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Fancy Sound Hole Design Work

December 8, 2023

Good Morning, Y'all!
This has been a week of "finishing up instruments we promised for Christmas." Dad got most of the fretboards and heads done last week, and Cheyenne got most of the other parts (interior blocks, sides, and backs) done earlier this week. And we're down to only a handful of instruments, and they're mostly waiting on tops.
Tops usually land on my desk, as far as "making parts" goes, anyway.
Some tops are pretty easy to finish off. They use our stock sound holes and I have the various hole designs already in the computer. So, it is mostly a matter of cutting the existing sound holes into appropriately sized top pieces.

corel draw screen shot with roses sound holes and engraving
I'm using CorelDraw for this stage of the design work. Imagine a fretboard running left to right, between the graphic elements. The four circles with red elements are the actual sound holes, and the crossed roses flank either side of the fretboard, at the waist of the dulcimer.

Our most common top woods are butternut, Western red cedar, and Sitka spruce.

roses engraving for a dulcimer top
A decorative element for a new "Rose" sound hole. This part will go at the center of the dulcimer but isn't actually a hole - it is a strictly decorative engraving.

But some dulcimer tops? Hours and hours of work on my part - when a customer has asked for something custom/unique for a sound hole. I'm 100% decent (read that as "somewhere between great and awful") when it comes to image creation and manipulation. I'm okay at it, but it can take me a long time to make what I see in my head appear in Adobe PhotoShop or Illustrator (two of the software programs we use for designing our sound holes). 

rose sound hole prototypeHere's the actual sound hole of the new (still in prototype stage) design. The holes are in between the woven chains - over sixty tiny holes. The rose is just engraved into the wood, which is butternut in the photo.
Making a new sound hole design is a ton of work! Click Here to see just a few of our choices - which are already created. 
But when it is all done, we have something that's functional (it lets the dulcimer top move with the vibration of the strings, creating sound we can hear) and beautiful (some of the designs we've created over the years are gorgeous!).
Happy Playing, Y'all!
Richard Ash, luthier-who-creates-both-beautiful-and-crazy-sound-holes-depending-on-his-mood

December 22, 2023 Update

This instrument is now built and on the way to its new owner, but I got a few photos of the completed dulcimer, so you can see how the sound holes turned out. Here they are!
rose sound hole

rose sound hole

rose sound hole