Doug Berch

Dulcimer Maker And Musician

cropped Dulcimer Builders and Makers 1 23

More Adventures In Dulcimer Making

Baritone Dulcimer in progress

Yes, another thrill-packed day in the adventurous life of a dulcimer maker.

Not long ago I wrote about my reasons for no longer taking advance orders for dulcimers.  One reason I did not mention in that post was that sometimes things go wrong while making a dulcimer. If it isn’t already sold there is no time constraint to figure out a way to solve the problem.

Last week I was in the home stretch of making a custom baritone dulcimer. There was a small cosmetic problem that revealed itself after applying the first coat of finish, a streak along part of the seam where the fingerboard joined the soundboard. I think that while scraping the side of the fretboard some of the glue-line was revealed and when the finish hit it there was an obvious change in color and refraction of light.

A straightforward method to solve the problem did not present itself.

I thought of a few things I could try but had a feeling they might just make the problem look worse. I was right.

Before I messed with it I showed the dulcimer to my wife, Cynthia. Cynthia has worked at Elderly Instruments for around 40 years and is a purchaser who buys and handles many fine fretted instruments on a daily basis. Whenever I have a concern about a cosmetic issue with a dulcimer I show it to her. She almost always say that what I am concerned about it not an issue and then I can relax.

This time Cynthia said, “I see it, and it isn’t really that bad. It just isn’t up to your usual level of work.  I don’t think it will really be a problem for anyone.”

But it was a problem for me so I tried to make it better and made it worse.

I contacted the recipient of this dulcimer and explained the situation. I offered to let them have it while I build another for them. He was fine with waiting a few months for me to make him another.

And that is what I am doing. The photograph above shows the sides and endblocks that will soon be life-long friends.

As for the baritone dulcimer with the cosmetic flaw; I think it is going to be an excellent dulcimer. I am going to stain and overcoat it with black finish. Problem solved, and I always wanted to make a black dulcimer!


Music I’d Like To Hear #133


Music I’d Like To Hear #134


  1. inorthwoods

    Black and Red milk paint doesn’t matter which one goes on first rub it out with some fine steel wool and oil it up with this on a sample board first…


    • Doug

      That’s actually the direction I was going to go with. Thanks!

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