Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Morin Khuur Part 5

In recent days I've been making some fittings. Carving the bridge was straightforward. It's quartersawn maple and resembles a violin bridge, though slightly squat and flattened to accommodate two strings in the same plane. I've never carved a violin bridge before. They're typically purchased from a supplier and only need a little work to custom-fit them to a particular instrument.

 I suppose a pair of guitar bass-tuners might be a modern update, but I think the protruding ears of the traditional peg complete the aesthetic of the head nicely. These have been roughed out in pear and still require some work to bring them to completion. Here's a view of the back of the head.
Strings are an issue. The morin khuur is traditionally strung in horse hair. This can causes issues with tuning stability, as they're hygroscopic and continually changing in dimension. Also, they wear quickly and it's difficult finding suppliers. A repair shop that repairs cello and bass bows frequently might have it hanging around in the required 36" (900mm) lengths, but I decided to use nylon monofilament to make a pair of strings. This is 0.20mm (.008") 4lb test fishing line.  I set up a couple of dowel standards the required distance apart and wrapped it around, trying my best to keep the tension even.  A total of 70 strands was used for the treble string, 100 for the bass. (So, 35 and 50 turns respectively).  Some sources suggest tying or braiding the ends in attempt to make stringing a little easier. I've opted to make an overwrapping of about 1/2" (12mm) on each end, and secure it with a little cyanoacrylate glue. It worked like a charm. The extra looped material on the end was snipped off and the finished string has a neat, threadable appearance.
The tailpiece is another lovely piece of pear. This will be hinged to the bottom block rather than using tail gut, to simplify restringing. It's bored for the strings and there's a recess chiseled into the underside to accommodate the knots which will hold them in place.


  1. I don't know any Mongolian morin khuur maker who uses horse hair anymore.

  2. Wouldn't it be easier to start out with a higher test monofilament as to have less wrapping to do?

    1. Maybe? I don't know. I chose the thin stuff to approximate the thickness of natural horsehair. There's room for experimentation.

    2. You might want to go with 2lb if you want to mimic horse hair. I measured my 4lb test at .19 and then measured the synthetic hair on my morin khuur at .1 I also measured the actual house hair on my bow at .1 also. The fat (male) string should be 130 strands and the thin (female) string 105. Hope this helps