Only $40.00 away from free shipping
Only $495.00 away from free shipping

Create a Folkcraft account for free rewards! Click HERE

Dulcimer Repair

May 5, 2023
Good Morning, Y'all!
I did another dulcimer top repair a few weeks ago and wanted to share the process with you, as well as how it turned out. This one was pretty straightforward, since the dulcimer's owner was careful to keep the broken-off part. So all I had to do was attach the part, and refinish that end of the instrument.
Here are two photos before we made the repair. The first one shows the entire dulcimer top and the second photo is a closeup of the lower bout:
dulcimer top with broken soundhole top view
close up of the lower bout of the broken dulcimer soundhole
To make this repair (in a very soft Western red cedar top) I first glued a couple of small support braces to the underside of the top, which would give the broken off piece somewhere to "sit." This added a lot of mechanical strength to the repair, so I didn't have to rely solely on the glue line.

Then, I attached the repaired piece (shown here) to the supports, pressing firmly against the top, but focused mostly on getting the broken-off piece to affix firmly to the support braces.
richard holding the repaired soundhole piece before attaching it to the instrument
After the glue had set up (which took about 15 seconds - I used a really nice medium viscosity cyanoacrylate glue) I then filled the nearly invisible seam with a water-thin cyanoacrylate glue. That got us a top with plenty of mechanical strength (from the glue, and from the support braces). The glue we use is actually a LOT stronger than the wood - if this top ever breaks again, it'll be somewhere other than the repaired area!

Here's what it looks like after sanding the entire area:
broken soundhole piece in place and top has been sanded
The repair (other than the bare spot with no lacquer!) is entirely invisible. Whew! Hard part done...  Next step was to apply sealer, then lacquer, to the wood. I started out by masking the fretboard, then applying light coats of nitrocellulose lacquer over just the repaired area. 
repaired soundhole after lacquer was applied
Once the repaired area was starting to look good, I sprayed lacquer farther from the repair, to feather out the new lacquer, and allow it to blend with the 15-year-old lacquer. Lots of sanding, steel wood, and other finishing tricks, and I was able to get the repair to 95 percent blend in with the old wood and old lacquer. It'll take a few years of natural aging for the newly sanded wood to darken, and blend in 100 percent with the old wood and old finish.
I was happy with the result and here's how it came out in the end:
dulcimer soundhole repair complete
I enjoy working in the shop, taking care of all of your instruments. Thanks for letting me do this kind of work!

Richard Ash, luthier-who-is-happy-to-make-older-instruments-play-and-look-like-new