We use two different materials for our soundboards. The lower priced instruments have laminated birch for their soundboard and back. This helps us keep the price of our beginning instruments affordable because we can buy it in ready-to-use sheet form. It is the highest grade of plywood available, looks quite nice and has the added benefit of being fairly impervious to changes in temperature and humidity, enhancing the instrument’s stability. It gives a clean, clear and pleasing quality of sound.
All of our solid wood instruments have soundboards and backs made of high-quality, quarter-sawn Honduras mahogany. We chose this wood for its visual beauty, dimensional stability, and most importantly for its sound. The acoustic properties of this wood combined with our instrument and bracing designs gives a rich, deep brilliance, controlled sustain, and clarity of fundamental tone that results in a smooth, professional sound especially apparent on complex, up-tempo pieces.
While the use of a plywood soundboard and back provides an economical, good-sounding instrument, solid wood on the same instrument will give more resonance, depth, brilliance and volume. Also, the tone quality of a solid-wood instrument continues to develop over the years, enhancing its long-term value and the satisfaction in owning it.
Tuning stability has always been a top priority for us. It simply makes the instrument easier to deal with. Do you have to spend 15 to 20 minutes tuning every time you sit down to play, or will it stay pleasant to play for a couple of weeks or more? We’ve made design choices in style of construction, sizing of structural parts, and types of wood to achieve a consistent stability that players tell us is one of the reasons they chose a Dusty Strings dulcimer.
A significant factor in playability is the spacing between courses of strings. The tighter the spacing, the more accurately you must play. The wider the spacing, though, the bigger the instrument, so there is a balance to find between ease of playing and portability. We’ve chosen spacings of 1-1/16" on our 2-1/2 octave instruments as comfortable for beginners, 1" on our 3-octave model to keep the size down a bit, and 1-3/16" on our chromatic instruments to promote clean, accurate playing on potentially more complex pieces and for the deep resonant tone that size of soundbox can give. Adapting to a different string spacing usually only takes a few minutes, so what you’ve been playing shouldn’t limit what you might want to choose for your next instrument.
We use two loop-end strings per course, and have carefully balanced the string gauges and types across each instrument for best tone and tension, providing a comfortable and consistent resiliency. This is a subtle detail that gives our instruments a pleasing “feel” under your hammers.
Our bridges are of one-piece construction with individual course pedestals to aid in accurate playing. White and black bridge caps on the pedestals are vivid note location markers. Made of a dense low-friction material called Delrin, these bridge caps also help to ensure smooth, accurate tuning and sustain control.
All of our dulcimers have mounting hardware built into the back to accept a single optional playing leg. A 28-inch leg allows you to play while sitting with the front of the dulcimer resting across your knees. The 4-inch leg tilts the dulcimer for easy tabletop playing. These are very portable ways of supporting your instrument in lieu of a separate stand.
All our three-octave and larger instruments have a convenient handle port cut into the back to make it easier to grasp and carry the dulcimer with one hand.
We carefully book-match and shape each set of hammers as a pair, guaranteeing an even, well-balanced weight and feel.
Our hammered dulcimers come with high quality star-tip tuning wrenches for excellent, non-wearing fit on the tuning pins. All Dulcimers come with a T-handle wrench.
Each instrument comes with an owner’s guidebook containing information on the dulcimer’s construction, tuning, maintenance, and care, including string diagrams and string changing instructions.
For long-lasting protection and beauty, we give each instrument multiple applications of clear lacquer.
All our instruments are warranted against defects in materials and workmanship to the original owner for five years from date of purchase. If there is a problem that is covered under the warranty, we will either repair or replace the instrument at no charge. Shipping costs to and from Dusty Strings are the responsibility of the owner.
Dusty Strings dulcimers are available in our Dulcimer Shop!