1920s Bohm Type 1C Waldzither

Bohm (in Germany) was, basically, the leading maker of waldzithers in the '20s as far as I know. These instruments are related to the English guitar (read: cittern) of the Renaissance/post-Renaissance era. Said English guitars were often tuned to an open C tuning (CEGCEG low to high in a mandola/viola range) and this same tuning and instrument layout ("clock key" tuners on a flatback mandolin body shape) morphed into this Germanic form somewhere along the line.

It lost a course of strings and the low "C" became a single string drone/bass note while the GCEG portion of the tuning became the "playing" strings. This is more or less, because you can obviously play it how you like. This tuning -- CGCEG -- is like 5-string banjo with a capo on the 5th fret but with a low drone note. So, yes, strummy folk-tunes, metal-fingerpicked brilliance, or mandolin-style-flatpicked stuff is what these instruments were built to do.

A lot of modern (read: US-based) players make the mistake of trying to string them as "mandola-plus-a-low-G" instruments and I think they lose a lot of their charm and sparkle in that tuning. It's much more useful for a mandolinist wanting to get an "octave mandolin" vibe going, but the instrument's voice really suits the extra sustain and jangle of an open tuning, I think.

Anyhow, a local customer brought this in and it was actually in decent shape for its age. It needed a fret level/dress, crack repairs, a new compensated bridge (I used a neat '20s bridge base plus a new bone saddle), setup, and stringing, though... and I threw in side dots as well...

Post-work it plays beautifully and -- as you can hear in the video -- it sounds lovely. It's got chime! It's got sparkle! I like it.

The strings are gauged 36w, 22w/22w, 16/16, 12/12, 9/9 low to high. I used ball-end singles and removed the ball ends from them to make loop ends (you can crush the ball-ends with end-nippers... or just buy loop-end singles). These loop-ends go to the tailpiece. I then stretched the string (with the bridge off) as tight as I could up to the hitch/hook at the tuner. Wrap it around in a loop... twist the end back around the string once or twice... then pass the string through the loop and pull it towards the tailpiece.

This should lock it "well-enough" but I go further, these days, and solder my loops on either end after I fit them to the instrument because I find it helps keep the ends from unwinding and that's great because it's a righteous pain in the rear to string one of these. A 5-minute restring job on a 12-string guitar becomes a half-hour or 45-minute job quite easily with these tuners.













Comments

Michael Larkin said…
Have you considered the possibility of replacing
the Preston tuners with a 12 string guitar head
and a ball end tail piece based on the outside
chance that the family cat may jump on it?
Michael Larkin said…
Have you considered the possibility of replacing
the Preston tuners with a 12 string guitar head
and a ball end tail piece based on the outside
chance that the family cat may jump on it?
Jake Wildwood said…
LOL, that's very specific... I wonder if... maybe something like that happened...? ...at some point? ;D :) :D