Month: April 2015
Though I have done it countless times I am always amazed when a straight. flat, piece of wood turns into the curved shape of a dulcimer. Heat and moisture make wood pliable. It’s that simple.
Today I bent bubinga binding for two dulcimers in the works. After sawing bubinga into appropriately dimensioned strips I clean and true the surfaces with a low angle block plane and trim them to length with a chisel. Here is beautiful bubinga binding before being bent. Can you say “beautiful bubinga binding before being bent” three times fast?
A quick spray with distilled water and the beautiful bubinga binding strips are taped together so they are easy to manage when going into the heated bending form. Since these will all be bent to the same shape this is a quicker method than bending them freehand on a hot pipe.
Here they are in the bender. Though you can’t see them in the bending form I assure you there is beautiful bubinga binding being bent.
And last but not least here is bent beautiful bubinga binding!
My first “shop” was my parent’s kitchen table in our apartment in Brooklyn, NY, probably around 1973 or 1974. I grew up with very little knowledge of tools and woodworking. I bought tools as needed and learned to accomplish the most work with the fewest tools. I also learned to improvise around anything I needed that wasn’t available to me.
My first few dulcimers had their tops and backs glued on by using weights instead of clamps. An encyclopedia served this purpose well. For those of you too young to have grown up with an encyclopedia in your home, an encyclopedia was a vast wealth of knowledge contained within a set consisting of many books. Books were made of paper and had words printed on them with ink. But I digress…
I now have a shop with just about every tool I need to make stringed instruments so instead of using the encyclopedia I use an array of bench planes as weights to glue the tops (and sometimes the backs) on dulcimers.
I do have plenty of clamps but placing weights on the ribs with the soundboard face down on the solera (classy term for work board) is much faster than securing clamps around the edges. This method works well but requires the solera to be perfectly flat (if that is what is desired) and the mating of the sides to the top or black plate to be very accurate. By the time I glue a top or back on I have prepared the joints so little to no pressure is required for the parts to fit together in proper alignment. I could probably get away with using less weight but I feel more secure about the quality of the joint by using more planes.
If my workflow requires access to the bench while the glue dries I will use clamps instead of using planes as weights. This way I can take the solera with the dulcimer clamped together and hang it on the wall while I work at the bench.