This psaltery is up for bidding on e-bay. The wood on the soundboard is very pretty.
No doubt due to the placement of the sound hole, at first glance it reminded me of a bird house, which made me think of a dozen bird house projects, anyway.....
Do any of you think that the placement of the sound hole makes a substantial difference in sound? Does the placement impact the strength of the sound board?
Having spent a bit of time researching before answering, I've discovered some information about the size of the soundhole, but nothing in particular about the placement. For a number of very well established instruments like the guitar and violin, there exist certain very strong traditions and even some mathematical calculations concerning the optimum area of the soundhole. It seems that builders will make minute adjustments to the size of the soundhole(s) to perfect projection and tone. As to its size (that is, area) on a psaltery, I've found nothing substantial, but would make an educated guess that it matters very little to the sound itself. I suspect at best that a soundhole too large would be wasteful, and one too small might muffle the sound.
Concerning its placement, I would also guess that it makes little difference. The BP is basically a simple box and the primary stresses are all taken by the frame. On a mandolin, for example, there is a force of some 50 or 60 pounds pressing down on the bridge which must be resisted, so the soundhole placement could weaken the soundboard's resistance. On a BP there are stresses that can exceed 600 pounds, but they are taken up by the stout solid frame, like on a piano, so the actual 'strength' of the soundboard becomes irrelevant.
For a BP, the material of the soundboard seems to make a bigger difference. Soft and hard woods vary in their transmission characteristics, that is to say, the rate at which energy is imparted to the resonating chamber and the amount of energy transferred. But that seems to be unaffected by the soundhole's size or placement.
When I was still building BP's. I did some experimenting during that time. I found that the hole placement did not seem to change the sound of the instrument. I started off with the hole on the front side. Tried different sizes, using rosettes at times. Even no hole on the front and had it on the back. I also insulted electric pick/ups. I had a lady request a hole on the back, so she could hold a BP, for she had real small hands. You would not believe this, but I took a finish BP and after experimenting on the size of the hole on some waste stock, founding the size needed, I drilled the hole in the completed instrument. Much to my surprize, it did not change the sound any. Since then I started adding a hole at the top back side, so a mic could be used without the need for a pick/up being added. I found no difference in sound to any of my BP's. I could compare them to other builders and there was a difference in sound. I also used bracing inside mine too.
I have one lady contact me and said you string were limp and the top split. I asked her to return the instrument for review. Seeing it, I know straight away what the problem was. I ask her where did she keep it. She said on the stereo, I asked if there was a window there too. She said yes. I told her from the heat of the sun coming through the window and stereo is what caused her problem. I also consulted with other builders in my area and they all say the same thing. I told her that I could repair the damage, give her a good deal on another one, or refund her money, cause she wasn't happy. She stated that she wanted the BP, didn't want to spend any more money. So I repaired the damage and she was a happy camper. So from then on, I started to use bracing inside of my instruments and never had that problem again.
The reason I stopped building, the price of materials kept going up, and I didn't feel right, jacking my prices up. I felt I was fair in price for what they were getting. I included BP, a case, 1/16rh fiddle bow, tuning wrench,rosin and instructions. I felt I was asking enough as it was. I know there were others charging much more then I was, but I wanted more of them being played. A good friend of my, who build's hammered dulcimers, laughed at me, saying they will never get off the ground. Guess, who now has them in his line of instrument? He even copied my shape too.
I love to hear about the bowed psaltery becoming more popular!
Also, I have handled some psalteries with a hole in the upper back and I find it VERY useful and even a safer way to handle the psaltery. I haven't heard any negative comments about how it affected the sound.
Luckily your customer that warped their psaltery was satisfied with the repair. It wasn't your fault and you were very generous to do what you did for her.
You should consider building again!