Doug Berch

Dulcimer Maker And Musician

cropped Dulcimer Builders and Makers 1 23

Tag: design

Free-Form Dulcimer Making

Bartione dulcimer soundboard layoutI have basic patterns for my dulcimers but the the exact shape and size of each dulcimer varies slightly from one dulcimer to the next. I have embraced a fairly free-form style of building and use very few jigs, forms, and fixtures.

By building free-form I feel like I am sculpting a dulcimer rather than making a bunch of parts and assembling them. The frame of the dulcimer (sides and end blocks) and the fretboard become the reference points for laying out the rest of instrument. I can make small changes to the shape and size of the dulcimer by feel and eye and work with it until everything seems right to me.

The thickness of the top and back and the bracing pattern are determined in a similar manner.

Free-form building is not the most efficient way to make dulcimers in a timely manner. If I made all the parts to a set pattern and assembled them in fixtures I would make more dulcimers in less time but I wouldn’t enjoy the process very much.

Laying out position markers and soundholes on a baritone dulcimer These photographs are of a baritone dulcimer in progress. The final shape of the dulcimer is traced on the soundboard and the soundholes are laid out using a template. I have also laid out the placement of the position markers on the fingerboard. A scraper serves as a short straight edge for drawing the layout lines.

Making sure everything is where it belongsAlso important are notes to myself to make sure everything goes where it is supposed to go. There is a reason I do this. Guess what happened the last time I didn’t do this!

A Few Dulcimer Pegheads In Progress

Here are two pegheads in curly walnut and one in cherry ready to be sawn out.

Dulcimer pegheads trapped in wood

When making parts for more than one dulcimer at a time I sometimes leave notes to myself on the parts in pencil. The numbers in the layouts for the two walnut pegheads are to remind me how many tuners each will receive. There are also notes on the respective dulcimers to remind me which peghead goes with which dulcimer. I know it may be difficult to imagine that the wrong peghead could possibly end up on a dulcimer but imagine away….it has happened.

Once the pegheads have been sawn out they are brought to final shape by eye. My pegheads all look basically the same, an asymmetrical snake-head, but each is is slightly different.  I enjoy sculpting each peghead until it looks right to me and depending on the grain and figure of the wood a different variation in the final shape looks more “right” for each individual peghead. It would be faster to just make them to a set repetitive pattern but what would be the fun in that?

Planing Pretty Pegheads

Here are two of the pegheads in the home stretch.

Dulcimer Headstocks

 

 

Doug Berch & Dulcimer Makers