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Luthiery

Buttoned Up

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Tue, 10/17/2017 - 1:43pm




 My two most recent, all together.  Plenty of detail work left before moving onto the varnishing, but I can now heft them to my shoulder and they feel like fiddles.  That's fun.
Categories: Hand Tools, Luthiery

A Viking ship...

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Fri, 10/13/2017 - 4:05pm


... with a crew of horned-helmet warriors.




Please, no Spam.


.
Categories: Hand Tools, Luthiery

A Freed Rib, or Six

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 11:50am




 The plates, top and back, are done to the point that they can be glued onto the ribs.  So this means the ribs have to come off the forms.  I have linings both top and bottom, the first step for removal is to trim these from square to tapered.  All sorts of ways to do that.  What you basically want is a big surface at the outside, to create a bigger gluing surface, tapered down to thin on the inside, to reduce weight and stiffness.

I take a compass and set the pencil at about half the width of the lining, in the vertical sense, and trace out a line on the linings all the way around, top and bottom.  Then a sharp knife, cut a bevel from the line to the inside edge, tapering down to meet the rib.  I usually make a few nicks on the form and on the ribs, but nothing so much to worry about.  And it doesn’t need to be perfect right here, because I’ll clean it up later after the ribs are off the form.

Once the linings are trimmed, I use a small hammer and knock the blocks loose from the form.  Then a flat chisel, I strike diagonal cuts to take out the ‘inside’ corners that will disappear anyway. 

When those fragments are out, it’s a matter of carefully loosening the ribs -- may have a few accidental glue spots that you don’t want to rush loose -- and then bending the ribs outward a bit, tipping the form as you go.  I start at the C-bouts and work towards the larger, lower bouts.  Once the endblock is free, you’re pretty much done with the removal.

Then, trim up the blocks and clean up the linings a bit. 

Next, glue on a plate or two.


Categories: Hand Tools, Luthiery

Avoiding A Cloud Of Dulcimer Dust

Doug Berch - Fri, 09/29/2017 - 3:44pm


The joy of sanding dulcimers

Yes, another post about the joy of sanding dulcimers.

A while back I mentioned possibly making dulcimers without sanding someday. Someone took me up on it!

I made a dulcimer with a bare minimum of sanding. Scrapers and files accomplished about 90% of the surface preparation. Sandpaper was still needed to soften some edges, get a good surface on the fingerboard, and to clean up a few small messes.

I spent much more time and effort than usual burnishing the wood with cloth before applying the finish. The extensive burnishing combined with using fine abrasive pads while applying the finish produced a result nearly identical to what I carry out by hand sanding. The process took about the same amount of time as hand sanding but it was the first time I had tried this. I am hoping I will gain speed as I become more familiar with new technique.

The minimally sanded dulcimer did show a few imperfections and hand tool marks that would have been eliminated by further hand sanding but to my eye and hand they add to the charm of the dulcimer.

Still, it is not yet time to abandon lots of sanding on a regular basis.

In the photo you can see my warm weather dust cloud elimination system. A small fan blows dust away from the dulcimer (and the dulcimer maker) towards a window fan that blows the dust outside. This simple setup works surprisingly well.

During the colder months I replace the window fan with a home-made air-cleaner; a box fan with a furnace filter taped to one side.

And I do wear a dust mask!

On another topic; after doing some updates on my website something went wrong and about 10 years of photographs have dropped noticeably in quality. Something malfunctioned and over-optimized my photographs. This becomes painfully obvious when you click on an image and see it at a larger size.

I figured out how to avoid this on current photographs.

It’s just another adventure in being self-employed and learning to do everything myself!

Doug Berch - Dulcimer Maker And Musician

Categories: Luthiery

Avoiding A Cloud Of Dulcimer Dust

Doug Berch - Fri, 09/29/2017 - 3:44pm


The joy of sanding dulcimers

Yes, another post about the joy of sanding dulcimers.

A while back I mentioned possibly making dulcimers without sanding someday. Someone took me up on it!

I made a dulcimer with a bare minimum of sanding. Scrapers and files accomplished about 90% of the surface preparation. Sandpaper was still needed to soften some edges, get a good surface on the fingerboard, and to clean up a few small messes.

I spent much more time and effort than usual burnishing the wood with cloth before applying the finish. The extensive burnishing combined with using fine abrasive pads while applying the finish produced a result nearly identical to what I carry out by hand sanding. The process took about the same amount of time as hand sanding but it was the first time I had tried this. I am hoping I will gain speed as I become more familiar with new technique.

