Dulcimer Building And Playing Instruction – 1964

While browsing in a used book store a few weeks ago I stumbled across a copy of “World Folk Songs” by Marais & Miranda. I remember listening to one of their records as a child and this song has stayed with me ever since:

Right on the cover the book stated it contained a “Complete Dulcimer Section.” Flipping through the book revealed there were instruction for both building and playing the dulcimer as well as a brief history of the instrument.

Marais & Miranda - World Folk SongsMany folk song collections from this era (1964) had basic instructions for playing guitar and this book does as well, but it is the earliest book I know of with this much information on playing the dulcimer, let alone how to build one. The authors knew it was not easy to find a dulcimer at the time so they included rudimentary information for cobbling together a dulcimer of your own.
Dulcimer body pattern

Dulcimer fret pattern and other partsThe section on playing the dulcimer cover finger picking, which as someone who primarily fingerpicks delighted me!

Notes on a dulcimer fingerboard

Dulcimer fingerpicking patternsAll in all this is an interesting relic from the days of The Great Folk Scare.

Ocarinists Are Not Freaks!

Well, maybe some ocarinists are freaks, but I am, among other things, an ocarinist, and I am not a freak, though opinions on this do vary.Ocarinists Are Not Freaks!According to the above listing taken from “The American Educator, circa 1919” ocarinas are “classed with musical toys and freaks.”

This statement can be taken a number of ways…

Ocarinists Stand Together! – We Have Nothing To Lose But Our Chains!

I’ll stop now.

What’s On The Bench – 5/25/2015

Dulcimer FingerboardsYesterday I slotted two dulcimer fingerboards.

The top fingerboard is zircote and the bottom is bubinga. Zircote has many of the qualities of ebony but it is lighter in weight, which in my opinion is a good thing.  Zircote also has wild, lacy figure and color streaks I find stunning. I rarely use zircote for fingerboards because it is hard to find quarter-sawn zircote in the dimensions I require. After making this fingerboard I have enough zircote left for one more fingerboard, possibly two if the bandsaw Gods are kind when I resaw it.

The bottom fingerboard is bubinga. Anything quarter-sawn from the rosewood family, including similar woods that are not technically rosewood but close enough, almost always works well as fingerboards, at least for me. If they are well quartered, stiff and relatively light I am happy. In general I am more concerned with the qualities of a piece of wood than it’s species.

The zircote fingerboard will go on a dulcimer with a sassafras top and curly walnut back and sides, the bubinga fingerboard will go on the dulcimer in photograph, quartered oak with some flame figure and a spruce top.

Boring health issues currently keep me from working as much as I prefer, though I am happy and thankful for every moment I can work in what my wife calls “Doug’s playroom.”  I love my job.

Two other dulcimers are nearly ready for sale; one in walnut, one in cherry. I’ll be posting them in the next week or so.

Poplar Shavings

After planing poplar for the current run of dulcimers I tracked some shavings throughout the house. As many who hand-plane know, wood shavings can be captivating.

So here are a few poplar shavings, about 2 inches wide and 32 inches long, sitting by the window and getting some sun with their beauty inadequately captured by the camera on my phone.Poplar shavings by the window.Coffee break is over, time to get back on my head,


Bending Beautiful Bubinga Binding

Though I have done it countless times I am always amazed when a straight. flat, piece of wood turns into the curved shape of a dulcimer. Heat and moisture make wood pliable. It’s that simple.

Today I bent bubinga binding for two dulcimers in the works. After sawing bubinga into appropriately dimensioned strips I clean and true the surfaces with a low angle block plane and trim them to length with a chisel. Here is beautiful bubinga binding before being bent. Can you say “beautiful bubinga binding before being bent” three times fast?

Beautiful Bubinga Binding Before Being Bent

A quick spray with distilled water and the beautiful bubinga binding strips are taped together so they are easy to manage when going into the heated bending form. Since these will all be bent to the same shape this is a quicker method than bending them freehand on a hot pipe.

Here they are in the bender. Though you can’t see them in the bending form I assure you there is beautiful bubinga binding being bent.

Beautiful Bubinga Binding Being Bent

And last but not least here is bent beautiful bubinga binding!

Bent Beautiful Bubinga BindingToday’s post has been presented by the letter “B.”