Strumstick or Dulcitar or Pickin' Stick (w/ video)

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Project by Aaron McCain posted 07-31-2013 06:55 PM 7731 views 14 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I have seen this instrument called a Strumstick, a Pickin’ Stick, and a Dulcitar. I think they all work because nobody has heard of any of them in my circle of friends.

One day I was searching the internet to see how big a backpacking guitar would be and if I would be interested in carrying something like that into the woods. (I was also curious about how much they cost and whether or not I wanted to spend that much money.) During my search I ran across Bob McNally’s strumsticks a 6 part video of how to make them. I watched the videos and decided that I had the tools and capability to put one together. A little more searching for plans on the internet led me to Chris Billman’s website a pair of “dulcitars” that he had made with his local woodworking club. I was excited to see a zip file with some hand drawn plans and instructions by William Wells.

So I jumped in and went for it. Matthias Wandel ( also happened to be building a ukulele the same time, so I was able to watch some of his non-luthier techniques and get some ideas of my own.
I had all the wood in my shop: walnut for the body and cedar for the front and back. I did not have spruce, but learned that cedar is also an acceptable wood for the soundboard. However the cedar was flatsawn, so after a bit of work, I was able to saw and glue the board into quarter-sawn panels. I was excited with how quickly and easily it went together. I spent $40 at to pick up mandolin strings, tuners, and fretwire for two strumsticks. $20 for a backpacking instrument isn’t a bad deal.
The finish is BLO on every surface and a few layers of polyurethane on every surface except the fret board. It has been a lot of fun to play around with and it sounds a little like a banjo. Here is a little video to show what it sounds like. I made a few mistakes, learned a lot and am planning on making a few more. I am taking it backpacking for the first time tomorrow night.

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4 comments so far

View maplerock's profile


529 posts in 3298 days

#1 posted 08-01-2013 03:47 AM

That is a skinny little feller! I think you did a fine job. Your write up was excellent too. Very talented!

-- Jerry... making sawdust in the Knobs of Southern Indiana

View pinebox's profile


40 posts in 3467 days

#2 posted 08-01-2013 12:41 PM

Nice job! I’d been thinking of doing something like that but didn’t know where to start. Your description and sources will be a great help. Thanks for showing it!

View pimpson's profile


73 posts in 4367 days

#3 posted 08-02-2013 04:02 AM

That looks a lot easier to play Then the guitar. Nice work

View llwynog's profile


288 posts in 4077 days

#4 posted 01-05-2014 10:40 PM

Thank you very much for posting this project as it made me discover this very nice instrument.
I have linked your project to my own:

-- Fabrice - "On est bien bête mais on sent bien quand on se fait mal" - my grandfather

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