What’s On The Bench – July 23rd, 2020

Splitting and shaping spruce for dulcimer soundboard bracing

On the bench is the setup I use for making dulcimer soundboard braces.

I use several small, light braces to help control stiffness, tonal response, and protect the area around the soundholes from developing cracks.

I usually use spruce for the soundboard braces regardless of the type of wood used for the soundboard. Spruce is light, stiff, and strong. This is why spruce is often used for making soundboards, boats, and airplanes!

The spruce I use for soundboard braces comes from soundboard off-cuts.

The braces are narrow and thin and get shaved down further after being glued to the soundboard. I have no standard dimensions for bracing; I determine the final size and shape of the braces by how flexible the soundboard feels in my hands and what kind of response it gives when tapped in different areas.

I split the stock for the braces with a knife or chisel. Splitting, as opposed to cutting, assures the grain will run the full length of the brace, making the brace stock as stiff and strong as possible. Some of the braces could be confused for large splinters, so having long, straight grain is, in my opinion, essential for them to do their job well.

After splitting the brace stock, I carve away any rough spots preventing them from being rectangular with a knife or chisel and finish them up on a plane clamped upside down in a vise. The braces are simultaneously cut to length and beveled on the ends with a sharp chisel.

While writing this post, I remembered I had written about this same process before, but over the years my methods have changed and evolved. Such is life, and that’s a good thing.

I regularly post photos of dulcimers in progress on Instagram. I have yet to become a lifestyle influencer, but if you like seeing dulcimers being made, you might enjoy following me there.

4 thoughts on “What’s On The Bench – July 23rd, 2020

  1. Doug, just a thought, but I have been using a 1/4 inch ring of 1/32 aircraft plywood around the sound hole on my ukuleles. The sound hole is much larger than those on a dulcimer but I feel on my ukuleles it adds to the stability around the sound hole without affecting the sound. May work on a dulcimer. I have never had the tonewood split. I also use a 1/2 inch strip on the seam. Just a thought.
    Bill

    1. That’s a good idea. I have done something similar to reinforce sound ports. I like using spruce braces because I can carve them down to change resonant frequency. Thanks for the suggestions!

  2. Thanks for sharing! I like your solution for making the braces. Nothing fancy but it works.

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