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Posts posted by NoterMan

  1. Alongside -- we actually set a dime on the fretboard next to the 1st fret.  The coin is marginally taller than the fret. 

     Probably best not to use anything relating to guitars/mandolins/banjos when 'messing about' with dulcimers.  The construction techniques are different.  The dulcimer does not produce the majority of its sound by vibrating the top.  Dulcimers don't want a complex system of braces under the top or bottom, they don't need kerf strips glued into the edges of the sides, etc.

  2. An American dime is 1.35mm thick; a nickel is 1.95mm.  Call them 1.5 and 2.0 for round numbers. 
    You measure the dime height from the surface of the fretboard alongside the 1st fret.
    You measure the nickel from the top of the 7th fret (not the 6+ fret).

    Yes you can just sand a bit off the bottom of the nut and the bridge if they come out easily.  Bridges most often are not compensated for string thickness.

  3. In more than 30 years of building and playing dulcimers I've never seen plans for a banjimer. 

    You'll have to be a bit more specific -- what STYLE of dulcimer do you want to build?  There are many "standard" shapes -- Elliptical, Teardrop, Diamond, Hourglass, Fiddle, Box, Aorell, Trapezoid, and Zither to name a few.

    It might help if you look at Larry's post about finding plans immediately below this...

  4. So here you see a peg style bending jig made from a piece of shelving from a big box store and some lengths of 1/2" dowel.  You cut the dowels so that they are a bit shorter than the height of the sides.  As you can see, they alternate inside and outside of the lines of the sides, to pull and push the hot-water-soaked (no steam, no hot pipe bending) wood into the curves you want and hold them there while the wood dries to shape.  Then you glue to Bottom onto the bent frame shape before removing the "carcass" from the jig.   Gotta run right now.  We'll talk more today.  Let me know questions.  

    Burnsville Frame.jpg

  5. Looks like you've got plenty there to go on!  Scott Antes was a well known and respected dulcimer builder.  His how-to build a Hammered Dulcimer is highly regarded.  

    That James Hall design is called a Fiddle shape.  Not particularly common, but a nice shape. More difficult to build than an Hourglass, as you've noticed.   28.5" VSL is very long by modern standards.  If you play Noter & Drone or Fingerdance style they can be good.  But modern Chord-Melody stylists with short fingers find them harder to work with.  Most today are built with a 26" or 27" VSL.   I don't know the Hall name as a builder though.  That would be very pretty scaled down a bit; or simply kept full body size but with a shorter VSL layout, leaving a little extra space behind the nut.

    Any plan can be scaled down or just reduced in width; although just reducing width may not be as aesthetically pleasing.

    Forget all that stuff about theories for fret placement calculations.  Everyone today uses one of several calculators that will give you fret places for any VSL you care to enter.  Another thing to ignore on those older plans, in light of modern glues and such, is mention of kerf strips to provide a wider gluing surface.  Almost no one uses them these days; they are an added hassle, time consuming, and simply not necessary if you use Titebond or Titebond  II glues rather than hide glue or Elmers white glue...

    Pick a design, and I'll send you some pictures on how to make a simple bending and building jig for the shape.

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  6. It would help if we knew which plans you down loaded.  I have wood sources where I can buy 8-10" wide wood, but it is not common certainly.  Also, ther is no law that says you can't edge glue 3 or 4 or more strips together to the a width you want.   

    However.  I've attached a "plan" for a classic J.E. "Uncle Ed" Thomas hourglass dulcemore with the essential measurements.  The one shown is one of his late models when he was experimenting with soundposts.  They don't work particularly well in dulcimers, and you can simply ignore them.  This version is 6-1/8" at its widest and certainly can be slimmed  by 1/8" all around easily.  If you use the MS Draw part of MS Office, you can import this image and stretch it up to full size, print it out, and use the drawing to create your building jig.

