Strumstick Instrument Build

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Blog entry by rdwile posted 02-04-2013 03:03 PM 17548 reads 4 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I have not made an instrument for a while, and some would say I have not built one this time either…

My son has done a video demontrating the tuning, setup and playing of a strumstick.

Squaring up the strumstick blanks

On another WW Forum a while ago there was a post about building a Dulcitar or sometimes called strumstick. I said it would be cool to make a few of these for some fun. Not too much work, but a chance to hone the luthier skills for a change. I read the plans through to get the dimensions and then put them away to build them using my own techniques. This is a common approach to work for me as I have my own techniques I prefer and like to make anything I build my own. This was no exception. So I proceeded to mill up some quarter-sawn maple into blanks that would become strumsticks.

These are simple instruments to build, cutting a 1/8” strip on each side of the blanks to form the body sides is an elegant solution to creating the body.

A little walnut wedge inserted in the end splits the body sides and forms the body of this cool little instrument.

Rasping off the flash on the sides.

I recycled some left over spruce for the top and offcuts from leftover guitar backs to complete the body. The edges are trimmed flush with a rasp.
I resawed a rosewood fingerboard that came from the Martin factory in the 50’s, thickness sanded it to just over an 1/8” and glued it on the body. The plans called for the frets to be let into the maple body directly, like an old strat, but I think this makes it look much more like a guitar.

Cutting fret slots in rosewood bridge

Filing the fret slots to make the fret pop in cleaner.

Fret wire pounded in

I am often asking about fretting, the part I like the least, tedious and detailed, if not done exactly right, the instrument is unplayable. The slots are cut in the fingerboard, the slot is chamfered to eliminate tearout.

The frets are pounded in and trimmed close. The final shapng is done with a file to blend them into the side.

The strumstick has a diatonic scale so every note is a whole note, but more importantly there are less frets to pound in.

Drilling holes in the tuners to fit the slotted headstock.

Time for some hardware, build a bridge and nut, I like to use water buffalo bone for nut material as its black and I like the look. I also inlayed a small piece of ebony into the tail for the stringbreak to protect the body, this part was not on the plan, but the spruce in top would just not be up to the string pressure.

Five or six coats of satin urethane and its tough as nails.

A few shots of the finished product

The completed product, strung up, bridge intonated and ready to play.

The back, the walnut in this one is offcuts from the back wood used in the very first guitar I have ever made.

Of course I had to install my guitar label – FYI this is about 5/8” square.

Personalized for the recipient.

The headstock with an initial inlaid for a lucky young man.

This makes a fun instrument to play, and puts out an amazing amount of sound for such a small body. Having a diatonic scale makes it very easy to play for anyone.

-- Richard D. Wile, IG: @rdwile

4 comments so far

View Post_Oakie's profile


84 posts in 3652 days

#1 posted 02-04-2013 05:27 PM

Thanks for posting. I’ve seen strum sticks, but never considered building one. Since you don’t like frets, consider a hammer dulcimer or a fretless banjo. The banjo is harder to play, but you can do some cool things with it, traditionally played clawhammer style.

-- Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement.

View JoshIndy's profile


76 posts in 4393 days

#2 posted 02-11-2013 12:56 AM

what sort of finish do you apply to yours?

-- People are like tea bags. You find out how strong they are when you put them in hot water. -Eleanor Roosevelt

View llwynog's profile


288 posts in 4077 days

#3 posted 01-05-2014 10:43 PM

Thank you for your blogpost and your son’s video which really helped me while making my strumsticks.
I borrowed your idea of inserting a piece of ebony at the bottom of the body to protect the soundboard.

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

View rdwile's profile


167 posts in 3610 days

#4 posted 01-06-2014 10:10 AM

Nice Build – C’est beau,

Your son will enjoy that for years to come – you will have to build him a guitar next – that’s how I started down that slippery slope. Glad our video was helpful.

Enjoy the music,


posted here by mistake!!

-- Richard D. Wile, IG: @rdwile

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