The minimally sanded dulcimer did show a few imperfections and hand tool marks that would have been eliminated by further hand sanding but to my eye and hand they add to the charm of the dulcimer.

Still, it is not yet time to abandon lots of sanding on a regular basis.

In the photo you can see my warm weather dust cloud elimination system. A small fan blows dust away from the dulcimer (and the dulcimer maker) towards a window fan that blows the dust outside. This simple setup works surprisingly well.

During the colder months I replace the window fan with a home-made air-cleaner; a box fan with a furnace filter taped to one side.

And I do wear a dust mask!

On another topic; after doing some updates on my website something went wrong and about 10 years of photographs have dropped noticeably in quality. Something malfunctioned and over-optimized my photographs. This becomes painfully obvious when you click on an image and see it at a larger size.

I figured out how to avoid this on current photographs.

It’s just another adventure in being self-employed and learning to do everything myself!

Doug Berch - Dulcimer Maker And Musician

Categories: Luthiery

Square Neck, Round Neck

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Tue, 09/26/2017 - 4:41pm

Shaping the neck is one of the toughest jobs for me.  It's the one place the musician actually touches the instrument, and that is with the hand, probably the most sensitive spot for touch on the human body.  Any bump or dip or other weirdness in the neck is easily found and soon becomes annoying.

For the violin maker, the neck is further complicated by the usual material, highly figured maple.  It likes to flake out, chip out, at the worst possible place.  As is common, I use a saw to make a series of cuts arong the neck, using the Japanese saw in the background, center right.  After that, I then chip it out with a chisel and mallet.  I use a cheap, but easy to sharpen chisel and a wooden mallet, shown here on the left of the photo here.

My experience has taught me two things about myself.  First, in any series of cuts, I'll make one too deep, cutting into material that I actually didn't intend to cut into and then wishing I could then go back in time and yell "Stop" at myself.

The other is that no matter how careful I am with the chisel, I am going to get too close to the final surface and chip out a bit of flamed maple.  There's really no good way to glue one of these little pieces back in, if you can find it among the debris on the bench or floor.

So, now I don't cut as deep with the saw.  I don't take such big swipes with the chisel.  And I'm left with a surface that is a bit farther away from the finished edge.  That's where the big rasp comes in.  This one has coarse teeth and is heavy and long enough to hold with both hands, one on either end.  I can push and take off a decent amount of material without too much fear of chip-out, and it's wide enough that I am getting the beginnings of the smooth surface a musician will not even notice.

Plenty of rasps fill this need.  This particular one I got from Stewart-MacDonald, which they call "Dragon Hand-cut Rasp, Large, Coarse."  You could do worse. 

By the way, I paid full retail for this rasp, and am not being repaid by Stewart-MacDonald or anyone else.  A good tool is worth its price.
Categories: Hand Tools, Luthiery

A couple necks

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Mon, 09/25/2017 - 4:10pm
Spent part of today rough-fitting a couple fingerboards to a couple necks.  The 5-string is being made with a wider fingerboard, to account for that extra string.  I'm trying just a little wider this time, maybe too wide.  Won't know until I start playing it, a couple months from now, probably.


Categories: Hand Tools, Luthiery

My eBay Listing: Vintage Fales' 1884 Patent Combination Plane, Otis A. Smith Manufacturer

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Sun, 09/24/2017 - 12:59pm
I have posted on eBay a vintage Fales'1884 Patent Combination Plane. Click here to see the listing.

For those of you who follow my blog you may remember an earlier post about this plane and in that post I said I would not sell it. I have changed my mind. If you are a collector and looking for a fairly rare combination plane, this Fales' plane is for you.

The plane is in used condition. 55%-70% of Japanning remains on metal parts. Knob and tote handles are in good shape with usual tool box dings and scratches, they are in very good shape considering the age of this combination plow plane. Plow fence appears to be birch, some wear to the corners. All tightening screws are present and appear to be original and plane has original proper round and square rods. Comes with one 3/8 inch wide blade. Tote is stamped with an owner's name, R.C. Jensen.

This plane has been in my family since at least 1936, perhaps earlier, it was owned by my grandfather.
Categories: Luthiery

More Adventures In Dulcimer Lutherie

Doug Berch - Sun, 09/24/2017 - 12:14pm

 

dulcimer binding

The other day I noticed an unsightly gap in the binding around the soundboard of a dulcimer I am currently working on. Small gaps are not uncommon when binding an instrument and there are several methods for filling them.

