarian Citera

Post by Peter Bryan »

Well, I am so grateful for the advice I'm receiving. Thanks, Clay for your suggestions. I have removed the old tuning keys. I had to drill out one of the broken ones and have bored out the hole that it was in. I will fill it with a dowl and then redrill the hole. The old keys were 1/4" diameter so standard or even oversized zither pins will not work. I'll probably drill the holes a little larger and use piano tuning pins which are approximately 7.1 mm.

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