- 3 panels of instrument wood, 1/8’ thick by 18” by 23″
- 1 piece hardwood 1 ¼ inch by 1 1/2 inch by ¼ inch
- 1 piece hardwood, 1 ¼ inch by 2 5/8 inch by 3/8 inch
- 1 piece hardwood, 1/8 inch by 1 ¼ inch by ¼ inch
- Coping Saw
- Hole saw (drill attachment)
- Sabre Saw/Band Saw
- Wood Glue
- Drill and drill bit set
- 1 Very dense hardwood board, 1 ½ inch by ¾ inch by 28 inches for the fretboard
- 4 small screws, 1/8 inch by ¼ inch long
- Set of 4 dulcimer strings
- 4 single peg guitar machine heads (from music store)
- Box of extra large paper clips
- Bastard file
- Carpenter Square
- Electrical tape
- Wood stain and Varnish
- Fine bristle paintbrush
- Paint thinner
Cut two more strips of 1/8 inch panel 1 ½ inches wide by 23 inches long to make the sides of the rectangular box. Cut two strips of 1/8 panel also 1 ½ inches by 5 ¾ inches for the front and heel ends of the box. Assemble the box by gluing the heel and front strips and the side strips between the top and back panels to create a rectangular box. Set some books on top of the box till the glue cures and sets.
|This is the full length fretboard described here.|
The headstock can also be extended past the end of the box as shown below to allow you to install standard banjo or guitar tuning pegs. The fretboard wood is 28 inches to allow you to construct a proper headstock if you want. You can also cut off the fretboard to the length of the box and attach tuning pegs at the end as shown in the short fretboard below. I like the longer version with banjo or individual machine heads. They seem to hold their tune better than friction pegs. Simply drill holes in the headstock for the four tuning pegs you'll need and screw them in place as shown. If you elect to build a three string dulcimer, you only have to install three tuning pegs. I prefer the doubled melody string with two single drones.
|This dulcimer has an extended carved headstock|
Cut two bridges from hardwood. The one for the heel should be 1 ½ inches wide, 1 ¼ inches tall by ¼ inches thick. The second is 1/8 inch thick by 1 ½ inch by ¼ inch tall.
|This is an alternate short fretboard with a gap for strumming|
Glue the fretboard to the top of the box in the center so that the heel end is 1 ¼ inches from the heel of the box. You will have to calculate where to glue the bridge before you mark and set it. The fret calculator link in step 9 should help you figure out how far apart to place the bridge at the lower end. The nut as the bridge-like structure at the top of the fretboard by the tuner machine heads is properly called is glued to the top of the fretboard and the frets are calculated from the nut (step 9). When the bridge has set (24 hours) glue the heel bridge into place at the end of the box. When that sets, glue the 1 ¼ inch by 2 5/8 inch by 3/8 inch hardwood square to the heel of the fretboard over the bridge and end of the box to create a heel plate for attaching the string holder screws. Cut a 1/8 inch wide groove 1/8 inch deep into the bridge below the headstock where the fingerboard begins to taper toward the end. Glue the second bridge into the groove and let it set.
Drill two 1/16 inch holes ¼ inch in diagonally each of the top corner so of the hardwood heel plate. Drill two more pilot holes ½ inch diagonally toward the center from the lower corners of the heel plate. Screw the four small screws into the 4 holes with enough of the heads protruding to wrap a string loop around.
Stain and varnish the box end of the instrument and peg head and allow finish to cure and set. Drill four holes in the head stock the size called for in the instructions for setting the guitar tuner pegs. Set the pegs with the keys down and the wire holes sticking up.
an on-line fret calculator or buy a fret spacing guide from several different sources. To determine where to mark the spaces for the frets on the fretboard, measure from the top bridge down the fretboard toward the heel. Cut a groove just narrower than the width of the paper clip wire you are using along each fret mark. Straighten the paper clip wire and tap the wires into the fret grooves, so that the top of the wire extends slightly above the fretboard where each fret was marked. Clip off and file smooth the ends of the fret wires. You can also buy fret wire from a musical supply store to use instead of paper clips.
Cut a set of shallow grooves in the top of the bridges. Measure the spacing with the dulcimer peg head to your left if you are right handed or vice versa if you are left. Mark the first groove at ¼ inch, the second at 3/8 inches. This will pair the first or melody string. The middle drone string groove should be marked at ¾ inch and the bass drone string at 1/1/4 inch from the bottom of the bridge.
Loop the strings over the screws on the heel of the fretboard. Run the strings through the grooves on the bridges and affix them to the tuning pegs. Tighten and tune the strings to the tuning you’ve chosen to play. There are many different tunings. Standard D tuning for the Dulcimer is: 1st String (bass) D, 2nd String (middle) A, 3rd String and 4th String (melody strings) A.
This type of dulcimer is also called a "church" dulcimer. If you'd rather buy one, check out the Mountain Made Music Website where they have a pretty little church dulcimer for about $250. You can also buy kits and printed plans for various types of dulcimers. I borrowed pics from several box dulcimer makers to show what one looks like. As soon as I've built my dulcimer, I'll put step by step construction pictures on here.
Mountain Made Dulcimer
Osborne A Telier: Building a Mountain Dulcimer
Folkcraft Instruments: Mountain Dulcimer Building Supplies - Plans And Instructions
Quazen: How to Make a Dulcimer
Howdy Ya Dewit: How to Tell if A Piece of Wood Will Make a Good Musical Instrument
Doug Sparling: Fret Calculator