Building a mountain dulcimer

Rick Otten -- January - March 2000

Below are a sequence of photographs of my first attempt to make a musical instrument.
I started with a walnut mountain dulcimer kit from MusicMaker's Kits:

We didn't have a mountain dulcimer in our collection of instruments and thought it might be fun to have one around to play with.

My Dad helped me get the project started when he was here visiting in January.
Baby Willow would sometimes come down to the shop and supervise with her highly critical eye...

The sides were pre-bent.  We glued them together.
We bought a piece of melamine to have an extra flat surface to work on.
My bench was pretty rough and uneven.

Next we glued the bottom on.

I put the mother-of-pearl dots in with a hand drill.
I didn't think I could do it, but it worked out pretty well.
Then I pounded the fretwire in.

Next I needed to cut soundholes in the top piece.
I chose a flower pattern which I sort of made up.

Next the fingerboard got glued to the top piece.

I used my soldering iron to "wood burn" stems on the flowers.

This is a close up of the larger pair of flowers.

  These are the smaller flowers.

The next step was to glue the top on.
I used a heavy clamp to help weight it down.

I thought the curl looked better with "buttons" on it, so I glued a couple on.
The hammer is pressing the nut down which I epoxied in at the same time.


I rounded off the tail end of the fingerboard and trimmed the excess from the top.

I put 5 coats of high gloss tung oil on the instrument and it was ready to be set up.
Here it is with strings!

A snapshot of the tail end of the finished instrument.

Looking towards the peg head.

The beautiful walnut backside.