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Troubleshooting Zither Problems

Troubleshooting Zither Problems
by Andreas Spohn
© Meisterwerkstätte für Zither- und Gitarrenbau Andreas Spohn
www.zitherbau-spohn.de

Translated by Jane Curtis


This little troubleshooting manual for the zither, in table format, will be of much use to all zither players. This translation is published with the permission of the author and Saitenspiel.
PROBLEM POSSIBLE CAUSES SOLUTION BY ACTION
Zither sounds dull, muffled Strings are old and worn out Yourself Change the strings
If the strings are relatively new, their undersides are dirty (verdigris etc.) Yourself Clean them with a cloth, wind the cloth around them, wipe lengthwise
Frets are worn out Professional Adjust fingerboard
Top surface braces have come loose Professional Repair
Tuning is not true to frets Fingrboard strings are worn out Yourself Change strings
If the strings are relatively new, their undersides are dirty (verdigris etc.) Yourself Clean them with a cloth, wind the cloth around them, wipe lengthwise
Placement and length of string do not agree Professional Adjust string position
Fingerboard curve not correct Professional Adjust fingerboard and string placement
Frets are placed wrong Professional Replace fingerboard and all related parts
Fingerboard strings rattle Strings are worn out Yourself Change strings
If the strings are relatively new, their undersides are dirty (verdigris etc.) Yourself Clean them with a cloth, wind the cloth around them, wipe lengthwise
Strings put on wrong, too small an angle from tuning peg to saddle Yourself Put strings on correctly
Possible loose parts in the mechanism Yourself Check screws, mechanism turning buttons, and mechanism pegs
Frets are worn Professional Adjust fingerboard
Fingerboard curve not correct Professional Adjust fingerboard and string placement
Frets are too low, can no longer be adjusted Professional Replace fingerboard and all related parts
Fingerboard won't stay in tune Strings put on wrong, string ends not wound firmly on mechanism pegs Yourself Put strings on correctly, attach string ends firmly
String loop on hitchpin pulls open Yourself Change string
String is at end of life span and will soon break Yourself Change string
Mechanism is no longer connected firmly with zither, screws are loose Yourself Tighten screws with appropriate screwdriver
The zither pins on the pinblock are loose Yourself If possible, drive pins in somewhat deeper
The hole for the pin has become enlarged Yourself or Professional Remove pin, fill hole with plug (toothpick), bore new hole, tap pin back in
Mechanism pegs are loose Yourself or Professional Remove strings, take mechanism off, screw pegs back firmly
A screw is broken off Professional Remove screw head, rebore hole, install new screw
Gears are defective Professional Replace gears if possible, replace mechanism
The wooden blocks on which the screws sit, between the turning buttons, are torn off or broken Professional Glue the wooden blocks, use longer screws
Pins do not hold tuning Pin does not sit deeply enough in hole Yourself Detach string, screw pin in deeper
Pin hole is worn loose Yourself or Professional Individual pins: replace with larger size
Professional Several pins: bore by hand to keep wood from splitting, replace with larger pins
Pin hole is enlarged Professional Fill pin hole, drill, install new pin
Pin block is split Professional Clear out the split pin block, set in a new piece of wood (This can be done by only a few specially-equipped workshops)
Pins cannot be tuned Tuning key is worn out or doesn't fit tuning pin Yourself Get a key that fits
Pins are rusted Yourself or Professional Replace the pin
Pins creak loudly when tuning Over the years the wood of the pin block has changed (shrunken and/or swollen) Professional Rebore pin holes, replace with appropriate pins
Top or bottom is cracked Relative humidity too low Yourself Keep relative humidity in house at 45-65% to prevent cracking (Note: small hairline cracks are normal in all instruments, but if damage is greater, take the instrument to a professional)
Mechanical cause Professional Glue the crack and/or insert a wood shaving and refinish
Top/bottom separating from sides Instrument exposed to high temperature and/or humidity Yourself Do not expose instrument to extreme variations
Gluing was poor or is fatigued Professional Glue the open places
Instrument has tipped over or been dropped Professional Glue the open places
Border inlays are loose Gluing not well done Professional Glue loose inlays on (wood glue), secure with masking tape, remove glue residue with small amount of water
Synthetic inlays have shrunk Professional Glue loose inlays on, secure with masking tape (Note: Finish may be damaged. Replenish the shrunken material)
Zither feet loose and not holding Feet turned too far when screwing in, so windings worn flat Yourself Unscrew, cover winding with 1-2 layers of masking tape, or better: replace with larger feet
Hole is too large or winding on the feet is too small Professional See above: Fill bore hole, cut new screw threads
Finish is unsightly, dirty Over the years the varnish becomes dirty and dull Yourself or Professional A complete string change offers the best opportunity to clean the zither. Please do not use any harsh cleaning materials.
General cleaning: Spray with lukewarm water containing small amount of Pril or similar product, use a soft lint free rag. Rag should be damp, not wet.
Fine cleaning: Spray the polished surface with furniture polish and wipe with a lintfree rag.
The finish no longer shines Professional Polish finish with special polishes. Caution: It is not advisable to try this yourself, because only professionals know what kind of finish is there and what polishes to use
The mechanism is hard to work The mechanism is dry, not greased, rubbing from powdered rust is increased Yourself or Professional Remove mechanism, clean and grease the gears. As a rule, oil makes no sense here, since it will only drip down from the gears; but it is good for loosening rust.
The pins or the screws of the gears are wound too tight Yourself or Professional Loosen the screws, if possible set with fixative
The mechanism shafts (holding the buttons) are bent Professional When possible, bend them straight. Caution: they can also break
One or more of the mechanism buttons are damaged Mechanical stress Professional Replace defective mechanism buttons