    The replica which I own is just over 5" wide.  The Thomas dulcimores were designed for 3 strings with violin style tuning pegs, but you could substitute several different kinds of mechanical tuners if you want.  If you want to use violin pegs, I do not recommend trying to make them -- simply buy commercial violin pegs for about $2 each -- you would need a tapered reamer to fit the holes in the scroll head, but that's only a $20 tool.

    I've built a couple hundred dulcimers over the years.  if you have any questions, feel free to PM me, and we can carry on via email if you like.

    Thomas Blueprint.jpg

  7. Like almost everything in the world of dulcimers, there really is no Best anything. let alone capes.  It's always a case of experimentation and what works best for you and your instruments. 

    I've got 8 dulcimers right now and it would take probably 6 different capoes to make them work that way.  That's more than just a couple bucks, plus the hassle of remembering which capo works with with instrument, and remembering to take the appropriate capoes with me when I go playing out.

    Truth be told, I just don't use capoes.  I tried, and it was more hassle than just  learning to retune one melody string in less than 30 seconds.

  8. Almost always the top line of tab is the bass string and the bottom line in the melody string.  The Tab should tell you which is what; however many careless people write 1-5-8 tabs as DAD instead of DAd, which is more proper. 

    One of many reasons why tunings should be referred to by their 'relationship numbers'.  1 is always the bass string.  Middle string is almost always a 5th above the bass string, and the melody is between 2 and 8 above the bass string.  ALL 1-5-8 tunings use the same tab -- DAd, CGc, AEa, GDg, etc.  All 1-5-5 tunings use the same tab as well DAA, CGG, EBB, etc.

  9. Nice build.  Good job.  Box dulcimers are often played on a table, so they don't dig into your hip!


    Here's one I'm just finishing up.  Multi-part Maple scroll head, Ash top & back, Southern Yellow Pine sides, Walnut over Maple fretboard.  Finish in the photo is just the first coat of sanding sealer.

    Sanding Sealer.JPG

  10. 19cm is a good width for a dulcimer.  I've made quite a few that wide; but these days make them more on the order of 13cm, and I use  narrow traditional style fretboard only about 3cm wide.

    I know lots of people who use the Stew Mac calculator, and they seem to get good results.  I use a calculator called WFret from the old MIMF forum from decades ago.  It has a diatonic/dulcimer spacing option and allows you to add 6+ and 13+ frets (but I don't use them).

  11. Yes, Kim, tuning machines can be replaced.  But they will also dim a bit with time and use.  That's not something that 99.9% of us ever even think about.  What matters first and foremost is whether the frets are spaced correctly to give you a good scale of notes.

    I've attached a copy of a really good intro to dulcimer for beginners by Ken Hulme.  It's called I Just Got A Dulcimer, Now What?  and will answer many beginner questions.  But don't be afraid to aske questions here.  The only dumb questions are the ones you don't ask and get answered.

    I Just Got A.pdf

  12. How wide (inside lining-to-inside lining) are the bouts?  If they're less than 8" wide I would put one brace in the bottom at the widest part of each bout, each brace about 1/4" x 3/8".  No braces needed at the waist, top or bottom.  No braces under the top because there will be less than 3" of unsupported wood at the widest part of the widest bout.

    If the bottom is book-matched from two pieces of wood, you'll want one longitudinal brace running from headblock to tailblock about 3/4" wide and the same thickness at the top/bottom planks.  A two piece top doesn't need anything, of course,  because the fretboard stiffens it.

    The only time you would need more bracing is if you made a 'marquetry' top/back by edge-gluing a multitude of narrow strips into a wide plank.

  13. MOST of the modern building knowledge is being spread on Social media -- websites, blogs, MeWe, Facebook, etc.  --   rather than books which are increasingly expensive and difficult to publish.  Will get you a list of better modern resources after I wake up this morning!

