How to Make a Dulcimer
The following instructions tells you how to make your own dulcimer. A list is included with everything you will need to complete the project. If you have never heard the sound of a dulcimer, it carries the beautiful, haunting folk sound of the early mountaineers. This musical instrument was a favorite of the settlers in the Southern Appalachian Mountains where it is still widely played.
The dulcimer is popular today with folk singers because it is easy to play and has the haunting sound of the mountains. This version is a simple primitive type, common to the early mountaineers. The hour glass shape is replaced by an easy to construct box. The playing technique is similar to the modern dulcimer.
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What You Will Need:
- 1/8 “plywood, 18” by 23″
- Hardwood for bridges, one 1 1/4″by 1 1/4″ by 1/4 “, one 1/4″, one1/8″ by 1 1/4″by 1/4″
- Coping saw
- White glue
- Birch or other hard wood, 1 1/4″by 3/4″by 28″ for finger board
- 3 small screws for attaching strings
- 2 dulcimer strings or banjo strings (see below)
- 3 guitar machined heads (from music store)
- Wire for frets
- Plastic tape
How to Make:
- With saw cut two 6″ wide by 23″ long pieces out of 1/8″ plywood. On one of the plywood pieces, mark four circles 1” in diameter 7 1/2 inches from each end. The outer edge of each circle should be 1/2″ from the edge of the plywood. Cut out the circles with a coping saw. These are the sound holes.
- Out of the remaining 1/8” plywood, cut two strips, each 23″ by 1 1/2″. These are the sides of the box. Glue in place to top and bottom. Cut two more strips of 1/8″plywood, 1 1/2″by 5 3/4″, for ends of box. (To be sure of a good fit measure as you go.)
- Take the 1 ¼ “by 3/4″by 28″ piece of birch (fingerboard) and measure 5″ from one end. With the saw taper from the 3/4″ height there to 1/2″ at the end of the wood. This is the end of the fingerboard the machined heads will be attached to.
- Measure 1½ “from the other end of fingerboard, with the saw make a 4″ shallow “U”shape. This is the strumming hole.
- Cut 2 bridges out of the hardwood, one 1 1/4″by 1 1/4″by1/4″, the second 1/8″by 1 1/4″by 1/4″
- Glue the fingerboard to the center of box, 1/4″ from the end. This is where the 1 1/4″by 1 1/4″by 1/4″ bridge is glued to the box and fingerboard.
- Take a piece of hardwood 1 1/4″by 2 5/8″ by 3/8″ and glue it to the end of the box, against the bridge. Use the U shape from the strumming hole for this; this is for attaching the screws for the strings.
- Take the smaller bridge(1 1/4″by1/8″by1/4″) and glue it to the fingerboard at the point where the fingerboard starts to taper. Let the glue dry completely.
- With the drill, make 3 holes the size of the small screws, evenly spaced on the 1 1/4″by 2 5/8″by 3/8″ wood at the end of the sound box, then screw the 3 small screws in place leaving about 1/8″of each head protruding so the strings can be looped over them.
- This is the time to stain and finish your instrument.
- Frets must be placed according to the sound of each individual instrument, use plastic tape for markers until you find the exact spot, painted lines are easiest, but metal frets made from large paper clips may be added. Cut wire to fit the fingerboard. File a small groove in the board, add glue and wire.
- With a drill, make 3 holes the size of the necks of the machined heads. Insert heads through holes and attach to bottom with screws. (These come with machined head.)
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