Blog

Humidity

May 11, 2020

Wood is constantly in motion. The technical term is hygroscopic, meaning it will absorb or release water based on the relative humidity at the time. As it absorbs or releases water it shrinks or swells across the grain but not along the grain. The amount of change can be quite a lot. We have a 20 inch wide coffee table that I built from 150 year old salvaged walnut. Since it has bread board ends we can see how much... Read More →

Electronic Tuners, Tuner Apps

April 18, 2020

The first change to our system forced by the pandemic. We are out of the Snark SN1X electronic tuners that we have supplied for many years and won’t be able to get more any time soon as the supplier is closed down. But we have been thinking for some time that these are probably redundant anyway since so most folks now have smart phones. There are lots of tuner apps available for them, and I see many folks in the... Read More →

How and Why of the New Finch Tops

January 15, 2019

Here is the why and how of the tongue and groove tops for the new Finch model hammered dulcimers. These are 2 photos of the tops before being glued to the frame, and you can easily see the tongue and groove joints.   Here is why we need to build them this way. I built special humidity box to test a dulcimer we had built in the fall and kept it at 70-80% humidity for a couple weeks. It did... Read More →

New Finch Model Solid Top Hammered Dulcimers!

December 26, 2018

This is the 17/16/8 Chromatic version of the new Finch model we have been working on for most of the past year.  Both this and the 16/15 version are now available and ready to go. Check their respective pages on the web site, http://songbirdhd.com We are very proud of them! Here is a link to a video of this one being played, please check it out. This is the sound!  https://youtu.be/CgAj5uyUJzs The problem with solid wood is it expands or contracts... Read More →

Electric Hammered Dulcimer

August 30, 2018

We have been working on this for a year, and it is now ready!  All electric hammered dulcimer with second generation sensors in the side rods.  The dampers are Cimbalom style.  They are ON until you depress the pedal to lift them OFF the strings.  Much more sensitive and intuitive than the regular American type hammered dulcimer dampers. Check out the video! https://youtu.be/jQtUe1FSqjk There is a world of beautiful sounds out there to explore that can only be made by... Read More →

Electrified Dulcimers

November 1, 2017

I have always believed that the right way to amplify a hammered dulcimer is with a microphone. This will still be true in many cases, but in situations like church bands with high sound pressures from electric guitars, drums, etc, it is difficult to get enough volume to be heard without feedback. I have been working on how to properly amplify a hammered dulcimer with installed pickups and have it worked out. The above photo is of my totally electric... Read More →

Excluding moisture exchange from wood

August 7, 2017

Wood is hygroscopic meaning it wants to absorb or release moisture based on the humidity of the environment. Wood reaches an equilibrium moisture content based on whatever the conditions are. In a humid Iowa summer any wood can get close to 12% moisture content (MC) in a non air conditioned home. In winter the same wood will pretty quickly drop to close to 6% MC in a normally heated home. When wood absorbs or loses moisture it shrinks or swells... Read More →

On How to Properly Sand, and do a Hand Rubbed Finish

October 18, 2015

I really like Minwax Wipe On Poly. I have been using it for years now as a sealer under shellac, but have recently discovered how to do a really nice hand rubbed finish with it. The secret is in the sanding. The finer the grit the surface is sanded to, the less poly it will absorb, and the quicker a gloss will develop. So I currently sand starting at 100#, then 150# over the whole dulcimer. The edges are sanded... Read More →

Amplifying Hammered Dulcimers

April 5, 2014

There are many different performance situations where you would want to amplify your hammered dulcimer. If you are doing more than just jamming with friends, playing at home, or playing for more than a few people, then sound reinforcement is almost necessary. There are several ways to do it. Cheapest and easiest is to just point a standard dynamic mic like a Shure SM 57 or SM 58 at the dulcimer from above, and hook it to whatever sound system... Read More →

Darkening Cherry With UV Light

May 23, 2013

At upwards of $12.00 per board foot for the good stuff, Walnut has gotten too expensive. We used walnut for all our bridges and the rails of the Phoebe hammered dulcimers for 20 years. Wood prices run in a cycle based on whether dark woods are in style, or light woods. For the last 20 years, light furniture, light kitchens, pickled woods, white on white were the vogue, so walnut was affordable. But now the trend has reversed. So we... Read More →

Shellac Finishing Small Parts

March 4, 2013

I have to thank the guys at Woodsmith on PBS for this great technique. It needs to be shared with the world. Since shellac is a universal sealer, and will stick to anything, you can put it right on over wet oil, and it will seal the oil in. Pretty amazing. Hand rubbed oil finishes are the deepest and most beautiful, but take a lot of time. But with shellac in the mix, you can do a complete finish in... Read More →

Spraying Shellac Revisited

December 23, 2012

I have been spraying shellac in production finishing of our hammered dulcimers for a year now, and have come up with a few more tricks, so thought I’d update. Read the former post on the same topic, this is additional material to that. I have found that shellac sprays best if it is mixed at an EXACT one pound cut. This is pretty easy to do. I have a jar that I dissolve the flakes in that is something less... Read More →

Spraying Shellac

May 2, 2012

It was impossible to find any info on this on the net, and since I have been working on it very hard for several months, and have it figured out, thought I’d post my experience. I have been spraying lacquer on the hammered dulcimers that we build now for over 20 years. Figure I have finished at least 5,000 of them myself, so am pretty good with a spray gun. But lacquer is toxic, and even though I protect myself... Read More →

Finishes

January 14, 2012

I have been spraying lacquer for twenty years now. Hated it the whole time. It is nasty stuff. I have to wear a complete hazmat suit, respirator, rubber gloves, boots, and still I can’t help getting a small dose. It is also bad for the environment. I can’t see how I am being a good steward of the Earth by spraying these chemicals out into the air. But it is fast, and looks good. I have been looking for an... Read More →

Wood selections

June 3, 2011

For many years we built the Whippoorwill and Warbler dulcimers with solid Honduras Mahogany tops. We were buying it from some folks in St. Louis that imported it directly. Otherwise known as “Genuine” Mahogany, it was a truly great tone wood. But in the very late 1990s an international ban was put in place on trade of Honduras Mahogany taken from its native range. By 2007 the supply of it had dwindled to the point that it became unavailable for... Read More →