    Thing to remember about Bodanovich and other non-dulcimer builders is that the dulcimer does not generate its sound in the same way as guitars, mandolins, ukes, etc.  The whole guitar concept of bracing tops and backs is major over-kill (and sound deadening) when it comes to dulcimer building.  The top already has a massive brace (called the fretboard).  Backs made from two planks book-matched need a thin joint-covering longitudinal brace, not side braces.


  14. VERY nice looking work!

    MOST builders attach the tuning head to the head block as a simple flat glue joint -- no mortise.  Some use a screw from the inside of the head block into the butt of the tuning head.  Others use a wooden dowel  from the block into the butt.  MOST of us attach the tuning head to the head-block before assembling the sides to the headblock.  Your sketch B is probably the most common joint between the end of side and the edge of the tuning head.  MOST of us no longer use lining strips.  Modern glues give  plenty of wood-to-wood grip without the additional glued surface. Most of us (in the States at least) use Titebond brand glue; my living-in-Spain father-in-law turned me on to the European product called EVO-Stick which works equally well.

    BTW -- Chet's book is rather dated these days as far as construction goes.

  15. Brand of strings makes virtually no difference.  There are only a literal handful of foundries in the world which make music wire.  They sell it in giant spools to companies like Martin, D'Addario, etc, who cut it to lengths and put either loop ends or ball ends on.  Some of those companies do the winding of strings, other buy wound strings and put on ends.  

    The gauges you can determine using something like the Strothers String Choice Calculator --  http://www.strothers.com/string_choice.html   But you must understand the correct terminology.  For example, you are not tuning to DAD.  You are tuning to DAd where the melody string d is an octave higher in pitch than the bass string D, which is what the two different Ds are indicating.  You can safely go UP in gauge at least 1 or 2 points (say .022 instead of .020) from a Strothers recommendation, as the calculator is noticeably "light" in its recommendations.

    Some people swear by phosphor bronze or other exotic metal wound bass strings; other swear at them and only use plain steel wound.  Some like flat wound or other theoretically squeakless bass strings.  This is one area when you're just going to have to buy one of this and one of that and experiment.  I suggest www.juststrings.com as a source as they sell individual strings and have a huge inventory of strings to choose from.

  16. Nice area.  I know the region from Barcelona north along the coast past Figueres, past the village of Llado and over the first foothill.  My Brit partner's father retired there 40 years ago.

    Steeleye Span and Fleetwood Mac are two great folk-rock bands for sure.  You'll probably have to pick out the melodies yourself though.  If you can find sheet music for the songs, it's relatively easy to work up the melodies.     Yeah.  we do need to discuss guitar site mis-use of music in another thread.

  17. Welcome Colin!  Where are you in Europe?  The UK?  We've got several contact there.  Glad to hear you've had fun in lockdown building instruments -- it was a good use of your time.   I hardly ever use electronic amplification, but when I do I use inexpensive stick-on type that seem to work well enough.  IMHO the dulcimer was never intended to be electronically amped. 

    What kinds of songs/music  are you looking to play?  There are thousands of dulcimer tab for everything from children's songs to blues to jazz to rock to Shostakovich -- if you know where to look.  You won't, however find much modern contemporary music because it is still covered by international copyrights. which makes it expensive or difficult to print in books or duplicate and make available to folks.  You can play it for you own use but not for performances, paid or unpaid.  

  18. As you can see in the picture below, ball-end strings (top) have a brass "ball" in the end.  Loop-end strings have a twisted loop.

    Those of us who build instruments never use Gorilla glue -- it expands and has a tendency to open cracks.  Likwise we seldom, if ever use epoxy.  For hairline cracks which can be opened by pressing on one side or the other of a crack, we us a cyanoacrylate (Super) glue.  For cracks which need filling, we use a mixture of fine sawdust and Titebond or Titebon II,  I often run a bead of the glue into such a crack and then sprinkle sawdust on top,.  Then press the mixture into the crack and clean off the excess with a damp paper towel.


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