I encourage anyone who would like to make a dulcimer to do so! I regularly receive requests for advice on making a dulcimer so I thought I’d present some of the suggestions that people have found helpful.
Building a well-designed dulcimer kit can help you understand the basic dimensions of parts and how they go together. If you are new to working with wood or don’t have access to many tools a dulcimer kit will take care of the “heavy lifting” for you. The wooden parts of the kit should already be brought to proper thickness, the fret slots cut, the sides bent, etc. My entry into dulcimer making was through building several kits in the early 1970’s.
Studying as many dulcimers as you can get your hands on will teach you about the variety of design and construction methods used by dulcimer makers.
Gathering ideas from the work of others is a wonderful thing. Plagiarizing the work of others is not a wonderful thing. If you can not come up with your own design I suggest using a set of published plans that give permission to reproduce the instrument. If you want to copy someone else’s work ask for their permission to do so and respect their response.
Here are two books that offer just about everything you need to know to make your first dulcimer:
“Constructing The Mountain Dulcimer” by Dean Kimball
“Dulcimer People” by Jean Ritchie contains a clear and concise chapter on how to make a dulcimer.
Making mistakes is an important part of the learning process so don’t let them discourage you! I suggest having wood on hand for two or three dulcimers so you have easy access to replacement parts should something go wrong. Even experienced luthiers have things go wrong…