Cripple Creek's store has been closed since a flood when through the area but the have a FB & I read they said they would still answer questions
Cripple Creek, to the best of my knowledge, never uses stains on their woods -- almost no one in the dulcimer building world does unless they are making something wacky like a blue or green instrument.
The rule of thumb we use for bridge height is called the Nickel & Dime rule: Lay a dime next to the first fret, and adjust the bridge height such that the strings should just touch the dime. When that's just right, set a nickel on top of the 7th fret (not the 6+ fret), and adjust the bridge height again, so the strings just touch the top of the nickel. You can adjust height by filing the notches deeper, but the preferred method is to remove the bridge, sand the flat bottom on a piece of sandpaper setting on a flat surface, and re-install -- repeat as necessary.
If you don't know what the 6+ fret is, refer to my article I Just Got A Dulcimer, Now What? here:
Dusty's got the string gauges right, that's for certain; or as right as anyone can be without knowing the VSL of your instrument(s). There is a right way and wrong way to install strings, depending on the kind of tuners.
As far as bridge materials, many of us use hard woods -- at least as hard as Maple, I prefer even harder woods like Lignum Vitae. You can buy small (3/4" x 3/4" x 5" pieces of exotic hardwoods which are marketed as "Pen Blanks" on Ebay -- I see a number of very hard wood blanks for under $3 each. Folkcraft and others have Corian or other hard plastic bridges with the notches already cut. You can also make bridges from bone -- buy a piece of de-greased bone from a pet shop. Send me a PM if you'd like more detail.
I agree with Dusty. Check the string calculator. It tends to give a "lighter" gauge string setting so you can always go up, e.g., if it says 0.010 you can use an 0.011 or 0.012. For a 27 VSL I like .011, .013, and .024. As for the bridge material, what is the nut made of? Most builders use the same material for the nut and the bridge. Just match it.
"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."
For string gauges, I usually send people to the Strothers' String Gauge Calculator. You simply enter the vibrating string length (VSL, or the distance between the nut and the bridge) and the note you want to tune to, and the calculator will tell you what gauge to use. It errs on the light side, so feel free to use a size or two larger.
For a dulcimer with a 27" VSL, I would imagine a wound .022 or .024 for the bass, . 012 or .014 for the middle, and .010 or .012 would work for a DAd tuning. I use slightly heavier strings than that, but you'll have to discover your preference.
The bass string is almost always wound and heavier than the others, but if you are tuned DAAA, then the melody string(s) and the middle strings would indeed be the same.
I don't really know what to say about the material for the bridge and nut. Hardwoods work well but so does bone, and there are some synthetics that people are using these days as well. Maybe one of the luthiers can chime in and offer some advice.
Hi all! I recently bought a Cripple Creek dulcimer on eBay, and unfortunately, my email isn't sending through to Cripple Creek. I was wondering if anyone here would have the answer to my questions?
Are there any particular instructions on which strings to use and the preferred method of installation? I've put a new set on it, and it sounds great but would just like to know if there were any specific recommendations. The strings that came with it from the person who sold it were very obviously the wrong ones. They were even 4 different sizes.
I have another old, used, dulcimer and the bridge was either damaged or completely absent. I was wondering what the best material would be to replace it.
Metal or wood or something else entirely?