Way too often I find myself working in circles. I find it hard to concentrate on several items at once, and usually mess something up. I’m not working on anything important so it really doesn’t matter, but it gets me down some times. There are just so many dulcimores, and so little time, or so it would seem. In perspective, I can make one or two dulcimores a week. I just need to decide ahead of time what to work on. One decision I have made is to limit the models. Bobby has the right idea, small, medium and large, and if it gets too demanding, quit. I didn’t like the Cousin Tilly at first, but after discovering the voice, it’s starting to grow on me. We try to get the dulcimore to conform to our idea of what it should sound like instead of listening to the voice of the dulcimore. It is a little like a wild animal, it just wants to do what it wants to do! I feel I have the Betty pretty well down to a science. I may make a more precise jig when I get back from Florida. The Tilly jig will suffice. This will leave the baritone model, and I may just wait till after the Homer get together to worry about that one.
In the book about Homer Ledford, Dulcimer Maker, he talks of not being completely satisfied with the aesthetic aspects of the instrument. He likens the design of the “dulcibro”, and the way it curves all the way around with no tail block to break it. This would have required a total redesign to accomplish because the tail block is an integral part of the dulcimer design. Instruments that do not have the tail block are made in jigs or forms.
I must say that I’ve never seen a “dulcibro”, but my take on a rounded back end is a little different. My idea is more in line with the fiddle back, or even the mandolin. Simply curve or bow the base of the lower bout on the back panel. This works best with the tear drop design because there is only one bout to be dealt with. I suppose there will be testing on the hour glass design as well but so many dulcimore, so little time!
The forms are cut out, routed and sanded. Holes are drilled, t nuts inserted, and cross supports made. Bow form is glued to the cross support and the contact piece sealed with shellac. A panel thinned down to about .100” is placed under hot running water for a few moments and then is placed in the jig. The eight ¼” bolts are slowly tightened all the way down, and the panel is inspected looking for any signs of failure. I really didn’t know if a thin panel could be tortured in this way! But it can, and after drying I pulled it out of the jig and hand sanded the fiddle back pleasantly pleased with the concept in my hand.
I’m sure many will question why a “fiddle back”? “It won’t sit in your lap correctly” I’ve already heard them say. Well, actually it does! The feet can be glued on to make it table top ready, or if you like the fiddle back look without the feet, a opossum board can be used.