New guy with building your own questions

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New guy with building your own questions

Postby padlin » Sun Nov 19, 2017 5:27 pm

Hi folks
Bob here in western MA., been playing the Ukulele for a couple years now, other then piano lessons when a little kid. Heard a short concert where a dulcimer was played at the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center in FL, came home and picked up a kit hoping to learn to play. I'm building my 1st instrument, it being a McSpadden Sweet Song, I believe they are called a figure 8 style. As the subject line says, I have a couple questions.

The 1st being about where to locate the pins in the tail. If someone has measurements I'd appreciate it, or is guessing good enough?. I'm going with 4 strings, 2 melody.

2nd and last question ison the finish. I have the following on hand, will any of them suffice? I'm not crazy about gloss finishes, so this is what I have that's less then a high gloss.
Waterlox Sealer/Finish, it's a Tung Oil finish, kind of a semi gloss
Arm R Seal Oil & Urethane Semi Gloss
Minwax Wiping Poly in satin
And Minwax Fast Dri Poly in a semi gloss

Appreciate any advice I can get.
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Re: New guy with building your own questions

Postby dholeton » Sun Nov 19, 2017 7:04 pm

In answer to your first question, I added a picture below to show how I arranged the hitchpins on my McSpadden dulcimer kit. I decided on that arrangement to maximize the space between the pins for strength. The wood grain is vertical and no two pins are in line with each other with the vertical grain. I also was thinking arranging the pins in a row might be prone to cracks in the tail block. For your dulcimer, I would suggest any arrangement as long as the pins are not in line with each other in the grain of the wood and there is maximum space between the pins.

For a finish, you can try anything that you listed. I have used lacquer from a spray can, teak oil, and Minwax wipe-on poly.

Spraying lacquer presents a shiny and deep finish, but:
1. It is prone to showing any scratches or dents more than other finishes
2. It may be necessary to sand any runs in the finish
3. It may be necessary to wet sand it to a glossy finish
4. The lacquer one way or another will peel off of the frets
5. In time the action of fretting the strings will wear through the lacquer on the fingerboard

The teak oil finish just wipes on with a rag. Any time I feel it is time (maybe at a time where I change strings), I might sand some areas that show wear or have accumulated blemishes and I'll wipe on another coat of oil. It is totally forgiving as it soaks into the wood and it gives more of a wood grain appearance (no heavy lacquer or paint appearance).

The Minwax wipe on poly is similar to the teak oil in that it is very forgiving while applying it. The wipe on poly is like a lacquer or paint and is more on the surface of the wood as compared to the oil that sinks into the wood. It leaves more of a wood grain appearance and I haven't used it long enough to observe any wear on the fingerboard (like the lacquer that wears or peels away). I haven't performed any repairs or refinishes yet, but I suspect it will be okay with touch up on dents and scratches as long as the preparation process (sanding) doesn't get into different shades of the wood (the color of the wood might be different in areas that are sanded).

I've only built a small number of instruments (less than 10), but anything I build going forward will be finished with either teak oil or wipe on poly.

Hitchpin arrangement for McSpadden Hourglass Kit Dulcimer
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Re: New guy with building your own questions

Postby padlin » Sun Nov 19, 2017 8:48 pm

Thanks Dave, the picture gives me what I needed for the pins. As long as it'll work I'll use the Wipe on poly, should get the 1st coat on in the am.
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Re: New guy with building your own questions

Postby kwl » Mon Nov 20, 2017 10:08 pm

I think you will do well to follow Dave's suggestions. While I use spray lacquer in most of my instrument building, I do like the Minwax wipe-on poly. A friend used it on a harp kit he built for his wife.

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."
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