This gap was large enough to cause me to consider removing the binding and starting again. The gap was about 2 inches long and barely open enough to catch a fingernail (my default tool for checking gaps) but I would not have slept well just filling it and calling the job done. No one would ever know but I would know I could and should have done better.

Before replacing the binding on one side of the dulcimer I thought I’d try another method of repair. At best it might solve the problem, at worst I might aggravate the problem but I was going to replace the binding anyway.

I ran hot water into the gap several times with a pipette to soften the glue and clamped the binding against the body to close the gap.

After a few hours I took off the clamp and the gap was barely noticeable. The soundboard had swollen a little due to applying hot water so I let the repair dry over night.

The next day most of the swelling had left the soundboard and after cleaning up the area with a scraper and file the gap was almost invisible. After applying a small amount of filler and a bit of spot sanding the gap was gone.

Joy!

Doug Berch - Dulcimer Maker And Musician

Categories: Luthiery

More Adventures In Dulcimer Lutherie

Doug Berch - Sun, 09/24/2017 - 12:14pm

Binding on a dulcimer

The other day I noticed an unsightly gap in the binding around the soundboard of a dulcimer I am currently working on. Small gaps are not uncommon when binding an instrument and there are several methods for filling them.

This gap was large enough to cause me to consider removing the binding and starting again. The gap was about 2 inches long and barely open enough to catch a fingernail (my default tool for checking gaps) but I would not have slept well just filling it and calling the job done. No one would ever know but I would know I could and should have done better.

Before replacing the binding on one side of the dulcimer I thought I’d try another method of repair. At best it might solve the problem, at worst I might aggravate the problem but I was going to replace the binding anyway.

I ran hot water into the gap several times with a pipette to soften the glue and clamped the binding against the body to close the gap.

After a few hours I took off the clamp and the gap was barely noticeable. The soundboard had swollen a little due to applying hot water so I let the repair dry over night.

The next day most of the swelling had left the soundboard and after cleaning up the area with a scraper and file the gap was almost invisible. After applying a small amount of filler and a bit of spot sanding the gap was gone.

Joy!

Doug Berch - Dulcimer Maker And Musician

Categories: Luthiery

Music I’d Like To Hear #139

Doug Berch - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 8:38am

Mandolin and ukulele duo

Mandolin and ukulele duo.

Doug Berch - Dulcimer Maker And Musician

Categories: Luthiery

Music I’d Like To Hear #139

Doug Berch - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 8:38am

Mandolin and ukulele duo

Mandolin and ukulele duo.

Doug Berch - Dulcimer Maker And Musician

Categories: Luthiery

Dulcimer Sound Holes And Sound Ports

Doug Berch - Sat, 09/16/2017 - 12:35pm

Dulcimer with sound ports in the side.

I have put sound ports in the sides of my dulcimers for a few years and have been very pleased with the results.

Sound ports are nothing new in the guitar world but I had not seen them used on dulcimers though perhaps someone has thought of this before.

There is no standardization of dulcimer design or “right way” to go about getting the results one wants. Dulcimer builders whose work I admire each have a unique way of getting the sound they want. Materials and design elements that work on one maker’s design may or may not work well on another builder’s dulcimers. This is part of the adventure and part of the fun!

My dulcimer design is in a state of constant evolution. Over the last few years I was looking for ways to increase the volume without losing tonal quality and even response along the fingerboard.

It is easy to make a loud dulcimer but I do not find it easy to listen to many loud dulcimers I have heard. Many loud dulcimers  have little sustain and/or often have uneven volume and response along the fingerboard.

The tone I prefer is somewhat traditional; long sustain and a slightly nasal quality with warmth and even response. I did not want to trade that sound for volume.

As I made design changes to make my dulcimers louder I was on the edge of losing the tone I prefer. It became clear that if I made louder dulcimers and wanted to keep the tone and responsiveness I prefer I would also need to give the dulcimers larger sound holes.

The size of the sound hole(s) on a stringed instrument play an important role in which frequencies get emphasized or minimized. The most critical element is the total size of all openings on the instrument. One large hole will produce sound like two holes that are each half the diameter of the large hole, etc.

Dulcimers have relatively little soundboard as they are long and thin instruments. I wanted the effect of larger sound holes but I did not want to lose any more of the wood that makes up the soundboard. The obvious choice was to put added sound holes somewhere other than on the soundboard. The sides were the obvious choice.

And it worked! I got more volume, balanced tone, birds were singing, flowers smiled, and all was well with the world.

 

 

Doug Berch - Dulcimer Maker And Musician

Categories: Luthiery

Dulcimer Sound Holes And Sound Ports

Doug Berch - Sat, 09/16/2017 - 12:35pm

Dulcimer with sound ports in the side.

