A Moment Spent Stropping And Work Is Fun Again

Fashion is my life. Really.

Those of you who know me are aware that I live for fashion, Sometimes this vain habit gets in the way of working efficiently.

Why, just this evening, this very evening, I took so much time deciding what to wear while joining dulcimer soundboards and backs that I completely forgot to check if my jointer plane was as sharp as possible!

I started shooting joints and things did not go well. The plane was sharp and was making fine shavings but I could not create the tight 32″ center joint usually produced.

Suddenly it dawned on me; is this plane as sharp as it could be? Is the plane making the finest shaving it is capable off? Is it really okay that I am talking to myself?

So I boldly removed the blade, took off the cap iron, and stropped the dickens out of the blade. Stropping the dickens out of the blade took mere moments and now I have a dickens that was once in the blade. What does one do with a dickens once it is out of something? But I digress.

And behold! That little bit of stropping allowed the plane to make finer shavings than before! Straight, perfect joints were now not only possible but easily produced!

The sky seemed brighter, even though it was night. Somewhere birds were singing. People everywhere got along with each other.

And then I woke up.



What’s On The Bench – 11/2/2015

Cherry dulcimer by dulcimer builder Doug Berch

It has been several months since I have had dulcimers for sale. I have been focusing my time on advance and custom orders.

A few days ago I strung up this cherry dulcimer with black binding and position markers. It has beautiful mid-range tone and warmth and a strong bass string.

I have made two other dulcimers from this same billet of cherry; perfectly quartered with lots of flecks and some light curl. More importantly the sound of the dulcimers made from this billet have all sounded great.

I built this dulcimer and another along side work on some custom orders. The other should be strung up in a few days. Once I get some good photographs they will be listed for sale.

I’m about to start work on some more advance orders but will be making a few dulcimers along side them for sale as well. This seems to be a good rhythmic workflow.

Physical therapy and other healing modalities are allowing me to work a little more regularly in the shop but still not as much as I would prefer. Then again, reality is what is going on rather than what I would prefer.

I can’t complain. I love the work I do and if I didn’t have to work for a living I would still do what I do. During the times I can not work in the shop I play music or work on instrument designs or other things I enjoy.

“Let the beauty we love be what we do.”
– Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi

What’s On The Bench – 9/29/2015

Cleaning up the sides of a dulcimer with a scarper!Here is the setup I use for holding a dulcimer on it’s side.  I briefly mentioned this clamping method in a recent post about using a spokeshave to bring the top and back flush with the sides. I was scraping the sides of this dulcimer and saw a photo opportunity to show a little more detail about the clamping setup.

I use two cabinetmaker’s clamps clamped to a work-board. By clamping only one jaw of the cabinetmaker’s clamp the other jaw remains adjustable.

Before using this setup I would hold the dulcimer between my knees and under my chin. This method worked well but clamping is a little easier on my body and does hold the dulcimer more solidly.

I occasionally consider making a dedicated fixture for holding dulcimesr on their sides; something along the lines of a Moxon vise, but the cabinetmaker’s clamps work fine and I prefer to have fewer tools with multiple uses than multiple tools with fewer uses.


Hide Glue and Dulcimer Pegheads

I’ve written before about my love of hide glue. Hide glue works well as an adhesive but it also has unique properties that allow assembly techniques not possible with modern glues.

Hide glue is excellent for making rub joints, a joint where after applying glue the parts are rubbed together a few times until the glue begins to stick. No clamping is required because hide glue pulls the joint together as it dries.

How a Dulcimer builder gets sticky fingersAbove is what my bench looked like earlier today while I was gluing up some pegheads. Some of the things in the photograph have nothing to do with gluing pegheads but they were lonely and asked if they could be in the picture. I didn’t have the heart to say no.

In the foreground towards the right, next to a partially shown shopping list, are the two parts of a peghead just after being glued. In the background is the mini-crock-pot that serves as an electric glue pot. Peeking out of the top of glue pot is the white lid of a small jar containing, believe it or not, hide glue. The jar sits in a bath of hot water. It is a filthy little jar and does not get to watch TV before bedtime if it refuses to take a bath. Hide glue also needs to be heated in a double boiler at around 140° F to melt and become usable. That is another reason the jar is in a bath of hot water.

Also on the glue pot are two brushes; one for applying glue, the other for adding hot water from the pot when cleaning things up, adding a little more hot water to the joint, etc.

In front of the glue pot is a flask of water used for replacing water in the glue pot and the glue jar as evaporation takes place. I found the flask at a salvage store and thought it was less likely to get knocked over than the glass I had used before. That ended up being true. The flask also looks cool and makes things look more impressive and scientific than they really are.

On the work-board are some peghead parts, a template, and a flat sanding block used for lapping the surfaces of the joints for a perfect fit. On bigger parts I do this with a swipe of a plane, on smaller, odd-shaped parts it is sometimes easier to lap them.

And now, for no particular reason, is a picture of a cute duckling.

I'm so cute!