Hammered Dulcimer

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Project by Ryan Sandler posted 05-21-2017 02:53 AM 1852 views 4 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

The soundboard is heart pine—formerly these boards were floorboards in the original kitchen of our ~100 year old house. Frame and bridges are hard maple, and the back is baltic birch plywood. The hammers are pear and walnut (or maybe that was dessert last night? No, definitely the hammers). The walnut came to me as a piece of firewood—I think this was a better use :). The stand was thrown together from some cherry purchased from the big orange store.

I’m not sure what drove me to make this. I like the idea of making musical instruments—one of my first real woodworking projects was a tongue drum. I guess after the tongue drum, what I really wanted was something that you could really play a melody on, which I figured meant something with strings. I was hoping to go relatively easy—my skills are not up to a guitar or violin. I considered a lyre, but those have a pretty limited range. Thought about a harp, but that seemed a bit beyond my abilities as well. Somehow I happened onto this Smithsonian Institute pamphlet about making a hammered dulcimer, and then I was off to the races.

It was a challenge—the pinblocks in particular took some careful cutting. I think I used every major tool in my shop and wished I had a few more.

8 comments so far

View Stephen Fox's profile

Stephen Fox

110 posts in 4275 days

#1 posted 05-21-2017 09:50 AM

I made one of those years back and recall what a challenge it was. I also remember that to took days and days to string and tune it.

-- Stephen NYS

View EricTwice's profile


248 posts in 1414 days

#2 posted 05-21-2017 10:45 AM

nice job,

do you have anything to compare the sound with?

I am asking because I would not have considered “heart pine” for the sounding board. Can you compare it to redwood, western red cedar, spruce, or eastern white cedar?

Also, We both know that there is no “heart pine” tree. I have seen’ Lob-lolly pine, eastern larch, Virginia pine, and lodgepole all passed off as heart pine. Along with a bunch of things that I have no clue what they are. (My father would have known but he passed on a few years back) Do you have any idea which pine you have? (no clue answer is ok here)

-- nice recovery, They should pay extra for that mistake, Eric E.

View Ryan Sandler's profile

Ryan Sandler

35 posts in 1335 days

#3 posted 05-21-2017 12:14 PM

Well it sounds nice, but since this is the only one I’ve heard in person, I couldn’t say how it compares to dulcimers with other softwoods for the soundboard. It sounds reasonably similar to dulcimers I’ve heard on recordings, but I don’t know exactly what soundboards those had.

No idea exactly which type of pine it is. I came by the boards when we remodeled our kitchen. They had been covered up by tiles for several decades prior. That said, the bit of googling I did indicated that the distinguishing feature of “true” heart pine (i.e., old-growth long leaf pine) was having at least 8 growth rings per inch, which this stuff meets. If nothing else, the main drawback I read about with using pine for soundboards was its propensity to leak sap. These things haven’t known sap for decades…

@Stephen—Yeah, I started stringing a week ago, and I’m still needing to tune daily. Most notes are only off a smidge now when I tune, so it’s settling down at least.

View johnstoneb's profile


3157 posts in 3053 days

#4 posted 05-21-2017 12:20 PM

You’ve done something outstanding. I’ve read some on building and tuning hammered dulcimers and haven’t worked up the courage to try it yet, Outstanding job.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View woodify's profile


342 posts in 2953 days

#5 posted 05-21-2017 01:25 PM

You should post a video of you playing it. I’ve never heard nor seen a hammered dulcimer before.

-- Woodify ~~

View Ryan Sandler's profile

Ryan Sandler

35 posts in 1335 days

#6 posted 05-21-2017 11:46 PM

Here’s a video—all I’ve figured out so far is twinkle twinkle little star; the rest is improvisation.

View mcoyfrog's profile


4757 posts in 4475 days

#7 posted 05-24-2017 09:05 PM

Love it, beautiful work

-- Wood and Glass they kick (well you know) Have a great day - Dug

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3747 days

#8 posted 05-26-2017 07:30 PM

Wow! This is quite an instrument and beautiful work.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

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