Help Selecting from Available Mtn. Dulcimer Hourglass Plans

Dumor3D
Dumor3D
@dumor3d
2 weeks ago
8 posts

Hi Ken. OK, so RTFM!!! (read the friendly manual) That is a great short composition covering a gambit of information. Well done sir! Thanks for I assume reposting that. I'm sure I will refer back to it. There were a lot of answers to questions I had and answers to questions I haven't thought to ask myself yet. One answer to a question in my head was if a strum stick was considered a dulcimer. It looks like it sort of is. I just took mine apart yesterday to begin the final finishing process. It's just tung oil but needs several more coats. I wanted to post a picture in the forum somewhere but didn't know if that would be appropriate as I suppose it isn't really a 'Mountain Dulcimer'.

Basically, you folks are all great! This forum seems to be kind and positive. This is refreshing these days. ;)

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
3 weeks ago
1,830 posts

Many possum boards have some way to hold the dulcimer in place -- elastic, cord, wooden toggles, etc.  But if you're playing "right" -- not thrashing all over the place and not digging the tip of the pick 'way down between the strings, then you don't normally need a hold down.

Do you not have a copy of my article "I Just Got A Dulcimer, Now What?". ??  It's an illustrated glossary of many of these dulcimer terms, so we all use the same jargon, plus answers to many beginner questions about tuning, playing, care and feeding of the dulcimer.   Here:

pdf
I Just Got A.pdf  •  1MB

Dumor3D
Dumor3D
@dumor3d
3 weeks ago
8 posts

Knee-OO-Fight.... yup, I'm obviously a neophyte. So that's what they call a Galax back. I do like that idea. I guess the trade off is a bit more weight. So then I had to Google "possum board" to find out what that was. Yes, I'm learning. The possum board looks like a good option to at times reduce weight, but I think I would want to try to create some type of fastening method so that if played in a lap, the chances of bits going in opposite directions would be reduced.

Thanks folks. You are learning me.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
3 weeks ago
1,830 posts

The double back is a great idea if you want more volume without being "electronified".  But then 3 little feet and a "possum board" plank will do the same thing with much less effort.  If it were me, I'd start with a simple build with feet.  That way you can get real world experience with the effect that a double back will give you.

John C. Knopf
John C. Knopf
@john-c-knopf
3 weeks ago
239 posts

Those slots are actually the space between two backs.  Galax dulcimers have this feature.  You glue small spacer blocks around the edges of the "real" back, and glue another back over those.  It helps the real back to vibrate more freely during play. Your lap won't dampen the sound so much.  "Possum boards" work about the same way.

Dumor3D
Dumor3D
@dumor3d
3 weeks ago
8 posts

I now also have the Elderly plans. :) I am still studying over all of them and seeing bits from each that I really like. I think I'll wind up with my own plan by the time I'm ready to build 'my' dulcimer.

I do have another question:

I've seen I believe Folkcraft dulcimers which have at the bottom/back a series of slots running around the perimeter. I'm assuming these are a substitute for feet is you play it on a table? So, when they do this is there a double back? One above those slots and one below those slots? Or does that just hang down, which seems like it would sort of cut into your legs? Or maybe the purpose of the slots is completely different and I'm just a ignorant noob. :)

Dumor3D
Dumor3D
@dumor3d
one month ago
8 posts

So far I've ordered the Folkcraft and Don's Plans plans. Don's Plans was easy and I placed an order with Folkcraft for some other things and now I'm also making a cane/stick dulcimer for my 91 year old dad for Christmas. He's a ham and this is perfect. He can play a violin and mandolin so this should be easy to play/show-off. :)

I looked at the Woodcraft magazine or how to buy it and found I would need to do I think it was a 1 year subscription to all the online magazines. I'm sure they are worth it but I have too much to read already.

Ken, thanks for especially the word on "can't muck up the sound". That has been my worst worry. I was wondering about that. Enough said... And thanks for the sound hole area. My plan for those should be spot on... more towards 3 sq. in.

I did cut the side pieces oversize. I think I did 2 3/8ths. I figured I could cut them down but from the advice in here, I think I'll leave them as they are for a deeper sound.

I guess I'm getting off topic a bit. I'll refrain and most likely post under a new subject line as to my build... oh... I guess builds as the progress. I am thinking the stick/cane dulcimer will be a good trial run for fretting and such.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
one month ago
1,830 posts

Pick up a plan or two and use the bits you like from each.  You're not going to muck up the sound -- that's really hard to do.  You can always go to our Building Group here or the main Building Discussion and we'll help you as we've helped talk others through their builds.  LOTS of experience here.  

