Phroedrick
Phroedrick
@phroedrick
2 months ago
52 posts

I thank everyone who proposed a solution for my problem. I did finally get it right. Learned a lot, too, as this instrument seems to have been the perfect storm of things that can go wrong. So, thanks again.

Phroedrick
Phroedrick
@phroedrick
2 months ago
52 posts

Slate Creek Dulcimers: I would think it is fixable. You're just gonna have to determine a way to put a dip in the fretboard instead of a hump. Most dulcimers with a full length fretboard will keep relief, or a dip in the fretboard under tension due to string tension. The problem with this style fretboard is the partial length transfers the tension it's getting from the strings to the soundboard and sides and it will sometimes make the problem worse because the tension will tend to lift the rear end of the fretboard. You'll likely need to pull the frets and use a hand plane or handheld sander to remove some material to make a dip, or some sandpaper and elbow grease and time.

Thanks for this suggestion. I’ll on this later today. Worst case is, well, it will still be a learning experience.

Phroedrick
Phroedrick
@phroedrick
2 months ago
52 posts

Ken Hulme:

One basic string height setup that we often use is known as the Nickel & Dime technique. You can lower the strings even more, but this is a good place to start:

Place a dime next to the 1st fret and see how close the strings are to the coin.  Sand the bottom of the Nut until the strings just touch the dime. Now balance a nickel on top of the 7th fret, and check the height of the strings.  Sand the bottom of Bridge until the strings just touch the nickel.  

What a great idea! It’s way better than trying to measure millimeters and other methods I’ve read about. I will try this. Thing is, I decided to use this dulcimer as a learning experience. It wasn’t the original plan, until all the issues started showing up. Thanks for this suggestion.

Slate Creek Dulcimers
Slate Creek Dulcimers
@slate-creek-dulcimers
2 months ago
13 posts
I would think it is fixable. You're just gonna have to determine a way to put a dip in the fretboard instead of a hump.
Most dulcimers with a full length fretboard will keep relief, or a dip in the fretboard under tension due to string tension. The problem with this style fretboard is the partial length transfers the tension it's getting from the strings to the soundboard and sides and it will sometimes make the problem worse because the tension will tend to lift the rear end of the fretboard.
You'll likely need to pull the frets and use a hand plane or handheld sander to remove some material to make a dip, or some sandpaper and elbow grease and time.
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
2 months ago
1,646 posts

One basic string height setup that we often use is known as the Nickel & Dime technique. You can lower the strings even more, but this is a good place to start:

Place a dime next to the 1st fret and see how close the strings are to the coin.  Sand the bottom of the Nut until the strings just touch the dime. Now balance a nickel on top of the 7th fret, and check the height of the strings.  Sand the bottom of Bridge until the strings just touch the nickel.  

Phroedrick
Phroedrick
@phroedrick
2 months ago
52 posts

Salt Springs:

If you have not done so, and it sounds like you are working through a learning curve, may I recommend you go to Bearmeadow.com and read through all of the building and adjustment tips and instructions that DW has posted..........it is great information and will help you a great deal.

Yes, that's exactly where I am, on the slippery slope of the learning curve. Thanks for the tip to bearmeadow.com. I will take a read through it. One thing I've come to appreciate is the complexity of the height of the nut to the bridge, scale length and fret placement, including height. Thanks again for the tip.

Salt Springs
Salt Springs
@salt-springs
3 months ago
157 posts

If you have not done so, and it sounds like you are working through a learning curve, may I recommend you go to Bearmeadow.com and read through all of the building and adjustment tips and instructions that DW has posted..........it is great information and will help you a great deal.

