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"Coco Bear" the Appalachian Mountain Dulcimer

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Project by Patrick Jaromin posted 06-24-2016 02:02 AM 1391 views 0 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This past spring break we packed up our new camper and made the 10 hour drive from Chicago to Cosby, TN. The main reason for the trip was to ride one of the super cool alpine coasters they have in the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area. This was great fun; but for me, the highlight of the trip turned out to be an impromptu visit to Wood-n-Strings dulcimer shop in Townsend, TN.

There we discovered the Appalachian mountain dulcimer, a true American stringed instrument. I considered purchasing one but decided it would be much more fun to build one instead. And here is the result.

The back, sides, and fingerboard are cocobolo. The soundboard, head, and neck are birdseye maple. The fretboard features hand-cut mother-of-pearl butterflies and flowers to mark the 3rd and octave of the two keys on the “extended” diatonic fretboard (extra 6-1/2 and 13-1/2 fret added).

This was my first attempt at bending wood, mother-of-pearl inlays, and wood carving. I spent quite a bit of time watching Mary May before starting the scroll and am fairly pleased with the results. It’s finished with rattle-can shellac (to seal the oily cocobolo) and around 6 coats of rattle-can lacquer.

The name comes from what to me looks like the image of a bear’s head in the back in the bookmatched lower bout.

Take a listen:

View on YouTube

If you’d like to see more, I’ve been blogging about the build on my woodworking blog.

-- Patrick, Chicago, IL http://www.TenonAndSpline.com/blog





15 comments so far

View bushmaster's profile

bushmaster

1341 posts in 1742 days


#1 posted 06-24-2016 03:03 AM

Nice instrument and outstanding craftsmanship.

-- Brian - Hazelton, British Columbia

View BurlyBob's profile

BurlyBob

3644 posts in 1725 days


#2 posted 06-24-2016 03:42 AM

That is truly beautiful wood selections and workmanship.

View Grumpy's profile

Grumpy

21550 posts in 3310 days


#3 posted 06-24-2016 04:09 AM

Excellent work Patrick.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View fatman51's profile

fatman51

335 posts in 1296 days


#4 posted 06-24-2016 05:05 AM

Looks nice. That was quite a project.

-- The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself. Benjamin Franklin

View poospleasures's profile

poospleasures

543 posts in 1943 days


#5 posted 06-24-2016 11:46 AM

Beautiful project. Love the both the woods used they are extra special. I made two for my wife, one would not tune but the other has been playing beautifully for the last two years(can see in my blog). I can understand how hard it is to make all the different pieces to come together. You seem to understand what you were striving to achieve than I did. I appreciate your story and thanks for sharing. Looks like you had good help.

-- I,ve had amnesia for as long as I can remember. Vernon

View poospleasures's profile

poospleasures

543 posts in 1943 days


#6 posted 06-24-2016 11:47 AM

.

-- I,ve had amnesia for as long as I can remember. Vernon

View Roger's profile

Roger

19850 posts in 2263 days


#7 posted 06-24-2016 01:54 PM

Exquisite!

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. Kentuk55@yahoo.com

View Patrick Jaromin's profile

Patrick Jaromin

383 posts in 3292 days


#8 posted 06-24-2016 02:36 PM

Thanks all!

And yes, Vernon, I had excellent helpers!



-- Patrick, Chicago, IL http://www.TenonAndSpline.com/blog

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6819 posts in 3439 days


#9 posted 06-24-2016 05:23 PM

Simply AWESOME!

Lee

-- by Lee A. Jesberger http://www.prowoodworkingtips.com http://www.ezee-feed.com

View Purplelady's profile

Purplelady

59 posts in 419 days


#10 posted 06-24-2016 05:33 PM

Wow! I made one awhile back. I had a problem with tuning like mentioned by Poospleasures above. It has been somewhat corrected. It’s not easy making a dulcimer! Nice job and great helpers! I should have had someone like them to cut my frets!

-- Marsha, Northeast Ohio

View Patrick Jaromin's profile

Patrick Jaromin

383 posts in 3292 days


#11 posted 06-24-2016 05:44 PM

Marsh – yeah I recall reading your project post…very impressive! I have an acoustic guitar I started a few years back and stalled before cutting the fretboard and bending the sides, partially from fear of making an unplayable instrument. I decided to splurge and picked up a template and table saw blade from stewmac.com. We hand cut the slots for the canjos, but for the dulcimers I took no chances…seems too easy to be off enough to notice!

I’ve been back at the guitar while waiting for the lacquer to cure and have bent the sides…really looking forward to that one as I’m a far better guitar player than dulcimer.

Thanks!

-- Patrick, Chicago, IL http://www.TenonAndSpline.com/blog

View blackcherry's profile (online now)

blackcherry

3313 posts in 3282 days


#12 posted 06-24-2016 10:01 PM

Got to see Pat’s Dulcimer first hand, what a nice piece of craftsmanship. Besides being a great woodworker and friend he even a better Dad class act all around. Thanks for showing your post to me and being a good neighbor Pat.

View Patrick Jaromin's profile

Patrick Jaromin

383 posts in 3292 days


#13 posted 06-24-2016 10:07 PM

Hey, Wilson!! Thank you for the kind words…and right back at you! Definitely need to ride by sometime when I’m not running kids around…the acoustic guitar’s coming along nicely. Would love to tag along on a wood run sometime as well…need some figured stuff ;).

-- Patrick, Chicago, IL http://www.TenonAndSpline.com/blog

View Purplelady's profile

Purplelady

59 posts in 419 days


#14 posted 06-24-2016 11:04 PM

I’m looking forward to the guitar post. I know it will be beautiful!

-- Marsha, Northeast Ohio

View majuvla's profile

majuvla

9095 posts in 2327 days


#15 posted 06-25-2016 06:11 AM

It looks like it sounds – awesome. Incredible work. You paied attention to sound as well as to look.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

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