My name is Dan Cox and I’m from New Tazewell, Tennessee. I am a dulcimore maker! I do not claim to be a luthier; my interest is only in the traditional dulcimore. There are several great luthiers out there building incredible replicas of historical pieces. Even more building the modern dulcimer one off and mass produced alike. My interest is design and making, and keeping the dulcimore tradition alive. Each dulcimore maker is unique in that the final piece reflects a little of the maker. My ultimate goal is the sound of the dulcimore, not the esthetics. The historical makers each had something they were remembered for, and the instruments are sought after by many collectors. Not for the sound, but for the esthetics. Most of these instruments are not playable. Design flaws are quite evident after many years of playing and aging. Limitations on adhesives, poor selection of wood are two leading culprits. Neither the fault of the maker! They made dulcimers with what they had, replicating what they saw, not unlike what we do today.
Design was figured out hundreds of years ago. With a lifelong knowledge of wood craft, and a healthy dose of sound resonance understanding, one can fit together a very playable instrument. First the wood should be aged as long as possible. Air dried wood retains a tone that kiln dried wood does not. The kiln dried is much more stable but losses its vibrating qualities in the process. Each maker will evaluate this, debating the stability verses sound and build with what they believe is best for them.
I use reclaimed pallet timbers and select air dried woods, maybe a few years old. I rough cut and store the material in the corner of my shop. I select each piece for the straightness of grain, so I can then quarter saw the wood to rough thickness. The strait grain is not as esthetic as cathedral cut, but I believe it is much more stable.

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