Doug Berch

Dulcimer Maker And Musician

cropped Dulcimer Builders and Makers 1 23

Month: January 2010

Dulcimer Quality Control

This post is inspired by a router bit that slipped in the chuck while working on a curly claro walnut and Adirondack spruce dulcimer this afternoon.

When I saw the bit was tearing through the side of the dulcimer a sense of calm came over me. I turned off the router. I looked at the gaping maw in the side of the dulcimer-to-be and thought of ways I could make an invisible repair, or perhaps use the opportunity to do something creative in the place where colorful, curly figured would have been plentiful.

But reason prevailed. The dulcimer was not even half built. I should just quit and start another.

And there was the cherry and spruce dulcimer that had been hanging around the shop for a few years that I knew I’d never let out the door. It was an experimental design that did not live anywhere near up to my expectations.

My solution as to what to do next was inspired by the work of my friend Michael C. Allen of Cloud Nine Musical Instruments.

Dulcimer Quality Control

Visible is the cherry and spruce dulcimer. The curly claro walnut and Adirondack spruce dulcimer served as kindling.

It is nice to have a fire on a cold day. I have no marshmallows to toast in the fireplace so I guess I will go back to the shop and get back to work.


Handy Shop Tips

Some odds and ends I’ve gathered from here and there.

Some of these ideas make sense. Some make some sense. Some I’m just not sure about.

I Might Bail Out On Bailey Planes

Well, mainly the big ones.

I have become very frustrated with my beautiful old Stanley/Bailey jointing planes.

Dear Stanley/Bailey jointer plane, Why won't you stay flat and true? Is it something I said?

They feel great in the hand, have enough weight to add heft to my planing and they are beautiful to behold.

The problem is that I can not get the soles to stay flat. I have spent many hours getting the soles on both a #7 (22 inches) and #8 (24 inches) flat only to find that something as simple as taking out the blade for sharpening and replacing it can cause the sole to become concave.

Many woodworkers think a plane need not be dead flat. I agree, but only for certain types of work. When I am leveling a fretboard or jointing the back  or soundboard for a dulcimer a reasonably flat, long plane makes the job go very quick and easy.

I am aware that these trusty old metal planes were not intended for work requiring this much precision. This is why I thoroughly researched how to tune-up these planes for fine woodworking. I made sure the frogs were well seated. I flattened the sole with the blade installed so the plane would be under the tension as if it were in use. I added thick after-market blades. I chanted mystical incantations, etc.

This has worked well on the smaller planes but the big ones just don’t stay flat.

If anyone has suggestions as to how I could get these big planes flat and get them to stay that way please let me know!

There are currently made metal jointer planes that are made for fine work. They are expensive but friends of mine who have them say they are worth ever penny. I may go that route someday but I hope to resolve the problem by either getting these old Stanley’s to work or switching to wooden jointer planes.

My experience with wooden planes has been very positive. They are easy to keep flat and I like the feel of wood against wood when planing.

A set of wooden planes. Will you be my friend?

I use several wooden smoothing planes, both with high angles and 45° and love the results. I also fixed up an old wooden jack plane that is very comfortable to use. I have an old 22 inch wooden jointer plane that works well but is a bit too bulky for some of the finer work I do. I also would prefer the blade to be at 55 ° ( as I would on several  of my metal planes) so I would not have to sharpen using back-bevels.

I am thinking I will make wooden  high-angle jointer plane. With instruments to finish and gigs to play I probably will not be able to get around it until  next month. It should be fun!

Doug Berch & Dulcimer Makers

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