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Building my first mountain dulcimer

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Hi everyone,

This is my first post. For many years I have had a hobby of repairing acoustic guitars. About two years ago I built my first kit, an old Martin kit. I now have three builds so far. All were primarily built on my basement work bench with limited power tools. For Build #2 I built a homemade pipe side bender (with charcoal lighter). All three sound great. All three are far from perfect. Anyway, I wanted to try building a mountain dulcimer. I don’t play yet, but have played acoustic guitar for decades, and recently beginning mandolin. Just giving you info so I can get the most helpful info in return. I would like to build an hourglass type. I think I can build from scratch but would need to know recommended sources of wood, etc. I am not sure about cutting slots in the fingerboard so I will likely go with pre-slotted, but if you have suggestions about cutting fret slots, that would be great. I would like to keep the build budget under $200 if possible for this one. Thanks!

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hello Guitarpeggio. Like I said elsewhere, I late in getting to welcome to ED. The date of your post above is the date I had open heart surgery. I am trying to catch up with all my dulcimer forums. Since you have experience building guitars, some of that will transfer over to building dulcimers.

Let me introduce myself. I built my first Appalachian dulcimer in 1974. Since then I've made a few dozen mountain dulcimers, three hammered dulcimers, a banjo, a Fender Strat style guitar from a StewMac kit and several Pennsylvania German zitters. I have been building a 00 size guitar since 2015. The last is a long story. I have a Martin guitar kit sitting in my shop waiting for assembly after I finish the 00 which is from scratch. The Martin kit is 000 short scale 14 fret.

In the other threads on here I have seen the work you are doing on your first dulcimer build. It is coming along well. I see that you also responded to my thread, "My Latest Build." Thank you for your response.

I am almost finished with another dulcimer and have started the construction of another one (before surgery). I will post some photos of those when I get back in the shop.

KenH (NoterMan) is providing you with good advice. 


"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

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Hi, Ken, Thanks so much for replying to my posts, and it’s great hearing about your background! It sounds like you are recovering, and I imagine it is a long recovery after such surgery!  Glad you are resuming building again.

I am very much enjoying this project, and have already been thinking about the next build as I have some wood put aside already, and a soon to be acquired donated supply of cherry from another friend.

The guitar building definitely helped here, and kept me from panicking when hitting challenges.  But I also appreciate some of the unique aspects of the dulcimer build, like making the scroll peg head, cutting the heart sound holes, and cutting fingerboard slots for the first time.  In short... I’m hooked!


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