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Just made a new form for my Strumdrop stick dulcimers. I'm making them a little larger now. Anyway, been a while since I've contributed anything to the site. So I thought I'd share a build-a-long blog.

My plans for this build are:

Old growth Redwood soundboard from George Beckwith.
Black Walnut back and neck.
Birdseye rock maple sides, fingerboard and headstock overlay.
6-string using mandolin tailpiece
Custom Randy Bretz piezo rod bridge/saddle
13 inch scale length, 20 frets

Here's where we are so far. I got my sides bent and in the form. I chose to use a single 30 inch long piece to bend for my sides.

Views: 459

Comment by Bobby Ratliff on January 29, 2013 at 7:45pm

Got the kerfing clamped on one side:

Comment by Bobby Ratliff on February 5, 2013 at 10:41pm

Got a few more things done to the Strumdrop today.

I got the black walnut neck cut out to rough dimensions. I also cut a piece of flatbar aluminum to re-inforce the neck. On this short scale I don't think it needed much, if any re-inforcement, but I reckon it don't hurt none. The headstock section is way long and I won't need near that much. I just like leaving the excess on there until I get things cut out.

Got aluminum re-inforcement epoxied in:

Got the sides of the headstock glued on:

And I got the tailblock glued on:

Comment by Ted Crocker on February 6, 2013 at 12:17am

WOW Bobby, this is serious!!  I like the way you're doing this.  Wish you'd do a blog about the form.  The aluminum stiffener is cheap insurance and a great selling point.  I love the PVC pipe clamps!  Good job so far, thanks for posting this project.

Comment by Bobby Ratliff on February 6, 2013 at 11:36am

Thanks Ted!

PVC pipe clamps are my best friend! I got about 150 of them in different sizes. Although I need more from 3 and 4 inch PVC.

The form I'm using is kinda a trial one. I made it from some scrap wood I had laying around. It works OK, and I'll continue using it, but I'll make a better one here shortly and I'll do a blog of it. They really need to be made of MDF.

Comment by Bobby Ratliff on February 7, 2013 at 8:05pm

Glued a 1/8" thick birdseye maple overlay on the headstock last night:

Had to be out of town for most of the day, but managed to rough out the neck and cut the headstock to shape. I'm going for a mild "V" profile neck. I'll likely leave it as-is until I get it assembled.

I also noticed last night that I had thinned my sides a little too much, so I added a thin piece of wood veneer to each side of the neck block to bring the sides out even with the neck heel. The fretboard on this thing is only 1 inch wide at the heel, so I didn't want to make it narrower by having to sand anything down further to get it even.

Hopefully tomorrow I can drill my holes for the tuners and attach the neck to the sides.

Comment by Bobby Ratliff on February 8, 2013 at 6:54pm

Made some good progress today in between dulcimer building.

Glued the sides to the neck:

Drilled the holes in the headstock for the tuners:

My soundhole pattern: (I make bunches of notes sometimes... LOL!)

Bookmatched Black Walnut back has some nice figure:

Comment by David Johnson on February 8, 2013 at 9:52pm

I'm really liking, the way this is progressing, Bobby! Gonna be a killer piece...

Comment by Bobby Ratliff on February 8, 2013 at 10:23pm

Thanks David!

Here's some more I got done:

Marked off the location for my "X" bracing and my hole re-inforcement

I'm using some thin veneer pieces to re-enforce the area of my soundholes:

Some photos of my bracing:

Next two photos are of the brace for the back. I cut the braces on all my instruments so it induces a concave back. Can't tell much by the photo though:

Have to get creative with the clamping sometimes. One of these days I'll make me a go-bar setup. You can tell it has a little bit of concave in this photo:

Here's my scientific clamping device for gluing the veneer for the sound hole re-enforcement. The veneer will curl up due to the moisture in the glue if it's not compressed evenly. If you notice underneath the stack og books is two bubble envelopes. The air bubbles compress the veneer just right to compress it evenly with the weight of the books. It'll have to stay on there at least overnight or it won't cure good.

One more photo for tonight. Yep, it's gonna be a tiny little thing:

Hopefully more tomorrow night.

Comment by Bobby Ratliff on February 10, 2013 at 9:48am

Here's a little work from yesterday.

I got my hole re-enforcements glued on. My braces all glued on. My soundholes cut out... which by the way, I LOVE.... even if I did think of it myself. and I glue some cross grain veneer down the glue joints for re-enforcement:

I ended up getting a nice amount of concave in the back, which I'm pleased about:

I got the fingerboard cut out and fretted. This tiny thing gave me fits! I wish I woulda had some black fretmarkers. But maybe the white will show up better after my finish darkens the maple a bit.

And here I'm using my little bullnose plane to bring the sides down even with the neck block:

Comment by Randy S. Bretz on February 10, 2013 at 12:12pm

Looks great so far Bobby, looks alot easier doin the back like you did instead of carving it.


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