Making the tuning cords required some trial and error. I bought tread, and for this luoxia guqin, I mixed two colors—maroon and brown—to match the multi-toned color on the instrument itself. According to 與古齋琴譜 (Abiding with Antiquity Guqin Manual, 1855, tr. Binkley), red is vulgar. After trialing different combinations and twists, I settled making the first ply three feet long using 32 strands each of maroon and brown. Then, I put in 120 right-helical twists by attaching it to a drill and running it in reverse. Once it was doubled upon itself, the plies wound into a nice left-helical cord of 128 individual threads. I threaded these through the tuning pegs with the aid of some copper wire.
Bringing the instrument up to correct pitch proved to be a challenge, because tension in the string has to be maintained while wrapping it around the feet. On Thursday, while trying to put on a string while keeping tension, everything slipped, and the tension hurled the guqin toward my forehead, making a deep gash right in the middle. After several attempts, I came up with a device to wrap the strings; this I made out of an old piece of cherry baluster.
Playing on the new instrument was a delight. The nut ended up being a little high, so I took the strings off and carved away some of the jatoba wood. Once the finish dries, I’ll replace the strings.