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Dylan Holderman

new builder looking for advice

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Don't worry, I've seen a lot more delicate soundhole designs.   I've used card stock and heavier "cardboard" from new shirts and such as a soundhole reinforcement; also thin wood, as Ken mentions -- thinner than 1/8" usually but not always.  The dryer sheet thing is an interesting idea that I've not tried.  

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thanks guys i went ahead and used the card-stock and that worked out okay, my real struggle with it was figuring out what tool i wanted to use. i don't own a scroll saw, my little coping saw felt too aggressive even with the finest tooth blade i could find for it and most of it was too small to whittle out with any of my carving knives, so i ended up using this tiny curved push gouge (about 1/8") and just nipped out at the paw prints a little at a time from a pilot hole and that seemed to work best for me.

let me know if you think i should make them any bigger, and foe the head-stock it looks like i should thin it down a little more? total stick-out is about 5/16" right now.

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The sound holes look GREAT!   Nice job.  Really.  Especially with a push gouge.

Saw the wood you are making the tuning head from, but we haven't seen what style/design you are going to use.  Classic traditional scroll?  Zither pin style scroll block?  Flat 'guitar' head?  Something new and different?  In any case, the thickness of wood you have there seems extreme -- like that thinner laid up piece too thick.   If that's a flat guitar head, they are usually only about 1/2" thick.

Does that tuner shaft have just the one hole?  Or is that the outer hole of two?  If it has two holes you want to use the hole closest to the gears, not that outer hole.  

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The sound holes look good. Are you doing a guitar-style peg head?  I don't quite get the last photo and what you are trying to show.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

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That's looking great!  Good job on the sound holes, that tool works really well.  How thick are your top/bottom plates?   You'll have it together before you know it!

I measured the thickness of one of my dulcimers that has a flat head with calipers.  It shows 35/64" - so just over half an inch. 

Do your tuners have any bushings or washers/nuts?  Make sure it's the right thickness to support those if your tuners have them.  If they're just through hole tuners without any additional hardware, it may make sense to stay a little on the thicker side so they don't stick out a lot.

 

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my bad, yeah it's a guitar style head or maybe a ukulele style head sense it's so small.

looks like i need to thin it by at least a 1/4" for the second hole in the tuner to stick through. this exercise in moving to fast has giving me confidence in the glue though, the joint between the head and it's support block is only about one sq inch and i cant break it lol i'll just saw it off when i go to thin the head.

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holes in the head are a little close together in order to fit the tuners around that block but they'll all fit under there without touching each other. the tuners do come with a washer but it's just decorative one that sits on top of the head.

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I can see why you don't what to take the thickness off the top of your peg head. That's a nice looking piece of wood. I find that most guitar-style peg heads are 1/2 to 5/8 inch thick.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

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You could probably thin that out from the bottom side, using a belt sander, and the a palm sander to finish it smooth again.  The head can  taper in thickeness -- be a little thicker at the rear and thinner at the outer end.

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thanks for the suggestion but i already cut, thinned, and re-glued it. and for the question i missed earlier everything should be around 1/8" thick. i say around because most of the final thicknessing i did with a hand plane which is a tool i am still learning, i know that the top and back boards were under size at the edges before cutting the profile be fortunately that went away and the middle doesn't look like its too thick.

now on to my next problem. we've been getting a ton of rain the past couple of weeks and the body of this dulcimer has taken on a huge! back bow, i'm not sure if you can it in the pics but its bowed a solid 3/8" out.

so what are my options wait for things to dry out and pray that it go's back to normal? put a piece of plywood and something heavy on top of it until i'm ready to glue the sound board on? shuck it and start over? (please not the last one, iv'e invested a lot of time in my mistakes at this point and want to see it through)

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Is the other side (tops of the sides/ribs) bowed too?  Does the top sit flat on the sides if you lay where it will eventually go?

Putting it in a closet with a dehumidifer would be a way to get moisture out. 

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DO NOT START OVER!

Thickness -- a little under and over isn't going to hurt anything.  

Humidity/Warp/Gluing --  At least it bowed up, not down!  You could weight the carcass down on something dead-flat and wait awhile for the humidity to go away.  But that's no fun...! 

I often use water as my 'clamp' at this stage, and the technique should work here to help flatten things out as well. You'll need a large cooler, some scrap wood.  and a dead-flat surface like your saw table or long belt sander table.  I don't have a saw table, so I use a length of marble window sill that is about 36" long, 3/4" thick and 8" wide.  I  paid, I think, $10 at Home Despot).  You want just a cheap styrofoam cooler hopefully almost as long as the dulcimer is.

Set the carcass on your flat surface.  Tape the outside edges of the side to prevent glue dripples.  Set the top/fretboard assembly in place.  Put scrap wood to fill in between the fretboard and sides up to a bit above fret top height.  Check top/carcass alignment.  Set the large empty cooler on top.  Check alignment again.  Put a couple inches of water in the cooler.  Check alignment again -- third time is the charm.  Continue to slowly add water until it's 8-10" or more deep.  Water weighs over 62 pounds per cubic foot.  That's pretty darn good clamp pressure spread evenly across the top.    If you plan on making more than one dulcimer,  you can make a "jig" from a large-ish piece of scrap wood (2x8 or so) to slip over the fretboard of future builds and act as a clamp weight spreader.  