I have put sound ports in the sides of my dulcimers for a few years and have been very pleased with the results.

Sound ports are nothing new in the guitar world but I had not seen them used on dulcimers though perhaps someone has thought of this before.

There is no standardization of dulcimer design or “right way” to go about getting the results one wants. Dulcimer builders whose work I admire each have a unique way of getting the sound they want. Materials and design elements that work on one maker’s design may or may not work well on another builder’s dulcimers. This is part of the adventure and part of the fun!

My dulcimer design is in a state of constant evolution. Over the last few years I was looking for ways to increase the volume without losing tonal quality and even response along the fingerboard.

It is easy to make a loud dulcimer but I do not find it easy to listen to many loud dulcimers I have heard. Many loud dulcimers  have little sustain and/or often have uneven volume and response along the fingerboard.

The tone I prefer is somewhat traditional; long sustain and a slightly nasal quality with warmth and even response. I did not want to trade that sound for volume.

As I made design changes to make my dulcimers louder I was on the edge of losing the tone I prefer. It became clear that if I made louder dulcimers and wanted to keep the tone and responsiveness I prefer I would also need to give the dulcimers larger sound holes.

The size of the sound hole(s) on a stringed instrument play an important role in which frequencies get emphasized or minimized. The most critical element is the total size of all openings on the instrument. One large hole will produce sound like two holes that are each half the diameter of the large hole, etc.

Dulcimers have relatively little soundboard as they are long and thin instruments. I wanted the effect of larger sound holes but I did not want to lose any more of the wood that makes up the soundboard. The obvious choice was to put added sound holes somewhere other than on the soundboard. The sides were the obvious choice.

And it worked! I got more volume, balanced tone, birds were singing, flowers smiled, and all was well with the world.

 

 

Doug Berch - Dulcimer Maker And Musician

Categories: Luthiery

Ten Years of Blogging - A Couple of Thoughts

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Fri, 09/08/2017 - 1:48pm
The secret of getting ahead is getting started.

Mark Twain, American writer

I realized the other day that I started this blog ten years ago!

My first post was on September 2, 1997.

My wife was the one who encouraged me to start a blog, she thought it was a good venue for me to become known as a guitar maker, to sell my guitars and to connect with others in the woodworking world.

I have met several wonderful people who are professional woodworkers through the blog, but I am still waiting for my first guitar sale because of the blog. All of my sales have resulted from people actually seeing and playing my guitars, either at guitar festivals, lectures I give at universities, or when players stop by my shop because someone told them I make wonderful guitars.

The Internet has done much to disseminate woodworking information, it's a little scary to see how much information there is online! When I started woodworking, if there was anything that I wanted to know I had to go to a library and look up the technique in a book or woodworking magazine!

Now, all one has to do is to surf the plethora of YouTube videos and websites to find the woodworking technique that you want to learn.

One thing I have noticed lately is there doesn't seem to be as many people blogging about their woodworking experiences and adventures. I find it a little sad these days to go to my favorite woodworking blog aggregator and see only three or four new postings. Maybe no one cares to write a full sentence or paragraph anymore because stringing together 140 characters is the most anyone can do. Instagram is a very easy platform to display yourself on.

Or is it that people just want information, but don't want to share it?

I know that it can be hard to write a weekly post for a blog, making time to do something can be a hard thing to do and accomplish.

In my experience, not knowing if I am reaching/connecting with anyone on Internet can discourage me from writing more posts, I don't get many comments about my posts these days, nor does anyone engage me in some kind of text dialogue. I stopped offering how-to information on basic woodworking several years ago because teaching online through my posts is not my intention. I noticed that when I stopped the how-to no one commented.

That said, visitation to my blog is up this year and I think it is because people want to learn more about the guitars I make. This is great for me, because if there is one thing that I will talk about passionately is making beautifully voiced guitars that will play beautiful music, that in turn will encourage young people to take up the classical guitar.

I will offer this advice about blogging -- don't be afraid to use what you learned in your college freshman English composition courses! Start writing today about what it is you are doing! Make stuff and share it and don't think you have to be the next Roy Underhill or Charles Hayward.

Get into your shop, make shavings and blisters!



Categories: Luthiery

Music I’d Like To Hear #138

Doug Berch - Fri, 09/08/2017 - 1:42pm


Traditional Korean Music Ensemble

Traditional Korean Music Ensemble

Doug Berch - Dulcimer Maker And Musician

Categories: Luthiery

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