Leonard Glenn Dulcimer, 1972
General mountain dulcimer or music discussions
Thats a GEM!
So, I have been reading about various ways of finishing fingerboards (particularly guitar makers using Rosewood) and came across an interesting thing: I have read how guitar builders often glue in their frets.
Do you glue your dulcimer frets in? (I have not, but am open to ideas!).
That's great news about your wanting to build dulcimers! And being an experienced woodworker is a great help.
My brother-in-law had asked me the same question, but he had little woodworking experience. One suggestion I had for him was to begin with getting a quality dulcimer kit- that way he could get a good idea of the various parts and the way the various parts come together (with hopeful some step-by-step instructions). As it comes together, he would have a pretty good, working knowledge of what goes into making one. In time and with experience, personal skills can dictate what you may bring to your own creations, weather it be the type of woods you like, or the dulcimer body shape or the tuning head style, and even down to the string anchors and sound holes. 'Personalisation' is what makes these instruments as wonderful and varied as they can be, as well as a legitimate art form (yes, even 'folk art")
I am sure that there are lots of different ways, and each maker has his own process. I am not really proficient but make a few when time is available. Try looking through the internet as well. I have seen many people document how they make an instrument (dulcimers, Violins, guitars and even ancient instrument recreations). I have a taken photos of how I made one or two, showing the various things I do in making them, from connecting the head and tail to the sides, as well as carving a tuning scroll, etc.
Hope this brief reply is helpful. I really wish you lots of fun and enjoyment in your creative journey! Please don't hesitate to ask people in this great forum any questions. I know I have been aided a lot here!
All the best to you-
p.s: yes! Mahogany is a wonderful wood for dulcimers!
I'm not sure if this is but so helpful, because this is vastly smaller in size than what you're asking, but I have fallen in love with my 17" Feather Dulcimer. I loved playing my Walnut Creek, too, but there were songs I never could get that I seem to just play out of the blue now. That makes me think a 26.5" (and I see you added 25") might be beneficial to some.
Thanks hugssandi and others- your comments are indeed helpful. I decided to use a 25" fret board pattern for my April dulcimer
Just wondering, with all of the various sizes an styles of dulcimers out there, what is your favorite VSL / Finger Board length between bridge and nut?
I have been making 27 inchers and think I might try a 26.5 inch one on my new dulcimer (less finger stretching...)
I am using brass frets on my newest dulcimer. I had a question about their longevity and I spoke with a pretty noteworthy luthier supplier who said they should last a good long time, not to worry, if they are the style you are looking form. They do look nice on the Bolivian Rosewood fret board.
Yes, this is really interesting!
I was thinking of designing, for a JI fingerboard, a sound box to set a blank fret-board on top. I would rig a dulcimer string to stretch over it to mark off the notes using an electronic tuner, and then cut in the fret slots... I wonder if it would work.
So... if I was going to build a dulcimer with the idea that I would offer it for sale, would it be better to have the scale in Equal Temperament or Just Intonation?
Are the pre-slotted fingerboards sold by Folkcraft Just Intonation or Equal Temperament?
(I am planning to make a JI finger board using an electronic tuning meter to locate fret positions...)
Very cool! It looks old! I am interested how you attached the tuning head to the body. Cant see any seam. You're a very good woodworker! Also, how did you make the stain? Poplar usually needs as sanding sealer as it has very distinct grain.
Looking forward to hearing it!
By the way, will you display it at the center/museum where you found and copied the original?
I am really looking forward to seeing your new Zitter project! As a "living Historian" (Re-enactor) these things excite me!
I haven't been able to see very clearly the tuning keys on the original you are recreating, but they appear to resemble violin pegs. I was looking at various épinette des Vosges and noticed they have that type of tuners.
Actually, seeing what you are doing sparked my imagination and I am planning on building one after my current 5 string walnut/spruce dulcimer is completed!
My new project is a 5 string dulcimer with double melody string. Its my first at this style. The body is 2 1/4" deep so it should be nice and full sounding.
Pretty cool and great story! I like how you have brought these into the public and keep their history alive.
Do you know what the original woods were that were used? It appears you have selected Poplar for your recreation. Do you think that wood was used? It is plentiful in the Northeast US/Colonies and used commonly as a secondary wood in cabinetry.
As Bert said, it will be interesting to hear it's voice!
Looks good, Bob. I have cuts all over my hands from work I did this weekend. I'll try to take a few photos tonight and post them - of the work, not the cuts.
"The dulcimer sings a new song."
Thanks Ken- would love to see your work-- I am sure the cuts were well worth it!
