Building a Mountain Dulcimer - Part 4

 

It's time to attach the sides to the back. First the ends of the sides are trimmed so that they meet the scrollhead and tailpiece while lying along the outline drawn on the back. A lot of fussy trimming is done to make sure the end of the side butts up squarely against the notches on the scrollhead and tailpiece, and finally the two ends are glued. The slight angle on the scrollhead where the sides meet it requires thin wedges on either side so the clamp won't slip off. 

 


The shape of the tail block makes it easy to clamp.


Once the glue joints at the scrollhead and tailpiece are secure, I can begin attaching the sides to the main board of the back. The clamps here are applied lightly to keep the flexible sides right on the line. 


The sides are extremely thin in order to be easily bent to shape and to keep the weight of the instrument low. Because of this, there's not enough surface along the edge to make a reliable glue joint with the back. So a small strip of spruce wood called a lining is glued to both the back and the side to hold them together. This lining is kerfed - cut almost all the way through with regularly-spaced saw cuts - to make it easy to bend around the curves of the instrument. I do this a short segment at a time, and can hold it for just a few seconds for the glue to grab. It helps the glue to grab if I slide the strip back and forth a few times while applying pressure down and against the side. Early guitar makers (and some modern classical guitar makers) glue little blocks one-by-one instead of using kerfed strips. I got the kerfed material I used here from Luthiers' Mercantile. It's easy but incredibly tedious to make this strip, and Luthiers' can make them so cheaply with their gang saws that it makes no sense to do it at home. 

 

With all the linings installed, the dulcimer begins to take its eventual shape.

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Miklos