The Realm of the Verbal Processor

Jarvis's Ramblings

Building a Hammered Dulcimer

Back in November, my wife approached me about building something that our daughter asked for for Christmas…a hammered dulcimer. I enjoy woodworking, but building a musical instrument? That would be a stretch at best! Julie had found plans online, and pointed me towards them. After looking at it, I determined that from a woodworking standpoint, it’s basically building a box…a trapezoidal box. I can do that…and if the plans can help me precisely position the tuning pins/etc, then I could do it. Let the adventure begin!

For those who don’t know what a hammered dulcimer is, it is stringed instrument that is played by striking the strings with small wooden hammers. Our family first heard the instrument through the music of the late Rich Mullins. Here are a few links to some very talented musicians playing the instrument.

Throughout the build I took lots of pictures because I figured I would get around to writing this blog post about the build.

I took the plans from MusicMakers and then made some modifications to the frame design based on a post on the Smithsonian site by a famous dulcimer builder name Sam Rizzetta. The plans call for a simple 90 degree joint for the bottom corners. Sam uses a different joint on all four corners that is much stronger…as the strings provide tension, the joint can only get stronger. But that did involve figuring out the angles and how to best cut this without making mistakes.

Step one was to work with some scrap wood to figure out how to best go about doing the cuts before wasting the good wood. I started by just eyeballing the angles onto a scrap of plywood just to get it close.


What that helped me figure out is that if I planned it right, every single angle of the frame would be either a 30 degree or a 60 degree angle. That meant that as long as I dialed in my table saw blade perfectly on that angle…it could cut the entire frame by just changing the height of the blade. Continue reading

January 18, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment


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