VERY nice job. I hope you are pleased with the sound.
I learned something new with this instrument. I was thinking the frets were a bit off as I played the higher notes, which got me really upset. Then I realized that I needed to tune it much more carefully, as the "sympathetic strings" need to be just right or the melody string would be off. Now, it sounds just amazing. My favorite so far!
Now go wear the first set of string out. Play it until the strings are in shreds and your fingers bleed.
Really wonderful job, looks fantastic. Congrats!
Thanks . And I already got a bleeding finger making that dulcimer!
Thanks Noah. For the microphone I went way lower budget than the SM57 for now & selected a PylePro Hand Mic (along with a stand) and a small Sawtooth Guitar Amplifier. They both had pretty decent reviews. I may spring for more pro grade down the line but it seems like a good start.
For recording, I will just have to wait a bit until I know more of how to set all that up on a computer.
Thanks again for your help!
Thank you Ken and Dusty. Lots of good information there. I have just a small Point-and-shoot digital camera with a video switch, but it really is very poor quality, naturally.
I remember seeing a small mic that clipped on to a dulcimer and was plugged into a small amp. It was a pretty simple set-up, and i was years ago, so I dont know if things are that simple now. It looks like dusty might be speaking about something similar with the Sure SM57 and a small amp. For me, the simpler the better.
Actually this is two questions:
1) What type of video/audio recorder do you use (or suggest) ? The video camera I have has records all sorts of static or background noises.
2) If you use a mic with an amplifier for a Mountain Dulcimer, what type do you use and what would you suggest? Hopefully nothing very expensive
Thanks for any and all suggestions :-)
I am getting ready for my next Appalachian Dulcimer project. It will be made from American Black Walnut, with a Sitka Alaskan Spruce sound board. 5 strings (double melody strings), Scroll-carved tuning head with Planetary geared tuning pegs (these things are great!). I think it will be made to sell, unless I get too darned attached to it :-)
Well, today I have finished building my newest Appalachian Dulcimer. I am pretty happy with it. Have learned a few things on this one too (I am learning as I go). I like the finish (a wipe on Polly) and let it "cure" a few days before stringing it. The geared planetary pegs (my first time using them) will make tuning easier I am sure! I think it will be fun to play!
So glad to read your post and see your photos (You make beautiful dulcimers indeed!).
For the finish, I was just looking to use many very light layers of wipe-on polly. I don't know if I want to use a heavy varnish, and I am not familliar with 'curtting" or diluting them. I had read that the Minwax product was good-to-go and was going to go with that.
I had read that, with Purple Heart., a water-based finish was not the best, as it tended do lower the brightness of the wood. Also, layers of tung oil might not be the best finish for a musical instrument.
I don't think i would need a sealer, would I?
I will be soon completing my next mountain dulcimer, made from Cherry (Top), African Mahogany sides and back, and Purple Heart Tuning Head, Tail and Finger Board.
I want a soft luster finish and after doing some reading, think Minwax Wipe-On Polly (Satin Finish) is the one to use.
Has anyone used this product, particularly on Purple Heart, and what were your results?
Wow, another beauty Bob! It's interesting how you faded out the Purple Heart in the strum hollow. Love the weeping heart lower sounholes!
Thanks Lynn- its always exciting to see how these turn out. I am finding that design ideas just come to mind as it comes along.
Nice work. I cut my sound holes before glueing the top on. What tool(s) do you use to cut them?
I also cut the sound holes before gluing the top (or the finger board) down as well. (The parts shown are just 'dry fit" without glue at this stage.)
For the sound holes I use a drill to make the pilot holes. Then a coping saw to rough-out the shape, and then just the coping saw blade (no handle ) to do more detailedl work. Finish up with needle files and very fine sand paper.
Saw Joes posting on the stringing on this Mize, and agree, who knows how many times it's been restrung with whatever range of strings.
Also Joes comment on what fine craftsman Mize and Orthey were, But he left one other fine craftsman off that list. Mr. Joe Sanguinette himself.
I stumbled across one of his Elk River Dulcimers, #1322 on a random E bay search, picked it up just for the beauty of it, and have not been disappointed one lick with it as far as intonation, sound, play-ability, would be a cold day in hell before I ever parted with it now, one of those sight unseen gems!!
Take a look at the photos of the one I was lucky enough to find.
All I can say is if you are ever fortunate enough to come across one, don't hesitate, grab it up!!
That is a BEAUTY! I love the lines, the sound holes and the hearts in the strumming hollow. The simple chip carving adds a whole new element to the design that is splendid and simple. Thanks for sharing these photos. Its a very pretty dulcimer!!!