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i've received a dulcimer which is playable, but i feel it may benefit from having the action lowered.

I'm familiar with what is desirable on an acoustic guitar, but all I have seen so far on mountain dulcimers is reference to  a "dime" of clearance string to fret. I don't have any USA dimes, so maybe a measurement in mm or fraction of inches is available? I do have a set of "feelers" available.

it looks like I can pop out the plastic bridge once the strings are off, can I just sand some off the bottom? I'm not sure if the bridge is on an angle to adjust for string gauge, if it is I can't see it.

Thank you for any advice


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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.

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Thank you, that is very helpful.

By, "alongside the 1st fret" I guess you mean as if you were fretting a note at the 1st.

I 'm more comfortable with reducing the bridge material than nut. I did have a formula that showed what reduction in nut height achieved a corresponding reduction at the frets for acoustic guitar, but I have not seen one for shorter scale lengths of the dulcimer.

Again, your input is much appreciated.

Dave T

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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.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think you will find that most dulcimers have a longer scale length than dulcimers. My three guitars are 24.9 inches, 25.4 inches, 25.5 inches (632.5mm, 645.16, and 648mm). A problem you may run across when you lower the action is fret buzz. You may need to dress a few frets. My dulcimers are 27 inches (685.8mm) to 28.25 inches. (717.55mm).


"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Edited by KWL
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