The side pieces had been resawn from the same board, so they are bookmatched just like the top and back. I first needed to thin them down to be able to bend them easily. For this, I employed a belt sander with increasingly finer grade sandpaper. I then used masking tape to trace the path of the sides along the gluing strips from slot to slot. This gave me the exact length of each side and I cut each side accordingly. I worked on the left side first, using my traditional bending method. I boiled water in a kettle and gently but firmly made the needed bends in the resulting steam. While it was still warm and pliable, I added glue to the strips and clamped the side in place using homemade violin clamps.
For the right side, I decided to experiment a little. Several months ago, I acquired several handmade bending jigs for constructing guitars, ukeleles, and mandolins. I decided that some of the bends on the guitar jig was similar to the bends that I could use for the dulcimer side. I just had to figure out how to use it. Some websites and a couple of YouTube videos were helpful. After cleaning up the jig (it apparently hadn’t been used in a while), I dampened both sides of the side piece and sandwiched it between the metal sheets provided. I then clamped it partially into place, not wanting the severe bend needed for a guitar, and plugged it in.
The three 150 Watt bulbs heated the side pretty quickly. It was ready in about 20 minutes. One of the bends was in the wrong place so I had to fire up the kettle anyway to steam it into the proper shape. I have never had a side that retained it’s shape like that. I determined that I could re-create this jig for a dulcimer and get the exact bends I need. I used the clamps to secure the right side. The only thing left was to engineer the tail end of the dulcimer.