Doug Berch

Dulcimer Maker And Musician

cropped Dulcimer Builders and Makers 1 23

Month: September 2015

What’s On The Bench – 9/29/2015

Cleaning up the sides of a dulcimer with a scarper!Here is the setup I use for holding a dulcimer on it’s side.  I briefly mentioned this clamping method in a recent post about using a spokeshave to bring the top and back flush with the sides. I was scraping the sides of this dulcimer and saw a photo opportunity to show a little more detail about the clamping setup.

I use two cabinetmaker’s clamps clamped to a work-board. By clamping only one jaw of the cabinetmaker’s clamp the other jaw remains adjustable.

Before using this setup I would hold the dulcimer between my knees and under my chin. This method worked well but clamping is a little easier on my body and does hold the dulcimer more solidly.

I occasionally consider making a dedicated fixture for holding dulcimesr on their sides; something along the lines of a Moxon vise, but the cabinetmaker’s clamps work fine and I prefer to have fewer tools with multiple uses than multiple tools with fewer uses.


Music I’d Like To Hear #100

Bamboo harp, nose flue, and Jew's harp played by 3 women - Borneo

Hide Glue and Dulcimer Pegheads

I’ve written before about my love of hide glue. Hide glue works well as an adhesive but it also has unique properties that allow assembly techniques not possible with modern glues.

Hide glue is excellent for making rub joints, a joint where after applying glue the parts are rubbed together a few times until the glue begins to stick. No clamping is required because hide glue pulls the joint together as it dries.

How a Dulcimer builder gets sticky fingersAbove is what my bench looked like earlier today while I was gluing up some pegheads. Some of the things in the photograph have nothing to do with gluing pegheads but they were lonely and asked if they could be in the picture. I didn’t have the heart to say no.

In the foreground towards the right, next to a partially shown shopping list, are the two parts of a peghead just after being glued. In the background is the mini-crock-pot that serves as an electric glue pot. Peeking out of the top of glue pot is the white lid of a small jar containing, believe it or not, hide glue. The jar sits in a bath of hot water. It is a filthy little jar and does not get to watch TV before bedtime if it refuses to take a bath. Hide glue also needs to be heated in a double boiler at around 140° F to melt and become usable. That is another reason the jar is in a bath of hot water.

Also on the glue pot are two brushes; one for applying glue, the other for adding hot water from the pot when cleaning things up, adding a little more hot water to the joint, etc.

In front of the glue pot is a flask of water used for replacing water in the glue pot and the glue jar as evaporation takes place. I found the flask at a salvage store and thought it was less likely to get knocked over than the glass I had used before. That ended up being true. The flask also looks cool and makes things look more impressive and scientific than they really are.

On the work-board are some peghead parts, a template, and a flat sanding block used for lapping the surfaces of the joints for a perfect fit. On bigger parts I do this with a swipe of a plane, on smaller, odd-shaped parts it is sometimes easier to lap them.

And now, for no particular reason, is a picture of a cute duckling.

I'm so cute!



Music I’d Like To Hear #99

Bandura players

The Spokeshave – The Dulcimer Builder’s Friend

Dulcimer Builder's Friend - The Friendly SpokeshaveLast night I was trimming the back of a dulcimer to meet the sides.

After chopping off the bulk of the overhang with a chisel I switch to spokeshaves. Even though dulcimers do not have spokes one can still shave them with a spokeshave. Do not use shaving cream!

For most of the work I use a flat-bottomed spokeshave but for the curve in the waist and the recurve near the tail I use a round-bottom spokeshave. From there I switch to a scraper to bring the back flush with the sides.

One of the things I enjoy about trimming the back to the sides with a spokeshave is that I get to listen to the resonance of the dulcimer; the friction of the spokeshave against the overhanging back is a bit like bowing a violin.

Trimming the back to meet the sides would be faster if I used an electric router but I don’t enjoy doing it that way. Routers are loud, messy, gnarly little beasts!

My wife Cynthia came home last night and thought she saw a good photo-op.

Doug Berch - Dulcimer Builder and FashionistaI use a cabinetmaker’s clamp clamped on its side to hold the dulcimer while working on the sides.

And yes, fashion is my life.


Doug Berch & Dulcimer Makers

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