Phroedrick
Phroedrick
@phroedrick
3 months ago
52 posts

Strumelia:

Phroe...  I'm thinking you'll eventually have to make a decision whether to continue putting in your time and expense to make this a dulcimer that is enjoyable to play . Sometimes we just have to let an instrument-fixing project go and chalk it up to good learning experience. But only you can decide where that point might be in your personal scale of pros and cons. You might opt to keep this instrument as a good one for hauling around to campouts or trips without having to worry about it like you would with a more expensive dulcimer. Or it may be the instrument that prompted you to make one from scratch. Or it may be the one that caused you to go out and try some dulcimers made by known and respected makers. You have lots of choices as to how to see this and what to do next.  But I think your attitude has been real positive through this experience.  yes

This exercise is typical of my obsessive-compulsive nature. Whenever I get interested in something, I have to dig into it, get to know how it works, and all that. I love the dulcimer, and my playing improves every day. Some pieces are actually becoming fluid, rather than choppy. Skye Boat Song is one of those. At some point, I’ll stop working on this dulcimer. If it plays okay, I’ll find a kid and give it to them, like planting a seed. Otherwise I’ll make it wall art in the garage. Presently, I am looking for a top end dulcimer. As no experience is ever wasted, I suspect all this sweat and energy will be helpful in making a better choice when ready to drop big bucks. Meanwhile, I’m playing a Roosebeck I picked up when I decided to explore my interest in playing dulcimer. It’s fine until I find the “one” for me. Thanks, and I love this site.

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 months ago
1,162 posts

Proedrick, the issue with the terminology is not a big deal.  If the strings sit on top of the box, the instrument is in the zither family (like the dulcimer or autoharp). If the strings extends past the box, we call that a neck, and the instrument is in the lute family (like a guitar or mandolin).  

In the picture you posted, the head of the dulcimer extends past the body, but the fretboard sits on the box itself, so technically it has no neck.  

Incidentally, this is one reason why purists don't consider stick dulcimers to be dulcimers. The "stick" is the neck of the instrument, so from an organological (fancy word, huh winky ) point of view, the instrument is in the lute family rather than the zither family regardless of whether it has a diatonic fretboard or not.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
Phroedrick
Phroedrick
@phroedrick
3 months ago
52 posts

Dusty Turtle:

Hey Phroedrick, I guess you have to call this a time-consuming lesson. I have no knowledge of lutherie, so I would have no idea how to fix fret buzz. But when I've brough an instrument in to a shop for that reason, the luthiers always eyeball the fretboard first, looking to see how flat it is.  I would think that actually working with the frets would be the last adjustment to make. I'm sure it's been frustrating for you.

And hey, River City Dulcimers is meeting this Saturday in Roseville if you want to make a drive.  I know it's a schlep, but you'll have folks to commiserate with. You're more than welcome to join us.

Yes, a little frustrating. However, a great learning experience. All of this trial and error will come in handy when, soon, I go looking for a really good, top end instrument. And, yes, when, if, I do another project like this, frets will be last. Re River City this Saturday, will have to make it next month. Best.

Phroedrick
Phroedrick
@phroedrick
3 months ago
52 posts

Ken Hulme:

Point of terminology, Phroedrick --- dulcimers do not have necks .  Dulcimers have fretboards , with or without fingerboards.  Necks extend beyond the soundbody, fretboards do not.    Also, dulcimers seldom have a saddle.  The vast majority have a bridge set on fretboard, or in a slot in the fretboard; even dulcimers with dis-continuous fretboards seldom have a saddle.  Instead they use a banjo or violin style tall bridge.

In your discussion you mention both fretboard straightness, and bow.  Dulcimer fretboards, especially old dulcimer fretboards, were often made with a distinct bow from say 3rd fret to 12th or thereabouts.  The bow is/was intended to accommodate the elliptical nature of vibrating strings, being deepest near the 7th fret and shallowest at either end.

