What’s On The Bench – 9/9/2014

I’ve started work on a few custom dulcimers and took a few photographs of one in the early stages of construction.

Sawing dulcimer sides to length Whats On The Bench   9/9/2014

Once the sides are bent to shape I trim the to length using a bench hook and saw. It may be time for me to make a new bench hook. This one has a lot of mileage on it!

Gluing in the kerfing Whats On The Bench   9/9/2014

The sides are glued to end-blocks and kerfing is glued in place. The kerfing stiffens the sides and provides a larger surface for gluing on the soundboard and back.

Planing kerfing flush with sides Whats On The Bench   9/9/2014

When the glue has dried the clamps are removed and I plane the kerfing flush to the sides. Most of the planing is done with a 101 plane. The tiny 101 plane gets a lot of use in my shop. After planing the kerfing flush with the 101 i switch to a jack plane to true up the surfaces and assure everything that should be flat is indeed flat.

Some helpers working in the dulcimer shop Whats On The Bench   9/9/2014

I found these guys hanging around on the lawn. I figured with hats like these they probably know something about woodworking and lutherie so I put them to work.


The Knives In My Shop

I was sharpening all the knives I regularly use and they told me this was a good photo opportunity. Yes, they told me. I was as surprised as you are.

Knives and a strop The Knives In My ShopFrom top to bottom:

My pocket knife is almost always in my pocket. Where else would it be? I have recently discovered Opinel knives and I am smitten. This Opinel #6 has replaced my previous pocket knife. This was awkward at first but they have learned to be friends.

Below it is a knife that I believe was intended for working with rubber or leather. I use it mostly for opening seams and disassembling instruments when doing repair work.

Next is the ubiquitous knife seen in many shops that is sold as a chip carving, whittling, or bench knife. I find the handle very comfortable and the short blade very easy to control. This may be the knife I most often reach for.

The next two knives are a wood carving knife and a general utility knife made by Mora. These knives feel great in the hand. I use the knife with the red handle for rough work though it is also capable of fine work. I use the carving knife for mostly fine work though it is also capable of rough work. Both knives are versatile but I usually use them for what they do best, at least in my hands.

Next comes a knife I found in an antique store that is sometimes sold these days as a mill knife. The blade can be extended or removed from the handle. I ground it with a bevel strong enough to do very rough work. I use this knife when I would worry about damaging a knife with a more refined edge.

You probably recognize the “craft knife” with a #11 blade. I use this knife for marking and layout.

At the bottom of the pile is a surgical scalpel. The disposable blades for the scalpel are not only very sharp but also extremely thin. When I need to make light, precise cuts nothing beats this scalpel. I use it when working on binding, soundholes, etc.

To the right is a hacking knife; a strong knife I use for splitting wood. I like to split the wood used for braces to assure continuous grain.

To the left is my strop, which began life as leather guitar strap. I use compound on the rough side and use the smooth side plane. Stropping creates a strong and sharp edge. I use the strop to touch up all of my edge tools and it extends the time between honings.

Is That Fret Slot Deep Enough?

More than once I had found myself perplexed by a fret that would not gracefully seat itself completely in a fret slot.

More often than not the problem was the slot being too shallow for the tang on the fretwire. I saw the slots to an appropriate depth when making a dulcimer fingerboard but by the time the fingerboard is trued and leveled the slots sometimes become too shallow.

Fret anatomy Is That Fret Slot Deep Enough?

After having this happen a few times I came up with a very simple tool to solve the problem.

Tool for measuring depth of a fret slot Is That Fret Slot Deep Enough?

I took a piece of fretwire and filed the barbs off the tang so it will easily fit into a fret slot. if the slot is deep enough the crown of the fret will seat well on the fingerboard. If not then I need to deepen the slots.

The tape on the end of the fretwire it to remind me that this is a tool and not a stray fret that escaped the blow of a hammer.


A Simple Tool

It is easy to romanticize about the beauty and functionality of vintage hand tools, but on a day-to-day basis there are some unsung heroes put to work on my bench that deserve mention.

Today’s episode; The Plexiglass Rectangle

Sheilds Up A Simple Tool

In this photograph two plexiglass rectangles protect a dulcimer soundboard during fretting. Years ago I used cardboard for this job. Then one fine day an errant piece of grit found its way under the cardboard and scratched the top of a dulcimer. Next time I used a piece of plexiglass to protect the top so I could see what was going on underneath. Another problem solved by modern science!

One of the plexiglass rectangles has a line scribed across the center of the width. I use this to layout braces on the back of a dulcimer. The scribed line goes over the center line on a dulcimer back and makes a simple task of placing braces square to the line if so desired.

I also use these rectangular marvels as see-through and somewhat flexible clamping cauls.



This is a post to replace one that went up yesterday and disappeared when my site crashed last night.

Thankfully I was able to restore everything but my last post; not to bad as far as these things go.

Anyway, yesterdays post was about getting the first coat of finish on the first two dulcimers to get that far since I have been able to get back to work.

Dulcimers after the first coat of finish1 Progress

I’ve been able to work a few hours a day most weeks, some weeks some more, some weeks less. My body continues to heal. Life is good.

Since the amount of time I can work is a bit less than i would prefer I am focusing my energies on advance custom dulcimer orders. I hope to have some other dulcimers available in the near future.