Do I need to replace my strings? What sizes?

Although I use tinned music wire which is corrosion resistant, strings unfortunately will eventually corrode. Sweaty fingers and just moisture in the air can tarnish and rust the strings. The tone of a dirty rusted string ceases to be true to pitch and will begin to sound dead. Under normal conditions strings of plain wire should last for years. If you are performing and demand peak performance and tone I recommend replacement of the wound strings at least once every two to three years. Many players live with their solid steel strings for 10 years or more before considering complete replacement. They will only replace these strings as they break. Periodic cleaning will prolong string life. Take 600 weight wet and dry sandpaper available in any auto supply store or 00 steel wool and rub each string until bright again. Follow with a lightly oiled cloth. If solid strings are sounding dead even after they're clean, replace them.

One of the most important documents you acquired when you purchased your instrument is your string guage chart. Make a couple of extra copies of that document and put it in a safe place! If you've lost your tuning/string gauge chart, you can click on the link to download your tuning chart. Keep one of them in your case.

It also makes sense to keep a few spare strings in your case especially phosphor bronze strings or maybe some #4 or #5s. All the other guages you will probably never break. Just keep them clean and they'll last for many years. You can order strings here

If you have a dulcimer which is not made by me and have no idea what size wire you need, I suggest measuring the diameter of the string next to it and also measuring the vibrating length (VL). You will use either a micrometer or caliper to determine the diameter. Use a tape measure or rule to get the VL.

Micrometer or caliper


Replacing strings yourself

Replacing a broken string is often intimidating. Learn to do it for those one or two strings you'll break. Instructions for replacing strings are on this page

If you'd like to replace all the strings yourself, order a complete set of strings for your instrument based on your tuning/string gauge chart. With patience you will save yourself a lot of money and worry as you won't have to ship your instrument.

You can order strings here

Complete re-stringing by me
If you want me to completely restring your dulcimer, the cost would be:
  • Small Hammered Dulcimers (12/11, 15/14, 16/15s) add $50 labor, $10 for new acetal, and return shipping to the actual cost of the strings.

  • Large dulcimers (3/16/18/9, LCs, 4/19/21/9s) add $75 labor, $10 for new acetal and the return shipping to the actual cost of the strings.

Restringing labor includes removing all old strings, cleaning the instrument, adjusting tuning pin heights, replacing acetal rod, restringing, tuning and reseting the intonation. Any additional repairs not covered by my warranty will entail extra expense. I'd give you an estimate before any additional repairs are undertaken. It is expensive but it'll save you a lot of aggravation. Contact me to make the arrangements.

Instructions for shipping your instrument

Strings in a pinch

If you have no spares and you break a string you can always use a guitar string. A second string on a guitar is .017 a little light but at least will get you by. You could even try using a thin wound string assuming you can get it up to pitch without it breaking. You can always use a lighter guage string than the one that broke. For example if you broke a #8 (.020) you can replace it with anything below that #7, #6, #5; although not ideal it will get you by.

You might be interested in my section on general instrument care which provides additional information on keeping your instrument in top playing shape.