Thanks for the stuff about terminology. I wasn’t sure. I’ve always thought the saddle was the bone or, ugh, plastic piece at the tail, and the saddle being what it sits down in, a slot essentially. Regarding the bow in the fretboard, I think you’re describing a descending bow, curving down around the 3rd fret and up again at or around the 12th. The bow in this neck is the opposite and rises up around fret 4, and descending around fret 10. I found this by pulling all fret wires except 1 and 1+. When I played the D string at fret 1, there was a slight buzz. I figured the 1+ was the culprit, so I played it at 1+ and the buzz got worse. Conclusion was the string(s) D and A especially, in their elliptical movement were contacting the fretboard. That’s how I found this upward arching bow. As I wrote, I’m better with guitars. Maybe I should stick to them. Am including a pic of an old dulcimer. Take a look an tell me if it has a neck, a fretboard or both. Sorry it’s a bit blurry.

92C74B3FDA5B4BC69C36BE2FDF0DF6D7.jpeg

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 months ago
1,162 posts

Hey Phroedrick, I guess you have to call this a time-consuming lesson. I have no knowledge of lutherie, so I would have no idea how to fix fret buzz. But when I've brough an instrument in to a shop for that reason, the luthiers always eyeball the fretboard first, looking to see how flat it is.  I would think that actually working with the frets would be the last adjustment to make. I'm sure it's been frustrating for you.

And hey, River City Dulcimers is meeting this Saturday in Roseville if you want to make a drive.  I know it's a schlep, but you'll have folks to commiserate with. You're more than welcome to join us.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 months ago
1,714 posts

Phroe...  I'm thinking you'll eventually have to make a decision whether to continue putting in your time and expense to make this a dulcimer that is enjoyable to play . Sometimes we just have to let an instrument-fixing project go and chalk it up to good learning experience. But only you can decide where that point might be in your personal scale of pros and cons. You might opt to keep this instrument as a good one for hauling around to campouts or trips without having to worry about it like you would with a more expensive dulcimer. Or it may be the instrument that prompted you to make one from scratch. Or it may be the one that caused you to go out and try some dulcimers made by known and respected makers. You have lots of choices as to how to see this and what to do next.  But I think your attitude has been real positive through this experience.  yes




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
3 months ago
1,646 posts

Point of terminology, Phroedrick --- dulcimers do not have necks.  Dulcimers have fretboards, with or without fingerboards.  Necks extend beyond the soundbody, fretboards do not.    Also, dulcimers seldom have a saddle.  The vast majority have a bridge set on fretboard, or in a slot in the fretboard; even dulcimers with dis-continuous fretboards seldom have a saddle.  Instead they use a banjo or violin style tall bridge.

In your discussion you mention both fretboard straightness, and bow.  Dulcimer fretboards, especially old dulcimer fretboards, were often made with a distinct bow from say 3rd fret to 12th or thereabouts.  The bow is/was intended to accommodate the elliptical nature of vibrating strings, being deepest near the 7th fret and shallowest at either end.


updated by @ken-hulme: 09/25/19 07:27:38AM
Phroedrick
Phroedrick
@phroedrick
3 months ago
52 posts

I started refurbing and refinishing an older dulcimer a month ago. It was a technical mess, had no fret wires left, no bridge/saddle or nut. Someone had tried to make it playable at some point by removing the nut and putting a zero fret in the wrong place. In fact every tweak seemed to be the result of trying to make this dulcimer playable. Filled with energy and great expectations,  I removed the old finish, stained it, applied a semigloss, installed new fret wires and so on. There’s more to the story, but I’ll cut to the chase.

I’ve worked on lots of guitars, yet dulcimers are new territory. The mistake I made with this one was not checking the neck for straightness FIRST, before jumping into what I thought would be an easy project.  Bottom line is this omission dragged me through a worm hole of endlessly chasing fret buzz that kept moving as I dressed what I thought were offending frets. You cannot get proper intonation and rid the instrument of fret buzz with even a slightly bowed neck/fretboard.

While most on this forum have loads more experience than I, for those in the learning stages, I implore you to always check the neck for straightness before, refurbing and re-fretting. I’m determined to get this thing sorted, so any suggestions, jokes at my expense and such will be most appreciated.