Doug Berch

Dulcimer Maker And Musician

cropped Dulcimer Builders and Makers 1 23

Page 112 of 117

Hand Sanding

sb1 No, this is not about sanding hands. It’s about using your hands to sand.

There isn’t much new to say about hand sanding. The basics of sanding are very simple. Each progressively finer grit leaves scratches finer than it’s predecessor. Finer grits are used until the scratches left are no longer noticeable. In general one should always sand with the direction of the grain.

When sanding a flat surface a sanding block should be used. Curved or contoured blocks can be used for curves or special profiles. In some situations your fingers might be the perfect sanding block.

Sandpaper is a tool. As in using any tool the results will vary according to the knowledge and skill of the user.

I tend to avoid coarse grits when hand sanding. By using edge tools, rasps and files I usually don’t need to use anything more coarse than 150 grit. I use 150 grit paper “freehand” for heavily rounding, shaping and blending curved surfaces. Sometimes I back the paper with tape to give it a little more body.sb2

I also use 150 grit with a sanding block for all flat surfaces. The scratch pattern left on the wood quickly shows me any high or low spots needing attention.

I follow 150 grit with 220 grit. Usually 220 grit is all that I need to prep for finishing. Some woods like maple and cherry might reveal fine scratches unless I go up to 320 grit.

At this stage I wipe down the instrument with a slightly dampened clean rag. This raises the grain a bit and I can then sand the resulting fuzz away. This step lessens any raising of the grain when finish is applied.

To check if sanding is complete I wipe down and vacuum off the piece. If it looks good I wipe it down with some alcohol. This gives me an idea of what the wood will look like when finished. Flaws in the prep work always show up much more after the finish is applied.

When sanding you will want to keep your nose clean. When raising a lot of dust wearing a dust mask is a good idea. Don’t wipe your eyes with dusty hands (ask me how I know….)


Quote – Lex Hixon on Open Space

Lex Hixon Open Space
is the placeless place
where all (such) prayers and elevated intentions
come to full fruition.

Open Space is the one taste
that pervades all beings, all events.

Open Space is not space.
Open Space is not something open or closed.
Open Space does not have any form.
Open Space is not formlessness.
One cannot describe Open Space by saying what it is not.
There is no way to describe
what already is.

There is nothing inside Open Space,
there is nothing outside it.
But Open Space is a mother nursing her child.
Open Space is a child’s game.
Open Space is the justice, the beauty, the mercy,
the transparent light that manifests as cosmos.
Open Space is plenitude.
Everything that spiritual traditions long for,
supplicate for, envision,
and have envisioned profoundly and authentically
from the very beginning of consciousness,
all this richness is the plenitude of Open Space.

Open Space is what is hearing at this moment.
Open Space is the temporality
that we identify as this moment.
Open Space is infinitely articulate.
It speaks through every possible language.
It speaks through the nonverbal gestures of our lives.
Its perfect silence is perfect speech.
Its perfect speech is perfect silence.

A profusion, a cascade of names
are indicating Open Space.
Here are some of the names of Open Space:
microphone, floor, hands, eyes,
air, chandelier, Chicago, planet Earth.

Open Space is sublime reticence.
Not a single explanation, not a single statement
issues from Open Space.
Words cease to be words for Open Space.
Sounds cease to be sounds,
tastes cease to be tastes,
for Open Space.
We lose ourselves
in order to find ourselves
as Open Space.

Lex Hixon speaking at The Parliament of the World’s Religions, September, 1993, Chicago, Illinois

The Lex Hixon web site

CD or MP3?

I go back into the studio in a week or so to record more tracks for the album I’m working on.


I have a question. Do you prefer purchasing music on CD or by downloading? Let me know!

My plan is to make the album and each individual track available as a very high quality MP3. I am also pondering how many CDs I should press.

Either way I will post samples of the tracks when the album is available.



Musurgia Universalis


Athanasius Kircher wrote Musurgia Universalis in 1650. It presents his knowledge of instruments, acoustics and music theory.

There is a reproduction of the manuscript available on line in two volumes:

Musurgia Universalis







Exercises for Hammered Dulcimer Players


Musicians spend a lot of time with their bodies in postures specific to playing their instrument. This can cause a number of physical problems such as stiffness, fatigue, cramping and chronic pain.

If a musician has a physical condition that exhibits similar symptoms the side effects of playing an instrument can exacerbate the symptoms making it much harder to comfortably play. This has been my situation for quite a few years.

doughdI find it difficult to play the hammered dulcimer for an extended period of time; it aggravates some physical problems I must deal with.

Since I was determined to keep playing I have found a number of things that are very helpful.

I’d like to share some exercises that have made a world of difference for me. I have shared them with musicians and friends who have found them helpful as well.

I use these three exercises before I play and during breaks. It makes a world of difference!

This exercise helps keep my upper back and shoulders loose. It really helps with some of the aches from having my arms out in front of me when playing hammered dulcimer.

back exercise1

This exercise stretches my entire back. It especially takes some of the edge off of my hips and lower back

exercise 3

I do this exercise before and after a session of playing. It gives my entire body a bit of a work out and gives the muscles I don’t use when playing something to think about!

back exercise 2

I found these and several more exercises on a page I highly recommend for anyone with back trouble. It can be found here.

Page 112 of 117

Doug Berch & Dulcimer Makers