Robin Clark


Location: Tywyn, Gwynedd, Wales
Country: GB

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Fence Post Dulcimer

Fence Post Dulcimer

style or instrument:

musician/member name: Robin

streams: 76


3 tunes played on a dulcimer made from a 3x2" fence post
John Shaw
09/02/18 11:45:33AM @john-shaw:

Beautiful instrument and playing, Robin!  I'll be intrigued to hear it after you've chiselled out some more wood, but you've already achieved that glorious singing tone we've come to expect from you.

Robin Clark
09/01/18 04:24:44AM @robin-clark:

Thanks for your comments smile

Like I said - this build was a demonstration for my 'Bocs C â n Idris' project.  I'm going to take a chisel to it over the weekend and hollow out the back a lot more and perhaps put 3 wooden feet under it to see what happens (make it more like a Hungarian citara).

String gauges and pitch (tension) are very important in generating enough energy to get the instrument really resonating both itself and the coffee table on which it was played.  Thick, heavy dulcimers, such as the Tennessee music box, work because of the string gauges and pitch.  Giving a TMB a good whack with goose quill while holding that heavy, high action melody string down with a noter also helps !!!

I run most of my dulcimers with heavier string gauges and often at higher pitches than standard.  Consequently, the instruments gain volume.

Irene - I used music wire (14 gauge - 0.041" - the traditional broom wire gauge) to make the staples just because I have a roll of it at home.  The strings were 4 and 8 gauge piano wire (0.013 and 0.020) tuned up around Gdd on a 29" scale.  The pegs were an old set of violin pegs I had in my bits draw.  I drilled 3 holes and then ran a peg reamer into them.  I had to sand the edges off the pegs coz the holes were too close together.  I had thought about dropping in zither pins but felt the pine may have been too soft for them.

My next experiment is going to be with a double fretboard instrument (one in D and one in G set at different heights on a square box) with a rack of 10 or so sympathetic drones running through the box.  I want an instrument for playing at our local Welsh dance tune sessions and the 3 tune sets played for dances switch between G and D.  I could (and have) used a Galax dulcimer tuned to d,d,d,d for these sessions in the past but thought I'd try and build something specific.  So we'll see how that goes (it may not work at all !!!!!!). 


PS - that's a LOT of grandchildren grin

08/31/18 11:19:07PM @irene:

HOW I LOVE THIS SONG...Oh Danny Boy.  and the tone of this fence post is  AWESOME.  I was just going to Peek at this site before going to bed....WHAT A REWARD.   This morning at 3:30 a.m. in Texas was our #60 grandchild born to our son Danny (I sang "oh Danny boy" to him when he was first born) and his wife....Thanks for the music of course!!   Did you really use "real fence post staples?" or music wire?  and the turning pegs, what are those that you used here?   aloha, irene

08/31/18 09:57:55PM @bob:

A fence-post dulcimer! Me thinks Robin could make a proverbial silk purse out of a sow's ear! Amazing things again, Robin banjo

Robin Thompson
08/31/18 08:41:58PM @robin-thompson:

You chose the perfect string gauges and intonated the fence post just right, Robin!  And your play of the tunes is so cool. 

08/30/18 12:36:41PM @ariane:

Thank you, Robin - yes, I would have thought that it needed some additional resonance corpus. Your playing and recording sounds really beautiful!

For some reason I could not open the link you have sent...

Robin Clark
08/30/18 09:12:28AM @robin-clark:

Hi Ariane,

I can play the instrument on my knees.

It lacks bass and volume when played like this.  So for the recordings I did yesterday I placed the instrument on a coffee table:


The resonance of the coffee table added bass and volume.

The instrument is not that big.  The VSL is about 29"

08/30/18 07:36:47AM @ariane:

Thank you very much, Robin. Very interesting! Do I see it right that there is no soundhole and the fence is massive? I as a complete layman would think that there must be some hollow space and a wooden deck which can vibrate in order to produce the sound. dulcimer

Robin Clark
08/30/18 06:25:13AM @robin-clark:











































































Yep - it's just a lump of pine with strings attached!!!!

08/30/18 05:40:09AM @ariane:

That's fantastic, Robin! Could you possibly show another picture of the rest of this impressing instrument?

Robin Clark
08/30/18 03:11:12AM @robin-clark:


I made this simple instrument in about 90 minutes as a demonstration of the principles of the dulcimer for an instrument making project I'm running in our village shed. 

What I've learnt from making simple instruments like this one is how easy it would have been in the 1800s to build a perfectly playable instrument using very simple tools and easily available materials.  Particularly, just how easy it is to set staple frets perfectly in tune without any measurements or external tuning sources.

The mountain dulcimer is a true folk instrument.

Cindy Stammich
08/29/18 11:57:31PM @cindy-stammich:

I would have to add a fence post to my collection if only I could make it sound like that!


Noah Cline
08/29/18 10:33:59PM @noah-cline:

Best fencepost I’ve ever heard jive

Seriously though, great sound!

Kevin R.
08/29/18 08:33:11PM @kevin-r:

So nice. Sounds so good. Always an inspiration.

Richard Streib
08/29/18 08:30:47PM @richard-streib:

Awesome sound Robin. Thanks for sharing your talent with us.

Ken Longfield
08/29/18 08:21:52PM @ken-longfield:

Very nice, Robin. That's better looking than my swinette. It sounds great.


"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Dusty Turtle
08/29/18 07:51:03PM @dusty-turtle:

Robin, I'm sure you could put a few strings over a cardboard shoebox and make stellar music.

08/29/18 07:25:17PM @elvensong:

LOL that is impressive! Well done!