Identifying A Ventage Mountain Dulcimer & refurbishing.
Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions
I like that shape! Some more info would be helpful -- dimensions: LxWxH, height & width of the fretboard. And the VSL.
What makes you say it's a bass dulcimer? You know of course that it has no 6+ or 13+ frets.
Cleaning: Start with blown air to clean out the pegbox.
Then gently loosen the tuning pegs and remove all the strings (we don't often remove all, but in this case it will be a good thing). AS you do, mark each tuning peg with the hole it came out of, so it can go back in the right place. At this point we don't care what the original string gauges are because you're going to replace all the strings (this is why we need the VSL).
I can't tell from the photo, but the middle tuner on the near side looks like it's jammed much deeper into the holes than the others. True? Wipe down the tuners. Do not sand them. Other that the one tuner seeming set deep, they don't appear to be particularly damaged. However, if they are, or you should want to replace them, those look to be standard violin tuning pegs which can be purchased individually or in sets, in a variety of woods, for as little as $1 per peg, to as much as $20 per peg.
Purchase a bottle of Peg Dope. It will last you for years! When you get everything else accomplished, check back in and we can get you straight on setting it up with those wooden tuners. I, for one, would not recommend replacing them with geared tuners,
With the strings gone, you should then be able to remove the nut and bridge. WHY do you want to remove the bone nut? If you have to, they may be able to be tapped out sideways using a small wooden dowel as a punch. We'll want vey close ups of the ends of the nut & bridge where the set into the fretboard.
With a water-damp (not soggy) soft cloth, wipe down the whole instrument, removing as much of the accumulated crud as you can. Don't use any other kind of cleaning product yet.
Look at the edge of the top and bottom where they overlap the sides. I'll bet you'll discover that they are made from thin mahogany plywood. At least that's what it looks like from seeing that scratch by the farside sound hole, and the nature of the wood grain on the top.
Luster: Well, you could gently sand the whole thing down and refinish it with the finish of your choice. But if it is made from plywood you really don't want to do that because it's too easy to go below that first "beauty"layer of ply.
Probably the best thing is to apply a thin coat or two of wax, and buff. NOT a furniture polish or any other product which contains silicon. You want just wax. Carnuba wax is good. An automotive or bar top wax without any additives would be OK.
Strings: The first thing you need to know is what open tuning you want. You do not have to set this up as a bass dulcimer unless you want to, of course.