Custom Appalachian Dulcimer #01 74

Completed September, 2009

(click any of the thumbnails for a higher-resolution photo)


This truly custom instrument at first glance is an Appalachian dulcimer, but closer inspection reveals a lot more. First, this is a big instrument, a real lapful. To increase its volume and resonance, it has a double back: the outer, maple back rests on the player's lap, while the spruce inner back provides a free-floating soundboard that complements and amplifies the top. The sides are ported between the backs. Ebony fretboard and pin bridge add a touch of class, along with the custom abalone inlay and oval rosette. This instrument was innovative and unusual enough to merit a full-length article in American Lutherie magazine, the premier publication for instrument builders worldwide.

Construction Photos


Construction of this complex instrument begins with a full set of plans, followed by a set of external forms. The Sitka spruce top and sugar maple back are joined. The sides are bent, and the inner back is x-braced and tap tuned. The top bracing is similar to that of a guitars, with a central x-brace, bridge plate, tone bars, and finger braces. The oval hole is accentuated by a green, white, and black rosette.


The outer back and the top are attached, and the head block is dovetailed to receive the neck and headstock. The fretboard is elevated from the tonal surface of the top.


Finshing involves an amber stain, pore filler, vinyl sealer, and nitrocellulose lacquer finish. When the instrument is fully cured, it's buffed out and set up with strings and tuners.

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