Today I’m going to finish my rambling on about zither pins. My blog is visited by many beginning instrument builders with questions about construction procedures that are not often answered in plans, blueprints, and diagrams. I try to describe how I do things hoping that the information is helpful.
When stringing an instrument with zither pins, I aim for an adequate string “break angle” over the bridge cap, neat string coils with an equal number of turns around the pin, and coils with sufficient clearance above the pinblock.
As described before, I drive the pins into the block with a hammer. I set them to the approximate depth that allows the string hole to be just even, or a little lower than the height of the bridge cap. For this dulcimer the top of the pins are one inch from the block. Turning the pin clockwise will screw the pin deeper making the string hole lower. Next, I use the tuning wrench to make the final adjustments up or down while at the same time aligning the pin holes to the direction of the strings. After all of my pounding, measuring, and turning, every pin is the same height and ready for string.
When the dulcimer is eventually in tune, I like every pin to be the same height and for the neat string coils to be 2-1/2 to 3 turns around the pins. This dulcimer has tuning pins on both sides of the instrument so I begin by pushing the string through the right side pin. I use needle nose pliers to bend a little hook on the end, pull the hook against the pin, and wind it 2-1/2 turns. Next, I pull the string tight through the left side pin hole. Pulling it as tight as I can by hand, I snip it off exactly two inches from the pin and bend a hook as I did with the other end. Two inches of string will coil around the pin 2-1/2 to three turns. I try for neat, tight coils that don’t overlap. Before introducing a lot of tension to the string I carefully lift the coils together with a flat screwdriver blade.