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Building Bridges In Woodburn

April 19, 2024
Good Morning, Y'all!
Happy Friday. Y'all have sure kept us busy this week! We had a lot of dulcimers go out the door this week - our UPS driver was busy - and even our postal carrier had extra books and strings to pick up.

Casey (you met him last week) spent a lot of time making DulciVox bridges. We have experimented with ebony, rosewood, and wenge for the material, and it looks like we have a winner - wenge. This is a hardwood that grows in roughly the same places as Gabon ebony. It grows slowly, is really dense, but compared to ebony and rosewood, it is very light. We chose wenge (pronounced "when-gay") because of the great strength-to-weight ratio. Going with a light and strong wood for the bridge of a DulicVox is the best choice for the DulciVox's sound, and it doesn't hurt that the wood looks great, too!

A stack of (very!) rough-cut DulciVox bridges. I'll show you a finished DulciVox bridge in next week's newsletter.
Cheyenne has been working on customer dulcimer orders all week. Here's a resonator dulcimer that's ready for sanding:

Can you tell who is getting this one? (She has a mountain dulcimer with a similar sound hole design.)
And here's a closeup of the sound hole:

Don't ask. The performer designed (and owns) this pattern. So you can't have it on your next dulcimer. Sorry!
Pam had the dubious joy of making about a zillion cases (actually, about twenty, if I had to guess) along with all her admin jobs - purchasing, receiving, and everything else. And she even got to bring the bucket of salt, and the snow shovel, from our entry door back to a storage room. Guess who gets to put the salt and shovel next to the front door in November?

Hint: it isn't me!
Jim (a.k.a. "Dad") has been a fretboard-making machine this week. He finished off several fretboards earlier this week, getting slots for the fret wire cut, adding the fret wire and position dots, and doing the hand sanding on the arches on the bottom side of the fretboards). Then he started on another small batch:

Seven fretboards ready for veneers. The top six are for Folkcraft Custom Series instruments, and the fretboard at the bottom of the photo is for a FolkRoots H Series.

The top six fretboards all have triple racing stripes. We'll cover the top of the fretboards with the ebony and wenge shown here (top three are ebony, next three are wenge, bottom one is ebony again). After everything is all slotted, fretted, and sanded, then we'll remove material for the strum hollow and tail curve, exposing the stripes beneath the veneer. The FolkRoots fretboard at the bottom doesn't have stripes, but removing the ebony at the strum hollow and tail angle will allow the walnut to provide a really nice contrast, visually.
Making a fretboard is one of the few jobs in our shop that lends itself to "batches," mostly because of the glue we use. A dulcimer body is fastened together with regular yellow wood glue, but we use a two-part epoxy for the fretboard assembly. We don't want any humidity changes to affect a fretboard's stability over time, so we use an adhesive (epoxy) that is impervious to moisture. It makes for a more stable fretboard, but the stuff is messy, expensive, and a pain to use.
The next step for this batch of fretboards is to (using epoxy, again!) attach the fretboard veneers to the fretboards themselves. In this next photo, I'm holding a wenge veneer away from the fretboard, so you can see the racing stripes more easily.

Spring has certainly sprung around here. We got another shipment of lumber in on Tuesday, and along with a picture of the lumber, I tried to show one of our gorgeous trees in the background:

The wood in the foreground is poplar. That's poplar, not popular, even though it is well-liked. (Sorry - wood/luthier joke - I can't help myself!) About the only thing we use poplar for is tone rings for our LAP-JOs. Although the pretty reddish-colored piece might make some nice dulcimer tops. We'll see...
Thanks for reading, Y'all - I hope you have a great weekend!
Richard Ash - luthier-with-an-appreciation-for-lumber-humor