In order to understand and make it easier for our fellow Gentlemen and Gentlewomen to tie the knot of the sacred instrument, I will now talk you through, with illustrations, the Method that is prescribed through the ages.
When making the knots, it is best to make them all the same size. Ideally they shouldn’t be too big they will look vulgar and undignified; they may cause problems such as rattling noises and may get caught in something. They also shouldn’t be too small; they will be difficult to tie and have a danger of undoing themselves at high tension.
It is also best to tie the knot before hand on all your strings to avoid rumaging around when the time comes to change strings.
NB: this guide mainly focuses on metal-nylon strings. Silk strings are tied in the same way but is much more easy as it is more soft and flexible. You do not have to use tape to secure the raw end. When you tie the knot on the first four strings with the silk coiling, you tie them on the coiled part, not the exposed part. You do not have to draw them through a hole to tighten them.
1. Find the head of the string
There are three parts to a metal-nylon string; the head, middle and tail. The middle is where the main playing length is located and it does not have a silk wrapping. It should be disturbed as little as possible. The tail length is used to wrap the string on the goose feet. This part has the longest length of silk wrapping and also has a loop of wire at the end. The head end is for tying the knot. It has the shortest length of silk wrapping. If either head or tail end have no silk wrapping, it is inferior and as such should be discarded.
For the knot, the head end of the string is used.
2. Forming the ‘wings’ (bends)
Once the head end of the string is found, make a bend on it about 1 to 1.5cm from the beginning for the silk wrapping. You may use pliers or your teeth to make the bends more sharper but you must be careful not to damage the silk wrapping or it will look ugly.
Then, make another bend 1 to 1.5cm from the first bend.
Then turn the configuration upside down. The end of the string should be under the incoming string.
3. Assembling the knot
Pull the incoming string underneath the configuration downwards. Using your left hand, hold the configuration in place securely. Then, using your right hand form a loop to the right with the incoming string under the string coming from the configuration.
Slip the loop over the configuration making sure that the the loop is in the middle of the configuration.
Gently pull to tighten the loop over the configuration to form the knot paying attention to the overall balance of the knot.
4. Tightening the knot
At this stage, you can push and prod the bends to make the knot more tidy and balanced. Then, slip the string through a hole in a board or through the rong-ko of the qin and pull to tightening the knot and stabilise it.
5. Finishing the knot
Finally, use a pair of pliers to cut the excess wire off. Ideally, the cut should be made so that the resulting end would slip exactly into the right wing of the knot. This will keep it from fraying or the raw end of wire getting caught in something. After the wire is cut, do not pull the end off as the nylon and silk wrapping has not been cut by the pliers. Instead, get a pair of scissors and cut the nylon and silk wrapping.
Afterwards, carefully mould the knot so that the raw end is tucked into the right wing of the knot. It is now finished!
Next treatise, assembling the tuning system!
ADDENDUM: If you cut the excess wire off untidily, this may cause the nylon and silk wrapping to come undone over time which can cause rattling noises rendering the string defective.