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Thread: First Instrument Build -- Mountain Dulcimer

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Cedar Park, TX (NW Austin)
    Posts
    198

    First Instrument Build -- Mountain Dulcimer

    My next project is going be a mountain dulcimer build. It will be my first musical instrument and is bringing back fond memories of listening to people play the dulcimer every summer on vacation in North Georgia.

    Anyway, I love the pre-build research and need some help with the dulcimer build process and plans, as well as, good info on the science of wood selection. I am up in the air between using the traditional woods or possibly using wood that the will result with a better sounding instrument. The written information on dulcimers is really thin and most of it was published back when I had to be home when the street lights came on. That being said any advice for books, websites or just words of wisdom is greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2017
    Location
    Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
    Posts
    796
    My father made a couple Mountain Dulcimers that I have and can't play. I have never heard them played because I can't find anyone that can. Wrong end of the continent I suppose. Dad made his based on a book called Making Musical Instruments by Irving Sloane and articles from different magazines he came across. Somewhere in the house I have the articles he took from the magazines squirrel away. The problem is figuring out where the squirrel put them. I'll keep poking around for the articles and if I come across them I'll scan them and send them to you. If you want I can post a few pictures of the Dulcimers.

    Poking around Amazon got me some more books. There is more on playing I didn't link.

    https://www.amazon.ca/How-Make-Dulci...ntain+dulcimer

    https://www.amazon.ca/Mountain-Dulci...ntain+dulcimer

    Plans on Ebay

    https://www.ebay.ca/itm/Old-Antique-...YAAOxyzGlQ7d3k

    A Dulcimer kit.

    https://www.harpkit.com/hourglass-mo...cimer-kit.html

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    E TN, near Knoxville
    Posts
    6,594
    You might call Warren May in Berea, KY. He has made dulcimers all his life and has always been happy to talk about them, plans, and wood.
    http://www.warrenamay.com/

    He also sells (or at least used to sell) an inexpensive dulcimer kit. I always thought his kit would be perfect for the first dulcimer then expand on it for the next one.

    I've heard of a number of woods used in traditional Appalachian dulcimers including maple, walnut, cherry, and poplar. Also, someone once pointed out to me the sound qualities of sassafras - it you tap a thin board it has a kind of ring to it, a "live" sound, not a thump. I've turned music boxes from sassafras and wondered if it would be good for a dulcimer. (I have a sassafras log waiting for when I get back to sawing this fall.)

    I've thought about building a dulcimer for years. I thought I might ramp up by building Eric Meier's Psimple Psaltry, have you heard of it? http://www.apsimplepsaltery.com/

    JKJ

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Valparaiso In
    Posts
    140
    Constructing the Mountain Dulcimer by Dean Kimball is an excellent book. Available through 3rd party sellers on Amazon, or Ebay.

  5. #5
    John Goodin,

    Here's a YouTube video in which a series of about twenty dulcimers are compared side by side and the materials and makers listed:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETbULTtBgZ0

    The sound does vary quite a bit. My favorite sound was and instrument by a maker Bob McGowan (sp?) and was all Koa: top, back sides, and fretboard. I know a Ukelele maker in Hi that uses Koa. Very good sound but apparently the supply is limited.

    Alan Caro

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