The dulcimer is not like a guitar/mandolin in how it creates sound.  It does not need a complex web of braces.  With modern glues you don't really need kerf strips inside the edges for additional joint space -- 1/8" planks edge glue nicely with Titebond.  The fretboard is a massive brace down the middle of the top.  The back produces a lot of the sound, but only needs two small transverse braces at the wide point of each bout.  Soundhole area wants to be something on the order of 3-4 square inches total (there's a complex Hemholtz formula but virtually no one uses it).  

 

Bert Bennett
Bert Bennett
@bert-bennett
one month ago
48 posts

I've used hourglass plans from Folkcraft.  Nice design for the headstock---not a scroll, but interesting design.  I think they have teardrop plans, too.

Dave Boyt
Dave Boyt
@dave-boyt
one month ago
4 posts

You might check Woodcraft magazine from about a year ago.  They had an article on building a teardrop dulcimer, but some of the info (such as fret spacing) might be helpful.  Fair details & video are online.

Dumor3D
Dumor3D
@dumor3d
one month ago
8 posts

Hi Ken.

Thanks for that. I have pretty much no understanding of what really makes the sound. I had assumed more volume would be a deeper tone, but I had made some other assumptions about volume which in reading, I found out were totally wrong ideas... like bigger sound holes... Nope!

I do love the idea of a Rosewood dulcimer but I was worried about the density of the wood and if it would mute the sound. When I found this piece I immediately thought 'for instruments'. Fretboards, detailing and such. Then later I started thinking about the body.

The WRC came from a friend who worked for the forestry department out west for a while. These have been drying for over 10 years. Some have a little checking and some are remarkably free of defects. It's good to know that this is now useful for more than utilitarian projects... like jamb chucks for my lathe.

Yes, I figured the online images were intentionally making it hard to steal. I get that. I did however find some just didn't show enough for me to see some of the details I was after. Really, I do think I just need to order in a few sets of plans and then create my own plan... mixing in bits from each. Again though, I'm mostly worried about not screwing up the sound. I did manage to sound the back on this one and hit that nice 'bell ring' when drum sanding.

Thanks a lot!

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
one month ago
1,830 posts

Hi Dumor3D -- the online images of the plans are probably deliberately poor quality to prevent someone using them without paying. 

Honduran Rosewood makes a beautiful instrument, and would look really nice with a Western Red Cedar top and a light maple fretboard.  I've used a lot of WRC in dulcimers.

For a reasonably mellow sound you'll want to make the sides about 2" high.  Interior volume of the box is a major factor in overall sound -- less than 2" sides is headed towards the 'high silvery' traditional sounding dulcimer.  More than 2" sides is headed into the baritone/bass sound.

Dumor3D
Dumor3D
@dumor3d
one month ago
8 posts

Hi John! Thanks for the quick response. I do wish some of the images of the plans were a bit better but I think I'm seeing enough to decide I'll be buying 2 or maybe 3 sets of plans. :) I had found some of these as well as some on Amazon. Now I need to look on Amazon again to see if they are the same plans, maybe from the same stores. 

I picked up a piece of I guess by now vintage Hondorus Rosewood recently. It would be beautiful to make an instrument. A friend recently gave me about 6 3 !/2" x 8 to 10" x 48" slabs of well dried western cedar. At the time, I had no idea what I would use it for. HAH!

Again thanks!

John C. Knopf
John C. Knopf
@john-c-knopf
one month ago
239 posts

Hello!  These dulcimer plans are not free, but are good designs, and I think the first 2 are by the same designer, Scott Antes.  One is $10.00, the other just $8.50.  Don's plans are just $3.99 (online only).

www.elderly.com/mountain-dulcimer-88718.html

www.folkcraft.com/collections/building-supplies-plans/products/hourglass-dulcimer-plan-traditional

http://donsplans.com/ps/search?controller=search&orderby=position&orderway=desc&search_query=dulcimer

They might be what you're looking for.  Thanks for asking!

Dumor3D
Dumor3D
@dumor3d
one month ago
8 posts

I am in the middle of one dulcimer build using a free plan I found on the internet. I suppose it is a teardrop except both ends are symmetrical. I would like to build a hourglass dulcimer. I don't want to start a war here, but I would love to hear suggestions for good plans that are available for purchase or for free.

My woodworking skills are professional. My instrument skills are a noob, but I'm not having any trouble with the first one. I'm just second guessing what it will sound like. :)

I am after something in the mid range, not too bright and not too muted (I forgot the word for less bright)

Thanks for any suggestions! I'm glad I found this forum and am looking forward to learning and sharing.