Doug Berch

Dulcimer Maker And Musician

cropped Dulcimer Builders and Makers 1 23

Making A Walnut Dulcimer Peghead

Making a walnut dulcimer peghead.

I assemble my dulcimer pegheads using two or three parts; a block glued to the head-block of the dulcimer shaped somewhat like the heel on a guitar neck, a peghead that sits on top of the block, and occasionally, a decorative veneer over the top of the peghead.

In the photograph you can see the parts and get an idea of where they will go. This peghead is made of walnut with a highly figured veneer glued over it. The veneer was made from wood that could have become scrap but I try to use every beautiful bit I have around.

The black marking on the peghead veener is black epoxy I used to fill a bark inclusion; a situation where the bark of the tree works its way into the wood, kind of like a tree with an ingrown toenail! The epoxy stabilizes the wood and fills small voids around the bark inclusion. I’ve done this before and it looks natural and beautiful once the epoxy is leveled.

I use a disc sander to clean up some of the mating surfaces but I don’t consider a machine-sanded surface good enough for these joints. Before assembly I will plane and/or scrape the joints so they mate perfectly. If I find a particular joint very tricky to clean up I might lap the parts on finer sandpaper glued to a flat surface and then scrape them from there. Sanding scratches leave small ridges and voids that prevent full wood-to-wood contact. With hide glue I can get a very strong and often invisible joint if I have direct wood-to-wood contact.

Peaking up behind the dulcimer is the mini crock pot that holds a container of fresh and yummy hide glue. The cardboard template gives me the rough shape of the peghead but leaves the final length and shaping of the tip free to be adjusted for the number of tuners or to avoid cutting off a particularly pretty piece of the wood that might fall outside a more standardized pattern.

All of this leads to more work but it’s the stuff that makes me love doing what I do.

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4 Comments

  1. Tom Devers

    Your attention to details it what makes your dulcimers special.

  2. William Allman

    Great description and nice work Doug. Years ago I was one to throw away all the little pieces of wood scrap I made. A long time ago I bought a mini lathe and when I take a break making ukuleles I grab a piece of scrap and turn a small bowl or pen or even some small legs for a dulcimer to set on so the back surface doesn’t get scratched. Mother Nature has given us a wonderful gift in wood, best we use it wisely. Thanks for keeping us up to date on your progress. I look forward to your emails.
    Bill

    • Doug

      Glad you enjoy my posts. Yes, nature does a great job of making trees and we don’t want to waste any of it!

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Doug Berch & Dulcimer Makers