Last night and this afternoon I found myself bracing the back of a custom walnut dulcimer. I turned around and there I was. It was kind of strange and startling but at least I was getting some work done.
But seriously folks, here are some photographs of a cute little plane I use to rough shape braces.
I love those little spruce curls!
I don’t have a set bracing pattern for dulcimer soundboards and backs. I also don’t have a standard thickness for tops and backs.
Thicknesses of tops and backs and the number and sizes of braces depends on the particular pieces of wood I am working with. As a dulcimer comes together I make decisions and adjustments to achieve the resonance I desire.
I enjoy this process immensely.
After shaping the back braces I glued in the center reinforcement; a brace that strengthens the center joint of the book-matched back and adds stiffness to the back lengthwise.
A few hours later the back is ready to be fitted to the dulcimer.
Note to self: Don’t forget to put a label on the back before gluing it to the dulcimer! (Yes, it has happened!)
A few years ago I had written about my adventures in sharpening.
Not much has changed since then. I have thankfully acquired enough sharpening paraphernalia to keep my tools sharp, shiny, and happy for many years to come.
This does not mean I am not occasionally tempted to get my hands on new sharpening toys but I really do not need anything else in order to keep all my tools sharp.
In the past few years I have learned the following:
1) Diamond bench stones may not be as flat as advertised. Check a diamond stone with a straight edge before assuming it is flat enough to flatten the back of a plane blade accurately. Yes, there is a painful story here.
2) Glass makes a wonderful flat substrate for abrasive papers but don’t drop it! There is a story here too but thankfully it was not physically painful.
3) Getting tools as sharp as possible can become an end unto itself. These days I get a tool sharp enough to work well and then get back to work!
I still use a grinder to hollow-grind some of my tools and I still hone my hollow-ground tools freehand. A few occasional seconds of stropping and I can go weeks before needing to hone the edge again.
Sometimes I will use a honing guide to reestablish the bevel on a blade rather than hollow grind it again. It usually depends on how much metal needs to be removed or the mood I am in.
For plane blades with high back bevels I usually use a honing guide. I used to think that after being able to sharpen freehand going back to using a honing guide was backsliding. I am over that bias now. I do what works.
I work in a small shop and everything happens on the bench. This old bench hook holds a fine grit and flat (I checked!) diamond stone, a 4000 grit waterstone, a nagura stone for creating a slurry on the waterstone, a spray bottle of water, one of the honing guides I sometimes use and some other sharpening paraphernalia. This is the stuff I reach for 90% of the time when the need arises to hone an edge.
When it is time to hone some tools I take this bench hook off the shelf and put it on the bench and I am ready to go.
For a strop i use a piece of an old leather guitar strap charged with compound. I lay the strop down on a flat surface for stropping straight edges and use my hand to hold the strop in various shapes as needed for gouges, etc..
If and when I need to create radically different bevel angle I usually go to the grinder or use a coarse diamond stone to save time
When an edge becomes so bad I that I am ready to give up i wait for this guy to come around.