Dad has one of these things, made of walnut. I've played with it, but I
never thought much about it until I heard an interview with a group called
Laliya on the radio. Wow! A mountain dulcimer can sound like that?!
Ever since then, I've been gnawing on the idea that I'd like to have one of
those, and it would probably be a good first instrument project because
they're not terribly complicated.
For starters, I can just copy the one Dad has, which was made by some local
crafstman, not mass produced. Without taking it apart or damaging it
though, I can only guess at some things. Thickness of the top/bottom/sides
for starters. How the top/bottom/sides are all fitted together for another
thing. There's no banding at the joints. I don't have it in front of me,
but I'd say the top and bottom are glued or otherwise fastened directly to
the sides in a simple butt joint.
I guess all the tension is on the neck/fretboard, and it looks like you
could just about make a neck/fretboard as a free-standing piece, and it's
just glued to the box as an amplifier.
What about cutting out nifty little holes in the top? This one's maple leaf
holes are so crisp it looks laser cut, but this was made in the early '80s.
Probably not laser cut then, I don't imagine. I don't think I could get a
cut this sharp and clean on a scrollsaw, but maybe I haven't practiced with
the scrollsaw long enough. (Haven't used it much. It's sloooooow, and
I've found everything that isn't plywood breaks immediately, so it seems
one of the more pointless machines in my arsenal so far.)
What about fret wire? Is this just some standard item I can buy anywhere,
and do the many readily available instructions for installing frets on
guitars apply evenly to a mountain dulcimer?
I guess the biggest question of all is the bending. I've never bent diddly.
It almost looks to me like an hourglass dulcimer is a simple enough shape
that I could bend suitably thin wood to that shape without some steam
contraption. Is that unrealistic?
How much do woods matter? The original is all solid walnut except the
bottom, which I would guess is wormy chestnut salvaged from a barn or
something. I haven't seen a lot of chestnut, with it being extinct and
all, but I think that's what this is.
I guess I should take it to rec.music.makers or something, but I'd rather
just stay here.
Michael McIntyre ---- Silvan < email@example.com>
Linux fanatic, and certified Geek; registered Linux user #243621
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