Classical, Flamenco, Spanish, Western,Electric Guitars and Concert Zithers

Repair & Restoration

Repair description:
RED CONCERT ZITHER: Franz Schwarzer STYLE "B" Built in 1907 SR# 9361
REPAIR DESCRIPTION FOR 38 STRING (33 CONTRA AND 5 FRET BOARD STRINGS) Franz Schwerzer built in 1907, serial number 9361.

Mr. Hessler contacted me in the beginning of the spring of 2009, with a request to restore his beautiful and rare "Red Schwarzer" zither which had a few problems.

First, its fingerboard had many amazing long and wide open cracks. Too many to fill and glue. When the length of all of the cracks were added together their total length were about 45".  The cracks ran under the frets and the full length of the board.


Secondly, the string action appeared too high at the bridge, and I knew if we left it that way, the zither would be very uncomfortable to play. Also, this zither is elaborately inlaid with hand cut white mother of pearl motifs all around the sound hole and on the upper end of the of the zither where it is bound, as well as "Schnecke" a German word describing the round or tear drop shaped ornament on its upper left side of the instrument (which in English translates as a volute or snail shell seen on many "harp zithers.")  


The "Schnecke" was in addition, also wonderfully inlaid with white mother of pearl. A similar shell shaped ornament, but it was made of rosewood and placed right next to the left of the fret board tuner plate. The fret board itself also had 9 white mother of pearl dots. To make the zither extra fancy, Schwarzer made the top and back out of maple burl combined with birds-eye-maple! A stunning look, and finished in a zinfandel red color.

  Another amazing feature was the tuning plate cover was engraved in an unusual way: The top surface is gold plated, and the engraving was done in silver! It is a relatively small zither with a scale length of 412.75 mm with extra inlay and delux features. After a long talk with Mr. Hessler, a decision was made as to what and how to restore and repair the instrument.

I began the repairs in April 2009. Since the zither had a cracked fingerboard, it was mutually agreed to take off the old finger board and make a new one out of ebony. I checked out the original fret calculations and found the frets were slightly misplaced at the time of production. We now know that back in 1907 they did not have the sophisticated math formulas for the fret calculations. I also had to change the original fret thicknesses because, they do not make the "Schwarzer" type of frets anymore! Today's standard frets are a bit narrower. So I had to order a couple of new saw blades custom made here in St. Louis. That way I would be able to match the cut of the old fret slots for any zither scale length. I had to make a new ebony fret board, and took out the original mother of pearl dots from the old fret board to reinstall them in the new fret board. I cut the new fret notches and installed the new frets in the new fret board. Because of the shape of the top of the zither I had to specially shape the bottom of the new fret board to conform to the instrument, and finally glued the new board on the zither. The frets had to be filed to receive a proper fret board curvature. They then had to be recrowned and polished. the next step was to shave down the bridge to bring it to the standard height for proper string action. The refinishing of the bridge took place after that. I also installed a new set of German wires for the nut and bridge. The replacement frets are also from Germany.


There was only one problem left to be solved, the steel pegs for the contra strings were extremely rusty. So, one by one they got cleaned and polished. A few of the peg holes were to big, probably due to their age and climate changes, I had to "build them up" until the pegs fit snuggly.

I then cleaned and polished the tuner plate. Now, I could finally put the strings on the fret board and test its action.

There  were several mother of pearl pieces that were loose or missing in the rosette, and the "Schnecke." I also had to glue the Ivory sections back in place on the outside bound edges of the instrument.

After all of the parts had been fixed, it was time to clean the zither. Only after the instrument was cleaned, I was able to apply a few thin coats of hand rubbed shellac. I let it dry for a week and then I polished it out.


Finally, the red "Schwarzer" was ready to receive the rest of the 33 contra strings. After all of the strings were on, I could actually sit down and start tuning the 100 year old instrument! The "Moment of truth," but well worth it because the zither sounds very rich and beautiful.

I have to admit, there was a clot of work which had to be done precisely. I was very satisfied when I got the fret board correctly back on the zither. I shipped the red zither back to its owner in June of 2009. Many thanks to Mr. Hessler for intrusting me with the restoration and repair of his beautiful zither.


Contact  Information:

Sasha Radicic                            Phone: 314-583-7912 (8 am - 10 pm)
11320 Five Oaks Pkwy.
St. Louis, MO. 63128                 E mail: radicicguitars@gmail.com

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