Moving to Southern Virginia
OFF TOPIC discussions
Bob, I've been thinking in that direction myself, lately.
Looks like a wonderful area of the country, with nice folks who actually know what a dulcimer is!
Do you have any photos to help us?
See something a little different here? I've noticed that when I play the scale, I get "od-it-al-los-af-im-er-od..." Oh-- everything's BACKWARDS. This is a left-handed poplar Thomas dulcimore that was requested by a customer of mine.
Looks almost like a DSO to me.
Ken's right-- I'll sometimes use a Harbor Freight Tools heat gun to soften some Titebond glue enough to reposition something. It works quite well.
UPDATE: He just received it a couple hours ago, and he loves it! Sentiments to brighten a poor luthier's heart!
Molly, I can't see what you're dealing with, but in most cases you should be able to surface the topside of the fretboard level, then either refinish it and install frets, or glue a 1/8" thick fingerboard over the fretboard and cut your fret slots in that.
The trick is getting the fretboard flat. You could use a belt sander with a coarse grit belt, or a hand plane, or if you feel really lucky, run it through a power planer, a little cut at a time.
Thank you all for the comments. The new owner should have it in a couple of days now.
Just completed, another walnut Thomas dulcimore with a matching possum board.
That looks like a mandolin tailpiece to me. If so, the pointed decorative end should lift up to reveal the string ends. In other words, there should be a hinge on the other end of the tailpiece. If it's tight, maybe dab a little WD-40 on it from a Q-tip.
Howie Mitchell's "floating bridge" design has been largely discredited. This design tends to allow the bridge end of the fretboard to bow up. Some folks just glue a filler piece of wood in the gap to solidify things. The sound doesn't suffer much from the modification.
I would guess that it's an assembled church dulcimer kit from Hughes Dulcimer Company out of Denver. These were made of luan plywood ("Philippine mahogany"), and were of simple design. If you remade the nut and bridge, you could get the 3 courses of two strings that we're talking about.
That seems unusual for a dulcimer. Usually if a dulcimer has six strings, they are arranged in 3 pairs on the fretboard. Each string pair (or "course") have a distance of about 1/8" between them, so they can be played as one string.
Tuning is generally in the DAA or CGG range (Ionian or Major mode) if it's a conventional length dulcimer. Each pair is tuned alike. Do you have any photos of it?
If I were you, I'd start with a prepared bone blank from any of a number of online sources, such as eBay, C.B.Gitty, and the like. The dust that is generated is smelly and dangerous to breathe, so use a mask or respirator when you sand or cut bone. Same goes for mother-of-pearl (MOP).
Welcome, Steve! This is THE PLACE to ask questions about dulcimer history, and design and building of the same.
I'll try to help you, along with many others here who have a lot of experience in the field. If you look through some of the previous posts, you should find answers to questions. Have fun!
Yes, Dave, I've made several of this very kit over the years. They are very easy to put together if you take your time and follow directions. The resulting dulcimer is a fine looking and sounding instrument.
You really did seem to enjoy yourself, Irene! What a hoot! We had an intensive 3-day dulcimer learning gig. I won't forget how my legs complained over all that walking! They still hurt, but I'm glad I went. None of the group were what you would call "spring chickens", able to walk anywhere and everywhere. I'm glad you like the Singleton. It's leaving me this weekend...
Yes, here is a photo of the original in Lexington, Kentucky. The folksinger John Jacob Niles altered the fret pattern, but I used the normal diatonic pattern for my replica.
Here's a new Uncle Will Singleton dulcimer replica I built for a player in Toronto. Its name is "Angel", taken from Psalm 34:7. Singleton was the local dulcimer builder in Viper, KY and was related to Jean Ritchie. The poplar body really rings out when played. The red heart and diamond are cherry inlays in the fretboard.
Wow, Dan! That 24 carat gold and diamond dulcimer is just what I'm in the market for!
The shipping charge alone would kill the deal...
And I (John Knopf) have a black walnut J. E. Thomas hourglass dulcimer with hand-carved pegs and homemade strings. Upside-down heart soundholes and staple frets. Sounds great! It's ready to go now, and it's $350 plus shipping. You can see my website by clicking on my ad below, when it shows up on the left-hand side.
Here is the outworking of some brainstorming I've had recently. You know how an idea gets in your head and won't go away peacefully? Well, this lil' guy is less than 12" long, but can be played-- SORT OF. It's my version of a true "pocket dulcimer". Just thought you might like to see it!
So, full steam ahead! Congratulations on building your first dulcimer. You'll get lots of ideas for future ones now.
You could try sanding the back flat if the bow is minor, or you could glue 3 feet on the back like they did in the old days.
All I found was this old listing on Reverb:
It probably looks like yours. No date given, but the same labeling.
Hollowing the fretboard saves weight and adds more cubic inches of soundbox, and usually yields a little more sound.
All things being equal, it's a good idea to hollow it out. Another question is whether or not to cut holes in the top under the fretboard. I like to cut them out, but doing that may not make it sound much different. Best wishes on your repairs!
I agree with Ken. Robin Clark should be able to help you, friend.
It seems to me that the strum hollow was "invented" by either Charles Prichard in Huntington, WV or by Ed Thomas in Bath, KY, long after dulcimers were being built, as Ken said. If you look at old Virginia dulcimers, for example, you'll see many scratch marks on their flat fretboards, where the strum hollow would normally be.
Matt, I mention the following to my customers who buy one of my dulcimers in the wintertime:
I tell them to bring the box into their house, but NOT TO OPEN IT for an hour or so! I know it's agony to be so close to enjoying a new instrument, but it will be worth it. There is a real danger of thermal shock occurring if a cold wooden instrument is suddenly subjected to warm temperatures. I don't know of any breakages so far, but I've experienced the heartbreak of seeing the fine lacquer finish of a Warren May poplar dulcimer CRAZE in front of my eyes when I took it out of its cold box too soon. It looked like the surface of old china, with fine cracks all over it. It's difficult to repair the finish.
With much patience and care -- far more than I have.
My usual top and bottom thickness is about 1/8", but I try to go thinner than that if I can. As you might have read on this site, or elsewhere, you can get get good sound out of a Tennessee music box even when the top and bottom panels are over 3/8" thick.
It's mostly aesthetics, Lisa. Some like the look of a wasp-waisted dulcimer more than other body styles. Uncle Ed Thomas of Bath, Kentucky and C. N. Prichard of Huntington, West Virginia popularized the shape over a hundred years ago.
I don't know what to say to this news.
To me, Mike was the embodiment of the old-time Kentucky dulcimer spirit. A quiet and knowledgeable man who wanted to help others understand dulcimer history and mountain music. He did his part to perpetuate the best of tradition.
Rest in peace, friend, and may God bless your family left behind. Too sad...
Just bear in mind that if you alter McSpadden's design and you want to sell the dulcimer later, the modification may affect the value of the dulcimer.