The new (to me) psaltery arrived yesterday so I had the pleasure of opening up the box and finally seeing it in the flesh (err... wood?)  I was immediately struck by how beautiful it is, finely made. The low resolution photos on the Goodwill auction site do not do it justice. The soundhole design is more delicate than I expected. I could see a label inside but it was difficult to read through the soundhole's fretwork. The label appeared to be printed in a cursive font - I could make out "the" and maybe the "f" from the word "of". I need to take another look in the daylight - but its that little bit closer to confirming its provenance as being a Song of the Wood instrument.

Strings appear to be fine, and the body was in very good condition, only a few light scuff marks on the back. Corners were not scratched at all - I would say it has only had light use. A few homemade note markers had been carefully cut out of paper and stuck down with tiny narrow strips of tape - for now I'll leave these in place until they're not needed.  There is a spare string and pin. So why is a spare pin needed? Are the strings all the same gauge? To my eye these appear to be - I thought the lower notes would be different gauges?

Case not too bad - it must've been exposed to damp at sometime because there's little midew spots on the interior, but nothing the sunshine won't fix. One hinge has rust on it - any tips for removing that? Steel wool?  And once you get the rust off, do you seal it? The rust is not affecting hinge movement but is ugly to the eye.

Bow - Seems fine to me but I know nothing about bows. it has a peg in one end which you turn to adjust the tension of the horsehair. How tight should it be? How do you know when its time to change the horsehair? Do you have to apply rosin everytime you play or only sometimes?

Tuning - horribly flat as you'd expect - I managed to tune up the white notes. Pretty tone! Stayed up past my bedtime exploring how to make sounds with the bow. Left hand, right hand, upside down, right way up etc. Short notes, long notes. Figuring out a few melodies by ear. Very pretty tone!

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Comment by Ruth Lawrence on July 24, 2014 at 1:16pm

Thank you for the info about the zither pins. I'll check tonight but I'm sure they're all aligned. Good to know also about the string gauges and the bow. Tonight I'll tune up the left side, and learn how to rosin the bow.

Comment by Gregg E. Schneeman & Jean Gaffey on July 24, 2014 at 10:47am

  A good description Ruth, and I'd like to try to answer your questions. Having a spare zither pin might be helpful if when you play you psaltery you find one of your rail pins might be too deeply or wrongly notched. Look very closely that the strings and their notches are aligned, if everything is functioning as is leave it alone for now. Eventually if you become an avid player you will want to replace all your strings but with proper care they will last years. On a normal size psaltery like yours .010 or .011 working for all the strings is not uncommon. On a longer psaltery and some builders might choose many gauges but you don't have to change your strings unless you detect a reason. The peg on your bow is meant to be slightly pushed out, while you pull on the extra horse hair to the desired tension and while holding that you push the pin back in in as tightly and straight as possible. Tension should be enough to feel right but not so tight as to break the bow or the horse hair. Often synthetic horse hair is used and is as strong as fishing line so be careful. Unlike a violin bow there is no reason to take the tension down every time. When at good tension look at your bow hair, are there stragglers hanging loose? Clip them off or they will snag on the rail pins. Try to keep your horse hair as straight as possible- don't twist it up. Give it a good rosining right away, all over on the back side too, its a protector as well as traction. Is the bow skipping? Slipping without playing? Some one touched the playing area hair or the metal strings with greasy or waxy hands. If its not too bad you can rub that area with a lot of rosin and fix it. Hope this helps, we are excited about Bowed Psalteries and pleased to have you join us here on Psaltery Strings!

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