Doug Berch

Dulcimer Maker And Musician

cropped Dulcimer Builders and Makers 1 23

Month: September 2017 Page 1 of 2

Avoiding A Cloud Of Dulcimer Dust


The joy of sanding dulcimers

Yes, another post about the joy of sanding dulcimers.

A while back I mentioned possibly making dulcimers without sanding someday. Someone took me up on it!

I made a dulcimer with a bare minimum of sanding. Scrapers and files accomplished about 90% of the surface preparation. Sandpaper was still needed to soften some edges, get a good surface on the fingerboard, and to clean up a few small messes.

I spent much more time and effort than usual burnishing the wood with cloth before applying the finish. The extensive burnishing combined with using fine abrasive pads while applying the finish produced a result nearly identical to what I carry out by hand sanding. The process took about the same amount of time as hand sanding but it was the first time I had tried this. I am hoping I will gain speed as I become more familiar with new technique.

The minimally sanded dulcimer did show a few imperfections and hand tool marks that would have been eliminated by further hand sanding but to my eye and hand they add to the charm of the dulcimer.

Still, it is not yet time to abandon lots of sanding on a regular basis.

In the photo you can see my warm weather dust cloud elimination system. A small fan blows dust away from the dulcimer (and the dulcimer maker) towards a window fan that blows the dust outside. This simple setup works surprisingly well.

During the colder months I replace the window fan with a home-made air-cleaner; a box fan with a furnace filter taped to one side.

And I do wear a dust mask!

On another topic; after doing some updates on my website something went wrong and about 10 years of photographs have dropped noticeably in quality. Something malfunctioned and over-optimized my photographs. This becomes painfully obvious when you click on an image and see it at a larger size.

I figured out how to avoid this on current photographs.

It’s just another adventure in being self-employed and learning to do everything myself!

Music I’d Like To Hear #140

Banjo orchestra

More Adventures In Dulcimer Lutherie

 

dulcimer binding

The other day I noticed an unsightly gap in the binding around the soundboard of a dulcimer I am currently working on. Small gaps are not uncommon when binding an instrument and there are several methods for filling them.

This gap was large enough to cause me to consider removing the binding and starting again. The gap was about 2 inches long and barely open enough to catch a fingernail (my default tool for checking gaps) but I would not have slept well just filling it and calling the job done. No one would ever know but I would know I could and should have done better.

Before replacing the binding on one side of the dulcimer I thought I’d try another method of repair. At best it might solve the problem, at worst I might aggravate the problem but I was going to replace the binding anyway.

I ran hot water into the gap several times with a pipette to soften the glue and clamped the binding against the body to close the gap.

After a few hours I took off the clamp and the gap was barely noticeable. The soundboard had swollen a little due to applying hot water so I let the repair dry over night.

The next day most of the swelling had left the soundboard and after cleaning up the area with a scraper and file the gap was almost invisible. After applying a small amount of filler and a bit of spot sanding the gap was gone.

Joy!

Music I’d Like To Hear #139

Mandolin and ukulele duo

Mandolin and ukulele duo.

Dulcimer Sound Holes And Sound Ports

Dulcimer with sound ports in the side.

I have put sound ports in the sides of my dulcimers for a few years and have been very pleased with the results.

Sound ports are nothing new in the guitar world but I had not seen them used on dulcimers though perhaps someone has thought of this before.

There is no standardization of dulcimer design or “right way” to go about getting the results one wants. Dulcimer builders whose work I admire each have a unique way of getting the sound they want. Materials and design elements that work on one maker’s design may or may not work well on another builder’s dulcimers. This is part of the adventure and part of the fun!

My dulcimer design is in a state of constant evolution. Over the last few years I was looking for ways to increase the volume without losing tonal quality and even response along the fingerboard.

It is easy to make a loud dulcimer but I do not find it easy to listen to many loud dulcimers I have heard. Many loud dulcimers  have little sustain and/or often have uneven volume and response along the fingerboard.

The tone I prefer is somewhat traditional; long sustain and a slightly nasal quality with warmth and even response. I did not want to trade that sound for volume.

As I made design changes to make my dulcimers louder I was on the edge of losing the tone I prefer. It became clear that if I made louder dulcimers and wanted to keep the tone and responsiveness I prefer I would also need to give the dulcimers larger sound holes.

The size of the sound hole(s) on a stringed instrument play an important role in which frequencies get emphasized or minimized. The most critical element is the total size of all openings on the instrument. One large hole will produce sound like two holes that are each half the diameter of the large hole, etc.

Dulcimers have relatively little soundboard as they are long and thin instruments. I wanted the effect of larger sound holes but I did not want to lose any more of the wood that makes up the soundboard. The obvious choice was to put added sound holes somewhere other than on the soundboard. The sides were the obvious choice.

And it worked! I got more volume, balanced tone, birds were singing, flowers smiled, and all was well with the world.

 

 

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Doug Berch & Dulcimer Makers