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Help on Finding Dulcimer Plans


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Hi ! I'm just starting out in the making my Dulcimer. I download what I thought was a nice set of plans, but it turned out that its way to wide for any wood I can find for sell. Its 9.3/8" and most wood is  8" wide when you glue 2 peace's together. I want to make a hourglass type. I may have to trim the sides down at the widest part an inch just to fit the woods that are out there. Thanks for any advice you might bring. Larry

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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

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20201222_002743.thumb.jpg.17623b00ed3281b3345d4e1755930b78.jpgThe plans I bought and down loaded was from Musicmakers https://www.harpkit.com/mountain-dulcimer-plan-download.html

It was at 1/2 price ( nice plans ) I had them printed at up as blue prints at staples but was also able to print them up at home. (25 pages)

  I was thinking of just making it thinner in width so I could make it fit the wood offered on Ebay. I would rather make the back and top with only 2 pieces of wood ( Book End Style) than have 3 or 4 pieces.

  Any help in getting wider 1/8" would be great.  Larry

Edited by Larry
Showing drawing with the details of width
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I have received 1 book and 1 full set of drawings. The book has drawings and very good details on how to build a Dulcimer. Not full size drawings but has enough info so you can draw them from a grid square. Lots of details and Math on fretting. It uses pegs in the head piece, but can be changed. The body is like an Hour Glass sort of. The waste part is a semi circle where you glue a flat side board in around the curve. The body uses flat side boards that you glue and bend till it reaches the semi circle. Has a 28 1/2" Vibrating String Length for Fretting.  I got the book on Ebay for around $15 shipping and tax included,   Appalachian Mountain Dulcimer by James Hall

The drawings on a folded sheet full size is a Tear Drop type plans that I bought from Folkcraft. Very good details that are mostly drawn to scale. The Nut was drawn larger so you could see more details on the placement of the strings. Frets are drawn in to scale. Its Vibrating Scale length is 28". This looks great! They were out of the Hour Glass drawing Dulcimer at the time I placed this order.  I got the plans for just under $20 shipping and tax included.  Plans are  MOUNTAIN DULCIMER Teardrop style  MDP-03 from Folkcraft20201228_203059.thumb.jpg.117fe0145160617e5bea0620dbda650b.jpg20201228_203013.thumb.jpg.4ad57e55932697ebeece5a5a835c1655.jpg

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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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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

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  • 10 months later...

I would like to find more free plans out there. However, so far the ones I have found have been really good.

I found the following apparently freely available:

The Mesquite Dulcimer
Roy Underhill - PBS
Gary Mahoney version This one is from Berea College, but I had to use the Wayback Machine to find it online
JE "Uncle Ed" Thomas 1909 Plan from Berea

And a few odds and ends, like box dulcimer on youtube (made from plywood) and an interesting cardboard one, and CBG one among the files at CBGitty) and one for a box dulcimer on Instructibles that suggests limited tool use.

I found them all again and posted links. I have some others, but I am pretty sure they are not free, so I won't be sharing those.

Berea's Library, lots of dulcimer stuff, but I can't seem to find the plans there that are listed as from Berea

I also sent an email to the librarian at Berea to see what the legal situation is to the two plans with their name on them is, and asked if they have others, and of course whether I should or shouldn't be sharing such things. If they say no, I will come back and delete these links, and if they have others available, I will try to add them as well. 

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  • 1 year later...


Ive been searching for some dulcimer plans after I started trying to build one from images. But finding the block and side joins difficult without some real measurements.

I have seen a couple of papers plans online but was hoping a PDF as I am in Australia and not all US stores ship OS.

Would appreciate any help.




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