Mountain Dulcimer Number Two – Walnut & Zebra Wood – 2014

With David Rae & Some Inspiration from Anthony Damico


You may remember that David, Anthony and I assembled a Dulcimer in a whirlwind last December.  With one Dulcimer strung up – David and I sought to get another one in tune.  I had to set the beat on this project with Anthony off on the far stretches of the world.  We had bent and prepped all the sides at once – so we had a leg up on this one.  We largely followed the same approach, although this time we aimed  for a little extra curve.  All things said and done, (minus the zebra wood fretboard) this instrument heralds back to a more traditional dulcimer, with hearts as soundholes and a little extra effort in a scrolled pegboard.

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The nut was finally epoxied into place on a canoe trip along the Roanke River in North Carolina.  If you get a chance you should check it out – its a swamp full of cypress trees, snakes that jump and some pretty stunning paddling.  Its also a great place to bring a dulcimer to life, check out David’s first couple of notes from a river board walk.




Adding Liners

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Basswood – what a pleasure to plane.  Here I am achieving a life long dream of holding an eleven foot plane shaving.  The basswood strips are steam bent and than glued to the sides.  This step is a little extra work, but the expanded surface area will make gluing the top to the side a lot less stressful.  The basswood linings are bent in the same molds as the side.  Clothing pins are a cheap if poor substitute for clamps.

Building the Body:

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Taking stock of where we are, and trying to figure out how big this instrument is going to be.  The last dulcimer was slim, more of a backpacker than a resonator.  We book ended the walnut backing to give the piece a nice symmetry.  We rough cut the shape before the glue-up.


With the sides glued on – a reinforcing strip on the bottom and the end blocks attached.  The instrument will sound better the thinner we cut the stock.  The thinner we cut the stock the weaker the glue-up.


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We used spoke-shaves to bring the sides flush with the top/bottom.  Afterwards we put a round along the edge.


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David used a bit and brace to cut three holes into the top of the instrument.  With a little knife work, the holes became a heart.


 Fret Board:

With Anthony abroad, fretting about the measurements fell to David.  To minimize the amount that our playing sounds just a little off – each fret needs to be placed in a precisely determined location.  We mixed it up and rather using the same fretting we followed the spacing recommended by Roy Underhill.  The frets are tapped into the saw kerfs.  We stuck to our strengths here – David pointed to where I should cut and I sawed them.

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Shaping and Carving the Scroll Head:

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yeah, I am getting mocked – after building a bowsaw I still resorted to the jig saw to shape the scroll head.  I’d love to say the bowsaw framed me – but it appears that I am guilty.

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The pegboard begins to take shape.  I used a rasp to add the shadow lines.  Borrowed a set of gauge chisels from my friend Nick.  I used the gouges to cut a swirl into the peg head.


Finishing and Stringing it Up:


A hanging isn’t what I meant by stringing it up. Here coat four of danish oil dries on the instrument.  I wish I watched this video before building the first two dulcimers – but here is the master’s approach:


One thought on “Mountain Dulcimer Number Two – Walnut & Zebra Wood – 2014

  1. Pingback: Helper’s Tool Box – Mixed Woods – 2016 | raecreation

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