The right tool for the right job is a concept open to interpretation. Well, for me it is.
After planes, chisels, rasps, files and scrapers have touched every surface of a dulcimer I cringe a little and reach for sandpaper.
Sandpaper is a disposable and messy tool but like any tool it does it’s intended job well. Minor irregularities, or at least the minor irregularities I don’t want, magically disappear and rounded edges become silky smooth.
And then there is the dust that gets onto and into everything. Dust, dust, dust. Did I mention the dust?
Some woods have open pores, others have closed pores. Walnut, mahogany and oak are examples of open-pored woods. Cherry, maple and spruce are examples of closed-pored woods.
To get a perfectly flat, even finish with a mirror-like surface the pores on an open pored wood must be filled lest the surface show that there is indeed real wood underneath the finish.
Most of the time I lean towards leaving the pores of open-pored wood as they are, which is open. I like the look and tactile feel of my dulcimers as close to natural wood as possible. I also prefer a satin finish to a gloss finish because in my opinion it lets wood look more like wood.
There are exceptions. Sometimes I like to use a shellac finish and I like the way shellac looks better when the pores are filled.
But I digress…
The Claro walnut dulcimer above is ready for the first coat of finish, which in this case will be varnish. I’m leaving the pores open but after sanding with the finer grits sanding dust becomes embedded deep in the pores and any other nook or cranny it can find. Dust is tenacious stuff.
A few years ago while perusing an antique mall I found a worn-out shaving brush for 50 cents. After vacuuming and wiping down the dulcimer I go over it with the shaving brush and soon any evidence of sandpaper having ever been used disappears.
After brushing the dulcimer gets a good rubdown to burnish the wood and then the finish goes on.