Howdy. New member here..  

     I have been messing around with Clawhammer and some Irish tenor...   Now it is time to get serious... :)     

I recently purchased an couple of old Zither banjos, and want to set them up for classic. I know I will want nylon strings, but which ones?    I have used Labella 17's before.   Is this a good choice?     

My new toys... (pictures are from the Ebay listings.. :) )

1910ish Temlett.  Needs new head, and neck reset. and some general prettying up.. This is the one I am working on now...

 1930ish Windsor Popular number 7. Has an issue with the neck to pot connection..  Just have to figure out how to fix it.. :)

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Zither-banjos do not generally sound good strung with nylon strings. The usual setup is a combination of very light gauge steel, plain nylon (or gut or nylgut) for the center G string and a wound string of the classical guitar type for the bass. 

I can't tell for sure from the photos but neither bridge looks suitable to me.

You can learn more here:   http://www.zither-banjo.org.uk/pages/home.htm

.... and also a search of *this* site will yield opinions about gauges. Gauge depends on scale length. The Temlett is like to have a short scale and can perhaps take ever so slightly heavier strings than the Windsor, but still very light.

Jody Stecher said:

Zither-banjos do not generally sound good strung with nylon strings. The usual setup is a combination of very light gauge steel, plain nylon (or gut or nylgut) for the center G string and a wound string of the classical guitar type for the bass. 

I can't tell for sure from the photos but neither bridge looks suitable to me.

You can learn more here:   http://www.zither-banjo.org.uk/pages/home.htm

Thanks.... I guess I am going to mess around with different combos until I find something that sounds good...

Or just fix my  Stewart....

The bridge on the Windsor appears to be original.   The Temlett has a modern bridge. 

Might end up contacting you for some lessons. I'm just across the bay in Richmond.. :)

 

Zither-banjos in Richmond. Who woulda guessed? I'm in the Richmond "district" of SF. Anyway no need to experiment as the parameters are well researched and established.  For the 1st and 5th string plain steel wire of either .08 " or .09" are the only options. Lighter is hard to find and .10 will be like bailing wire. It will clang instead of sing. For the 2nd string it's either 10 or 11.  The third string is about .034 nylon or lighter,  or my preference which is #73 plain nylgut or #73 Aquila gut.  For the bass string you have more leeway. For a wound classical guitar type string I'd say go no heavier than .026W.  My favorite by a big margin is copper wound Nylgut #108.  #112 is probably perfect for the Temmlett if it has the typical short scale. 

I probably am misinterpreting what I see in the photo of the Windsor but it appears to have no feet and to  have 2 pieces.  If so, it's not the original. 

Some original ZB bridges had cylinder feet and so do some reproductions. Personally I don't "get" it. Whenever I've used one they have been unstable and come crashing down with a bang. But some seem to like it. 

For your Stewart, yes all soft strings is what you want.La Bella 17s are suitable.  Search this site for opinions. *My* opinion is that Nylgut, which I like so much on some banjos, is usually not a suitable string for Stewarts. I have no idea why. They just sound insipid. Maybe with a different bridge and/or head or tailpiece Nylgut would be good.  So I use D'Addario nylon on Stewarts. I like a bit heavier gauge than the LaBella set but La Bella makes good sounding strings.

And...just as an alternative POV, I could not stand a 'true' ZB set of strings on my ZB (Windsor #1). I gave it a shot...but they took too much work (careful right-hand) to not sound terrible. I prefer a standard set of nylon/nylgut strings on mine...which make it sound like a 'normal' banjo. The ZB sound (with a ZB string set) is one of those 'binary' issues...people tend to like it, or they don't. I'm a "don't".

The instrument itself takes some getting used to. I really like the tunneled 5th string. However the balance of the instrument (at least, mine) is so 'bottom heavy' that I tied a strap to it just to keep it from crawling around in my lap. This can be mitigated with a strip of carpet "non-skid" also.

I wouldn't worry too much about finding a traditional ZB bridge (like Jody mentions, with cylindrical feet). A normal lightweight banjo bridge will do nicely.

And actually sometimes a 3 footed ebony top banjo bridge works better on a zb than the 2 footed classic banjo type of bridge.  I also use a non-slip pad between my leg and the banjo. 

Trapdoor2 said:

And...just as an alternative POV, I could not stand a 'true' ZB set of strings on my ZB (Windsor #1). I gave it a shot...but they took too much work (careful right-hand) to not sound terrible. I prefer a standard set of nylon/nylgut strings on mine...which make it sound like a 'normal' banjo. The ZB sound (with a ZB string set) is one of those 'binary' issues...people tend to like it, or they don't. I'm a "don't".

The instrument itself takes some getting used to. I really like the tunneled 5th string. However the balance of the instrument (at least, mine) is so 'bottom heavy' that I tied a strap to it just to keep it from crawling around in my lap. This can be mitigated with a strip of carpet "non-skid" also.

I wouldn't worry too much about finding a traditional ZB bridge (like Jody mentions, with cylindrical feet). A normal lightweight banjo bridge will do nicely.

The bridge on the Windsor is labled "The New Windsor" and has two cylindrical feet. Those feet sit in two holes in the base.   It is also the second one I have had come to me on a Windsor from the same time period.The inside of the head is also labled   "Arthur O Windsor" :)  Need a different bridge anyway... That one is rough.  And the strings are too close together for my stubby fingers anyway.. :)

Whoa!  So those cylindrical feet were intended for round holes?!?   David Wade... what's your opinion?

I've never seen a Windsor with a two part bridge and the bridges in the zither-banjo catalogs show a one piece bridge. Eric, are you sure the bottom part is not an "after-market" addition?

Hi Eric, I'm not familiar with Windsor zither banjos but I do own a Windsor popular No.1 and a couple of Popular number threes (all three are open back).  I've tried a variety of strings and have found that Nylgut medium gauge with a Clifford Essex heavy gauge 4th fits the bill.  To my ears, they complement the Windsors' bright, strident sound. Ultimately it's all down to personal preference. Enjoy your journey with classic banjo, all the best...Steve.

Strange ; there are stranges parts sometimes in  a banjo  ; like this capo , which a a double function , capo and remove the varnish from the neck when you gonna slide it

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