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that's ingenious. the flattest thing i have thats big enough for the dulcimer is my little welding table i just checked it with a straight edge, just need to go over it for any little BB's before i glue up. i have plenty of scrap i can cut up for the spacers, this whole thing is built from my buddy's scrap pile i cleaned out when i helped him move his shop.

and i have a little trick that will make alignment easier, nothing new but i put a little pin in one of the end blocks lining up the carcass and soundboard, it will be completely hidden in the finished product and is so small that any added weight from the metal pin will be negligible.

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well i didn't have a cooler that i felt would be stable but i do have a bunch of random heavy pieces of steel laying around. i did a dry run before i put glue in the joint to make sure that the gaps would close up. you can't see it under the plywood but it's there!

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also it seems a bit hit or miss on whether dulcimer builders put a label in or not but i like the look and concept so i put one in were it can be seen through one of the main sound holes. done with archival ink and acid free paper so hopefully it doesn't fade over time.

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last question for the moment, what to you guys like using for tail pins? i have loop ended strings and i was thinking about just getting some dome headed finish nails but wondered if there's any worry of them bending.

 

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Must be nice to have lots of metal laying about!  

I think most builders these days put a label in their instruments.  Maybe not the first one.... but building dulcimers is like those chips -- betcha can't build just one!  Good idea to put the number of your build too.   

I generally just use small headless brads/finishing nails.  That way you can use either loop end or ball end strings.  No worries about bending -- the stress is at 90 degrees to the shaft, and right up against the junction of shaft and end block.  I generally put them in at a slight upward angle though "just in case".  

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already started planning number 2 lol.

thanks for advice to number the instrument on the label too.

how do you attach ball end strings to the brad nails? 

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For ball end strings on brads, you'd slide the hole in the ball over the brad.  Obviously that wouldn't work for ball ends that are solid, though I've only ever seen a few strings with solid ball ends. 

Worse case, you could pop the ball out and you'd have a loop end string.

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Like Admin said...  "ball end" strings don't really end in a ball, but in a teeny brass ring, and you slip the ring over the end of the brad.  You can also stick the pointy end of the string through the ball and have a 'slip knot' at the end -- that works for some of the older dulcimers that used 1/4" dowels for string pins.

 

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I've used a few things for loop end string anchors. I used #2 brass screws on a few. I've also used brass plated 3/4 inch nails. For ball ends I cut off the heads. Plain steel brads in various lengths and hitch pins from Folkcraft have worked as well.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

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That's OK, we all have to start somewhere.  And somewhen.  You'll catch up as we educate you!

 

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thanks i'm going to have to learn how to play too, even if i don't play very well i feel that i should be able to use everything i make.

finally got back on this and i can see the end of this build in sight. what string spacing should i use? most of the pics iv'e seen have the first and second string being close together and the third and forth farther apart, that seem right for DDAD tuning? (and DDAD seems to be one of the more common tunings?)

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ended up making my own nails out of some leftover 3/32 tig rod from another project.

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also rough cut the sides for my second build.

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Your dulcimer's come out looking great!  The string setup you're describing is one of the more common ones.  The two closest to the player being a doubled melody string, and then a middle and bass string that are single strings. 

For the single strings they're usually about 1/2" apart from each other and from the doubled string.  The doubled strings are separated by somewhere between 3/32" to 1/8" on the instruments I have. 

You'll also want to leave an 1/8" to 1/4" of fretboard outside the strings so the strings don't slip off the fretboard when they're pressed.  It's also common to use 3 equidistant strings and not double the melody string.  Some find this easier to play.  If you go that way, 1/2" between the strings is still good.

I made a quick illustration that's hopefully helpful:

image.thumb.png.1578df65c60d8f5b59918d8997553af2.png

 

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Your build is really beautiful!   Congratulations!!!    The welding rod string pins are perfect.

The dulcimer has three courses of strings -- melody course (closest to you), middle drone course, and bass course (farthest from you).  Any of those courses can have one, two or even (but rarely) three strings.  

Normally the melody and bass courses begin 1/8" in from the edges of the fretboard, and the melody course is down the center.  Couplets, such as a doubled melody string, are spaced 1/8" apart to give the two strings room to vibrate without hitting each other.  Instruments built specifically for Noter & Drone style play are usually only 3-strings, and often have the  melody string significantly separated from the middle and bass strings spaced like a couplet.  

We'll help you learn to play too; but you should probably start a new thread about that in the Playing The Dulcimer section.  Suffice it to say here in the Building section that there are three major styles of play, named by their left hand actions.  Two older, traditional styles and one more modern:  Noter & Drone and Melody-Drone (sometimes called Fingerdancing) and Chord-Melody.  In Noter & Drone style, the player users a short dowel to fret only the melody string(s), while in Melody-Drone style, the bare fingers fret only the melody string(s); and in both cases the middle and bass courses are played open.  In the modern Chord-Melody style each note of a melody is played by using one or more fingers to create a 3-note chord across all three courses of strings by simultaneously pressing strings at different locations.  In any of those styles the right-hand can Strum (sometimes called Pluck) the strings,  Flat Pick or Finger Pick exactly like a guitar or mandolin, but with fewer strings.  There are, of course, many ways to strum, fingerpick, or flatpick.

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You made a fine looking dulcimer. You'll have fun playing it.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

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