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Just Finished No. 1


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Hello folks!  My name is Greg, and this is my first post.  I just finished building my first dulcimer, completely from scratch. It’s not perfect, but I learned a lot to use in the future. I used the article from Woodcraft magazine as a guide, but made changes due to the size of lumber I had, and the fact that I wanted a scroll peg head.  I made the body from a remnant of a curly maple gunstock blank (one of my other hobbies is building flintlock rifles), and made the peg head and fretboard from scraps of black walnut. The position markers are from a lighter colored piece of English walnut. Bone nut and bridge, and ukulele friction tuners from CB Gitty.  This one is a little small, 30.5” x 7”, and the scale is 25.5”.  I’m already planning #2…








Edited by GLP1958
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Beautifully done Greg!  That was one magnificent piece curly maple!  We always learn something, every time we build another dulcimer.   What did you use to stain the maple?  A tobacco-based stain like some of the old Kentucky rifles?

One suggestion I'll make for your next build is to open up the bottom of the channel in your scroll head.  A closed bottom makes it really hard sometimes to get a string around and through a tuning peg.  I've had a couple closed head and hated stringing and re-stringing them compared to an open bottom head.   

I sure wish you'd have put traditional violin style wooden pegs on there.  Commercial pegs are really inexpensive (I get 1/4 size pegs for about $1 each)  and if you have an inexpensive tapered reamer they are easy to install and easy to tune.  

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NoterMan, thanks for the kind words, and the advice!  I stained the maple with a home-brew concoction known by various names...it was a common leather dye in the 18th century.  Its made by putting some pieces of scrap iron in a glass jar (I used some pieces of very old barbed wire from an old fence on my property), filling it with vinegar, and allow it to "work" for a few months.  Then pour the remaining liquid into another bottle through a paint strainer, and seal tightly.  The resulting liquid is sort of clear, but when brushed onto vegetable tanned leather, reacts with the tannins and turns the leather a deep brownish-black.  Works much the same way with curly maple...and darkens the walnut to a deep ebony shade.  I think the actual chemical compound produced is iron acetate.

I have a couple of sets of violin pegs, and have already bought a reamer and peg shaver.  I was going to use them in my next builds...I'm in eastern Kentucky, very near Hindman, and want to try an Uncle Ed Thomas style next.  However, I can fit violin pegs to this one easily...I just have to carefully drill the peg holes through the other side of the peg box, and taper them to fit.  These uke tuners are in a 5/16' hole, which is what I need to start reaming. I might change them anyway, since the friction tuners don't seem to be holding very well.

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I know that "ebonizing" stain, and have a bottle of my own -- made from a steel wool pad.  Guess I've never let it get that dark on my projects...  Very nice.  

I've never had to use a peg shaver with commercial pegs... they already come with the 1:30 taper so all you haver to do is ream out the holes.




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