A mountain dulcimer is a stringed instrument that, unlike a guitar, does not have a neck or handle. The dulcimer is typically played by a person that places the instrument directly onto their lap and then strums the strings to produce sound. The dulcimer is also known as a pitch instrument because you can change the high or low pitch of the instrument according to how you play it. Many folk singers and band still utilize the dulcimer to produce the unique antique sound. You can make your own mountain dulcimer as a DIY project and then enjoy your new instrument.
Step 1 – Inspect Kit
Unless you are a trained instrument maker, the best way to produce a quality dulcimer is by using a kit. Your kit should contain shaped wood, your strings, fret board, tuners and nuts. You will still need to piece together the body, make sound holes and attach the other various parts. Kits are available in various shapes and sizes and should all come with the required parts for construction. Make certain you purchase a kit that contains quality wood and this will effect the sound produced by your dulcimer.
Step 2 – Cut Sound Holes
You will need to cut sound holes into the front and back of the precut dulcimer wood. You want the holes to be about 1 inch in diameter and to reside ½ inch from the outer edge of the wood. Your holes should be close to centered, or as close as you can get depending on the shape of the dulcimer you are making.
Step 3 – Assemble Body
Now you are ready to assemble the body of the dulcimer. You should have a top and bottom along with sides to completely enclose the body. You will need to apply glue to all of the pieces and clamp them together. Allow the glue adequate time to dry before removing the clamps.
Step 4 – Attach Parts
Now that your body is complete, you need to attach the fret board. Most kits will give you a fret board that is already assembled. All you will need to do is attach it to the top of the dulcimer with glue. Next, attach the peg head assembly and then wait for the glue to dry.
Step 5 – Sand & Stain
Now you are ready to lightly sand the dulcimer. You want to sand with the grain of the wood so you do not create splinters and imperfections in the wood that can alter the sound. You are sanding to smooth the wood and remove tool marks or imperfections in the appearance of the dulcimer. Once sanded, you can stain or shellac your dulcimer to give it the appearance you desire.
Step 6 – Attach Remaining Parts
Once the dulcimer is dry, you can attach the tuners and strings. It may take a little time and effort to get your dulcimer tuned and sounding to perfection, but your project is complete and ready to be played.