OVER-WOUND STRINGS FOR CLAVICHORDS
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Please note that I am not accepting any more orders for twined or overwound strings from 1 September 2014. All current orders will be fulfilled; I shall also continue to supply individual strings as replacements for instruments made or re-strung by me, or where I have previously supplied complete sets. I have left the following essay on the web-site for information only: but see also the longer article here.
Over-wound strings can be used for the bass of most kinds of clavichord, and will usually produce a better sound than solid wire strings. The core wire is usually yellow brass; iron or steel may be used in certain exceptional cases. The winding wire is normally soft copper: if you specially want a silvery appearance, you can specify tin-plated copper (at a small extra cost). Occasionally soft brass winding wire may be used.
There are two types of winding:
- Close-wound: where the winding is wrapped closely round the core with no visible gap between successive turns;
- Open-wound: the winding is in the form of an open spiral and the core wire is visible between turns.
Open-wound strings were usual in the eighteenth century, and have the advantage that the winding can be adjusted to give any required tension. It may also be that they are less likely than close-wound strings to become loose, since the process of tensioning the string, by extending the length of the spiral of winding wire, reduces the radius of the spiral and draws the winding tighter on to the core. A loose winding results in a dull-sounding string; or, occasionally, on a string that produces no sound at all!
The winding can start
- (a) at the loop, or
- (b) just to the right of the tangent.
When using style (a) with open-wound strings, you must check that your tangents are wide enough at the top not to get trapped in the gap between successive turns. With style (b) this does not matter because the tangent strikes the plain core wire: however, style (b) windings are not usually practicable for fretted courses.
The winding can be carried along the whole length of the string and wound round the tuning-pin: alternatively, the winding can end between bridge and tuning-pin. In my opinion, the second system is preferable, since winding an open-wound string on to a tuning pin is awkward and introduces pressure points which can lead to the core breaking.
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