Need help with this one.

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by ldubia posted 12-30-2014 01:06 AM 1059 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View ldubia's profile


18 posts in 3040 days

12-30-2014 01:06 AM

I have a professional musician who is interested in having ME build her a top of the line hammered dulcimer. I have never done anything like this but love to try iy. She is requesting a dulcimer that has a low sustain to mute the sound a bit so it is not overpowering the other people in her group. Has anyne ever done someting like this? How does one build a low sustain? I want to make her a really amazing instrument but need some help here.

Anyone have ideas?

Here is the current instrument she is using.

-- You know your a lumberjock...lumber..wait, I can make something with that!

7 replies so far

View Yonak's profile


986 posts in 1487 days

#1 posted 12-30-2014 05:34 AM

Research. Research. Research. You’ve really got to get your head in gear in order to make a quality musical instrument. Get a book or two and maybe go visit a professional dulcimer maker for some pointers. It may take a couple of tries to get the kinks worked out.

View Woodknack's profile


11479 posts in 2346 days

#2 posted 12-30-2014 05:35 AM

Do you have any experience building stringed instruments? Don’t take this the wrong way but I think you’re nuts to take a commission on an instrument you’ve never built and don’t understand, especially when the customer is expecting “top of the line”. Music Makers sells a plan but I don’t know if it’s the right type of hammered dulcimer.

-- Rick M,

View TheFridge's profile


9249 posts in 1452 days

#3 posted 12-30-2014 05:54 AM

Shape and wood type will affect the sustain. And tone. so pretty much what #1 said if you’re serious about it.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View ldubia's profile


18 posts in 3040 days

#4 posted 12-30-2014 06:39 AM

This is just the beginning consideration. Even if she doesn’t buy it, it would be an interesting project to say the least. I will be looking into things quite a bit and in fact have already started. I hadn’t thought about visiting a professional maker though. Good idea.

-- You know your a lumberjock...lumber..wait, I can make something with that!

View Tony_S's profile


857 posts in 3049 days

#5 posted 12-30-2014 10:49 AM

This is coming from someone who has absolutely no clue how to play, or build any type of instrument, stringed or otherwise.
Under the right circumstances…I’d do it in a heartbeat.
1. The buyer is made fully aware of both experience level and capabilities.(buyer should be fully aware you have zero experience in this field)
2. Your not paying the bills with the project.
3. The ability to work closely with the client throughout.
4. Warranty structural work only, not tonal. If it sounds like shit in a year due to…whatever…to bad.

The overall build it’s self doesn’t really look all that complicated….I would assume success would come from paying close attention to the small details and subtleties.
But again, I may be talking out my ass on the subject.

A quick search came up with this first.

-- It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. Aristotle

View mtenterprises's profile


933 posts in 2659 days

#6 posted 12-30-2014 08:49 PM

From experience I’d say go for it. If she doesn’t pay for it keep it yourself and learn to play.
Let me relate these two stories.
First one, I had a friend who was a violinist and she had found a violin at a thrift store that had been repaired POORLY but for some strange reason it talked to her (you guys know how it is sometimes the wood talks to you). She knew my work and wanted ME to repair it. I really wasn’t interested but she insisted so I took it and put it on the shelf. She kept asking about it for over a year and I kept putting it off. Then one day she walked into my shop with the only violin building book our library had and she said here read this and fix my violin. What could I say. I studied the book and did the repair after making many specialized tools for the repair. Now this is where the story gets good. I finished the job and delivered it to her, she was amazed. She asked how i did it and I told her just read the book and applied my wood knowledge . She then asked if I had removed the sound post and I told her yes. Oh she almost had a heart attack complaining you cannot do that, that it has to be in an exact location. Well like I always say if you can read you can do most anything. The book told me where to reinstall the sound post and it was there, EXACTLY. With misgivings she strung up the violin tuned it and played. She was amazed, she said that it just sounded like it had a cold, which she said unplayed violins do all the time, and she was real pleased. Moral of the story you are not going to grow if you don’t try new things.
Now #2 Later on after that violin repair I made a hammered dulcimer nothing fancy just one I found in “The Mother Earth News” it too was a learning experience. I accomplished it and for what it was it seemed ok to me. They are not as hard to make as you might think. If you can read and understand what you are reading, if you can measure accurately and cut and assemble accurately there is no reason you cannot build a nice piece. Now getting the tone your customer wants might take some study but maybe it might be as simple as putting a bath rug into the bass drum (my brother does this to cut back on the sound of his concert bass drum, it’s a bit overpowering). My opinion…. GO FOR IT! Then SHOW US!

-- See pictures on Flickr - And visit my Facebook page -

View Loren's profile


10264 posts in 3614 days

#7 posted 12-30-2014 09:03 PM

Low sustain can be achieved by using lighter bracing
and building using softer woods.

My experience is with nylon string guitars. To make
a flamenco “blanca”, the traditional pale flamenco
guitar which has not a lot of sustain, the back and
sides are cypress or alaskan yellow cedar (what I use)
while the top is braced lighter than a classical guitar.
The body is often a little smaller and shallower
than a classical.

A classical is built often with a hard tone wood for
the back and sides and this makes for more sustain,
which is not so desirable for flamenco.

“Musical Instrument Design” by Bart Hopkin is a very
useful book, the best I have read, on how acoustic
instruments can be designed to get to the target
sound you are after.

In any case, you won’t be spending that much on
materials to build a dulcimer and if she doesn’t like
the way it turns out you can sell it to somebody
else and try again.

You also might consider putting an access panel
on the back or something in order to put foam
inside the sound box. The AC/DC guitarist Malcolm
Young would stuff socks into cavities in his guitar
to get the sound he wanted.

I have sometimes put masking tape on the back
of a drum head. This is commonly done with
the pandeiro, a sort of dry-sounding tambourine,
and players experiment with tape patterns to
get a sound they like best.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics