Creating a homemade dulcimer will acquaint you with some of the mechanics of building a real one, and would give you the chance to learn to play a dulcimer without a large investment of time and energy.
Materials and Tools Needed
Use materials that are readily found where possible. These include the following:
• two small pieces of wood 1/8 by 3/8 by 1 1/2 inches for the two string supports (these may be cut from a piece of scrap wood,
• an old ruler, or a piece of wood molding);
• three wood screws to anchor the strings at one end;
• a popsicle stick for a noter.
• A wedge cut from a plastic food storage container top for a pick.
Some materials you'll need to buy are:
• a 30-inch piece of 1-by-2-inch trimmed hardwood lumber;
• three autoharp or harpsichord tuning pegs; and
• a set of three dulcimer strings.
The dulcimer strings can be bought at a music shop and so can the tuning pegs, though they may be harder to find. If you have trouble locating any, you may order them by mail from Zuckerman Harpsichords Inc.
The tools you'll need are:
• a ruler and pencil,
• a crosscut handsaw,
• medium-texture sandpaper,
• a heavy-duty staple gun and staples,
• a screwdriver,
• a hammer,
• a hand drill or power drill with a 3/16 bit for drilling wood, and
• a pair of slip-joint pliers for turning the tuning pegs.
Place the 1-by-2-by-30 inch board on your work table, and using your ruler and pencil, mark a line across board width 1 7/8 inches from one end and another line 2 inches from the same end. These two lines, 1/8 inches apart, outline the groove that would be cut for one of the string supports. This would be the tuning-peg end, and the string support at this end is known as the nut.
With ruler, measure down fretboard from the line drawn 2 inches from the end, and mark off fret points.
Cut the small pieces of wood for the bridge and nut. Both should measure 1/8 by 3/8 by 1 1/8 inches. Cut three saw-cut wide, diagonal notches for the strings into one edge of the top of the nut. Notches should be 1/8-inch deep and cut into outer top edge of nut at approximately 45 degrees; the inner top edge is not notched. Find one notch at mid-point of the 1 5/8-inch length of the nut, and the other two 3/8 inch in from either end. The bridge is not notched.
Set bridge and nut aside and get back to fret board. With the saw held in horizontal position, cut grooves for nut and bridge. For every groove, first make two saw cuts 3/16-inch deep just inside the two pencil marks. Then saw in between till groove is 1/8-inch wide and 3/16-inch deep. Press nut and bridge into their grooves. If the groove is overly tight, sand it using sandpaper wrapped around a popsicle stick. Glue is not requisite if the cut is exact.
Insert screws for anchoring strings, and add the frets. Next, drill holes for the three tuning pegs and insert pegs.
Stringing the Dulcimer
After placing the three tuning pegs in their proper holes in scroll. Mark places for their screws by tapping nail into screw holes while the pegs are in place. Take out pegs and drill shallow holes with 1/16-inch bit to start screws. Replace pegs and fasten screws. Used brass nails for anchoring strings at the tail end of fret board but any type of small nail will do. To avoid splitting, start nails by drilling shallow holes with 1/16-inch bit, and then hammer in place.