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.


A Few Dulcimer Pegheads In Progress

Here are two pegheads in curly walnut and one in cherry ready to be sawn out.

Dulcimer pegheads trapped in wood A Few Dulcimer Pegheads In Progress

When making parts for more than one dulcimer at a time I sometimes leave notes to myself on the parts in pencil. The numbers in the layouts for the two walnut pegheads are to remind me how many tuners each will receive. There are also notes on the respective dulcimers to remind me which peghead goes with which dulcimer. I know it may be difficult to imagine that the wrong peghead could possibly end up on a dulcimer but imagine away….it has happened.

Once the pegheads have been sawn out they are brought to final shape by eye. My pegheads all look basically the same, an asymmetrical snake-head, but each is is slightly different.  I enjoy sculpting each peghead until it looks right to me and depending on the grain and figure of the wood a different variation in the final shape looks more “right” for each individual peghead. It would be faster to just make them to a set repetitive pattern but what would be the fun in that?

Planing Pretty Pegheads A Few Dulcimer Pegheads In Progress

Here are two of the pegheads in the home stretch.

Dulcimer headstocks A Few Dulcimer Pegheads In Progress