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The Woodwright's Eclectic Workshop By Roy Underhill


PartsParts To help you assemble this curvy box, you will need to make a combined bending jig and gluing frame, or mold. This is simply a flat board fitted with pegs to hold the dulcimer sides and screw-down clamps (a bunch of woodscrews and wooden blocks) to hold the dulcimer under pressure as the glue dries. Start making the mold by tracing the outline of the dulcimer on the board, then locate the centers for eleven pegs on each side. Make sure that a peg resides within the nadir of each concavity, matching the peg locations on both sides. Bore all the holes for the pegs to the same depth, or go all the way through. These pegs must be removable, and they must protrude Vs inch less than the height of the sides. Situate eleven wood screws evenly up and down each side, far enough back from the line to let the turnbutton swing clear (about 3/s inch).

When all the parts are ready to go together, use good hide glue and join the parts in the following sequence:

  • Glue the bent sides to the head and tailpiece in the mold.
  • On a flat table, glue the fretboard to the soundboard.
  • When these two subassemblies are dry, glue them together in the mold by running a thin bead of glue around the top of the sides, head and tailpiece, setting the top and fretboard in place, and clamping it down with the turnbuttons and woodscrews.
  • When the top has set overnight, remove it from the mold, pull out the inner set of pegs, and drop in the back. Affix your label or sign your name on the inside of the bottom where you can see it through one of the sound holes in the top. (So that's how they do it!) Run a bead of glue around the underedge of the assembled top and sides and set it down on the bottom. Turn down the screws and let it dry again overnight.

When you remove the finished dulcimer from the mold, trim the edges with your knife, either flush with the sides or with a slight overhang. Carefully sand the instrument all over and finish it with varnish. You can either buy dulcimer strings or use banjo second strings and one banjo fourth string for the bass. Drive a stout pair of nails or screws into the tailpiece to anchor the strings and wind the other end onto the pegs. There are many alternate ways of tuning a dulcimer, but I have to leave you to the wisdom of others at this point. I know how to put the music into the wood, but 1 leave it to my betters to get it back out.


"The Woodwright's Eclectic Workshop" By Roy Underhill
© 2012 The University of North Carolina Press

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