Gentlemen, Thank you so much for your input. You have made me much more confident with my design choices, and I'll go ahead with the plan and not change a thing! Again, Thanks!
Fretboard widths and wood chocies
Just a quick comment here that fretboard width and string spacing are two different things. My personal preference is for the strings to be no further than 1 inch from bass to melody (on a 3-string instrument), but I still like a 1-1/2" fretboard since that provides more room for bending strings.
Cherry and butternut sounds like a nice choice. I think I agree with others who suggest that wood choice has much less of an effect on sound than many other aspects of building. I usually choose wood based on looks and the builder based on sound.
Dusty T., Northern California
As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
Definitely agree with Ken and Andy. Fret board width and VSL is not an absolute. What one musician finds ideal, another may find unplayable. Play many different instruments and find what works for you, or, if you build to sell, make a few different models and give musicians a choice.
As far as wood, same advice. Find the model of dulcimer you enjoy building, then find the wood that you believe sounds best,..., and ignore the people who think otherwise. Music is in the ear of the hearer, build what sounds good to you. Best example, cherry. Some say it produces a sweet sound and others say it over emphasizes the treble. Does it sound right to you? Then it is.
The 1/8" difference in width means the melody course and the bass course are that much farther apart. Most Chord-Melody players don't have an issue with fretboard width affecting chording ability, although those with "chubby" fingers find the wider board more useable. C-M players do have issues with longer VSLs (28" to 30" making it harder to fret some chords. Smaller-handed Chord-Melody players seem to prefer shorter VSLs (25-26")
There are many, many factors of dulcimer construction which effect the tonal quality of an dulcimer. Wood species is pretty far down the list. My advice, as a player for many years is to ignore wood species except for the æsthetic effect. A cherry carcass with a butternut top will make a visually striking instrument, especially as the cherry darkens and ages over time. I think you would be very happy with that wood combination. Several of my dulcimers have butternut tops/backs, and I love the grain structure and patterns which the wood gives..
updated by @ken-hulme: 12/30/21 06:54:51AM
I play mostly 4 equal-distance strings on a 1 3/8" fretboard with larger than average hands - no problem. Three strings just allows for more space. So everything I build is 1 3/8" with no complaints.
Wood combinations should be fine. Not to negate wood contribution, but how they pieces are laid out and joined affects overall sound more than wood type.
What would the advantages/disadvantages of a 1.5 inch wide fretboard or a 1 3/8 inch fretboard? I have just slightly smaller than average hands if that has anything to do with it. Also, what are your thoughts about back and sides of cherry and a top of butternut? What might that produce tonally? Thanks for any input.