A Celebration of Maryville College

45 years of Construction

Dulcimer #51 was inspired by a contact from my college days. Bill Doyle, who lived down the hall from me in Dorm 1 (now Gamble Hall) sent me a message out of the blue saying he wanted a custom-made dulcimer. I had to warn him that this may take awhile — I had just come out of retirement to return to an elementary classroom, so my time was going to be constrained. I had also begun to construct a jig to bend the dulcimer sides and I needed to finish that before I could reconfigure my shop for dulcimer-mode. He said that would be fine, and I appreciate his patience. This one will be an anniversary instrument since it was exactly 45 years ago, this month, that I took the “How to Build an Appalachian Dulcimer” class during the 3-week Interim period at Maryville College.

I finished the side-bending jig and have posted the process in the “Woodworking” section.

I have finally begun construction of the dulcimer in earnest. The jigs I have built will help me speed up the process, so that will help counteract my scarcity of time.

The heart of a dulcimer is the fretboard. It must be perfectly straight and flat, and all the frets must be perfectly placed. That is where I start. I had a rough-cut blank hanging around (actually 2) so I employed a planer-jointer and a bench sander to bring it down to size.

I cut the strum hollow after measuring the scale length of the frets and then hollowed out the underside of the fretboard. Here it is beside the other rough-cut blank. I then turned to the construction of the peghead. This is another piece that must perfectly align with the fretboard. Here, I am using a jig that I designed for resawing lumber into thin pieces. I just needed to remove about 1/8 inch from this board and the jig made quick work of it.

I then cut out and sanded the pieces of the peghead to fit the template that I usually use. I measured the width needed to match the fretboard and prepped a couple of pieces to fill in the middle. I like to get to a gluing stage before turning in for the evening.