Replacing Hammered Dulcimer Strings
The most important thing to remember is to get no oil or silicon
on the tuning(wrest) pins, the pins are held in position in the wrest
plank by friction. Oil and silicon both can reduce friction, the peg
cannot then hold the string under tension and the instrument becomes
useless. Even if the pins show some rust, which they shouldn’t do not
apply either of these substances.
It is possible that the strings will show some rust
over time. They can be rubbed with grade 0000 wire wool. The same advice
applies to the pins.
Dust is best removed from under the strings by
brushing with a long bristled brush, this will loosen the dust which can
then be blown away. I have known people to use a thin item like a ruler
with a duster thinly covering it to wipe beneath the strings.
CHANGING A STRING
If you want strings replaced, but don’t want to do it
yourself, contact your local piano dealer. They will have the skills.
DOING IT YOURSELF
Strings require changing
only very infrequently.
If you want to do it yourself you must first obtain
the correct gauge of music wire. Supply a sample of the required string
to your local piano repairer. They are most likely to be able to oblige,
or alternatively they can be obtained from me. When the correct gauge
of string is obtained proceed as follows. Study the instrument carefully
to determine the string path. Follow the path from where it starts on
the topmost of the pair of wrest pins, left, over and under the bridge’s
(or visa versa) round the fixed pin, back under, and or over the
bridge’s to the bottom of the pair of wrest pins. Only when you are
confident should you go ahead.
Remove all traces of the old strings. You may find it
best to use some small long nose pliers for the task. You will also
need a small pair of side cutting snippers. Undo the wrest (tuning) pins
about half a turn. Using this method creates least wear in the hole, meaning the pins stay tight, longer. Make sure that the new wire is long enough to pass
from the fixed pins on the left to the wrest pins on the right, twice,
plus about an extra 150 to 175 mm (6 to 7 inches) each end.
Put the two ends together and then overlap the top
one by about 25 mm (1 inch). This will allow you to determine the centre
point. This is the point where the string passes round the fixed pin,
this is where I start. Hold the string in your left hand between your
thumb and forefinger at the point where it goes around the pin, and
against the pin. Holding the string firmly in your left hand wind the
string tightly around the pin using your right hand. You will need to
wind one complete turn, and a bit. If you let go carefully now, the
string should release to be fairly tightly around the pin with the two
ends going roughly in the right direction. Thread the strings over and
under the appropriate bridges. Pull the string loosely taut. I then use
my left hand to hold the string against the pin while wrapping the
string clockwise from the top 4 times before going through the hole and
being pulled tightly through with the side cutters. I then cut off the
excess leaving about 5 mm protruding from the pin which I then push down
with the side cutters. Repeat for the other end of wire. When the string is tightened in the normal manner make sure that the the coil of wire round the pin is not at the very bottom otherwise it will foul the hole. That could result in a broken wire or stripping the delicate thread in the instrument. The wire will bed-in (continue
to stretch) for a couple of days.