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Wood Suppliers

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Wood Suppliers

Postby Caley Hand » Sun May 05, 2019 6:02 pm

Hi there. I haven't posted in quite some time. Life always seems to get in the way of having fun creating.

I am a bit frustrated when it comes to finding wood suppliers. Just about all I can find are either lumber suppliers that basically supply large quantities to those who are in the house building industry, or for guitars.

I am not really interested in building a guitar because it requires a lot of tools, and more time and patience than I will ever have in an entire life.

Right now I am still experimenting with just learning how to put things together. I started with the Kalimba, and eventually created one that sounded nice, which I gifted to a friend.
I also purchased a beat up Zither on EBay, which I managed to fix into something that works, though I found the tuning pin holes were just too loosey goosey to hold things tuned for more than a few hours. But the whole project was just to learn about stringed type instruments.

Now I would like to step up, and try my hand at maybe a Hammered Dulcimer. I do not want to purchase a kit or one already built. You don't learn much that way on how things are put together, and all the other things that go with building something. I am wondering just what kind of wood I need for the sides, back and front. Also need to know what I need for the bridges, and any other wood required for the instrument. Of course, maybe I am biting off more than I can chew by thinking of building from scratch. Maybe a kit is the way to learn the basics on. I will keep an open mind on that approach. Any ideas on who sells kits that won't break the bank account?

My big problem is trying to find wood suppliers that will sell smaller quantities of wood for people like myself who do not have room for storage of piles of lumber. I do want to find a reputable wood supplier for future projects. I pretty much just like making things. I am not a musician. I can't get my two hands to do two different things at the same time, but I love making things. I would kind of like to make Zithers much like what Tommy Garside did. I was really impressed by his video, and his talent.

Hopefully someone can point me in the right direction about a wood supplier, and maybe send me on the right path concerning the Hammered Dulcimer.
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Re: Wood Suppliers

Postby Barry Daniels » Mon May 06, 2019 10:48 am

Look in your local area for a "hardwood" supplier. Often there is a special section in the Yellow Pages under the term hardwood. These are specialized hardwood suppliers that sell wood to the cabinet making and furniture builders. Hopefully you will find one that will let you walk around and hand pick the wood you need, and maybe even allow you to cut short pieces off the long lumber for your projects.

I built 4 hammered dulcimers back in the '70s with black walnut for the body and hard maple for the bridges. I used thin birch plywood for the top but would have been better off using solid spruce.
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Re: Wood Suppliers

Postby Alan Carruth » Mon May 06, 2019 11:35 am

Lots of hammered dulcimers have been made with plywood for most of the structure. I'd use some nice birch ply if I went that route; it's a good way to go for your first one. You do need to use hard maple for the pin blocks, and it's good for the bridges as well. I do prefer some sort of hardwood instead of plywood. I use hardwood for the top, and put the softwood soundboard on the bottom (I think the GAL still sells those plans), but there are other good ways to do it. I just got back one of the first ones I made, back in 1978, for re-stringing, and it's in pretty good shape considering. The strings are rusty, and I used nails that are too small instead of real hitch pins, but the structure is OK.
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Re: Wood Suppliers

Postby Caley Hand » Mon May 06, 2019 6:03 pm

Barry, thanks much. The closest supplier to 29 Palms, California is Cherokee Wood Products, which is 106 miles away, and that is basically a home builders wood supplier. Unfortunately there isn't much in the way of wood suppliers here in the desert. Almost everything I need for anything I order online because the local stores basically do not carry what I need. Being so far from civilisation, it is basically cheaper to order online, and have it shipped to me.

Alan, thanks. I wonder how sturdy birch ply is when you put in the tuning pins and tighten those strings. I'm sure that initially the holes hold up, but wonder just how long they last. I guess that if the instrument lasts a few years, that would be OK. But I agree with Barry, that with so much tension pushing the pin bottoms outward, hard maple probably is the best way to go. The old beat up Zither had enlarge holes. But not sure what wood they used for the pin blocks. I doubt it was a hardwood.
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Re: Wood Suppliers

Postby Bob Gramann » Mon May 06, 2019 6:47 pm

If you know what you want, woodfinder.com will often put you in touch with small suppliers who can listen to you on the phone and, if they feel generous, can provide you with something more weird than trades in general commerce. Aside from the usual suspects, LMI, StewMac, and Allied Lutherie, Gilmer Woods and Hibdon Hardwoods both have luthier sensibilities. It was hard for me to believe, but I actually found quartersawn mahogany in the stacks of our local Woodcraft store once. That board became a few guitars.

I don’t know much about hammer dulcimers, but if I were to build one, I might buy one, learn a bit how to play it, so I understood the instrument, and use the purchased one as a model and a place to get the answer to the question “How do you do that?” during construction. You ought to be able to sell a used one for what you paid for it.
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Re: Wood Suppliers

Postby Caley Hand » Mon May 06, 2019 9:42 pm

I found a kit supplier, "Grassroots Dulcimers" that provides a 15/14 kit for $250. This seems to be the best price for a basic kit for someone learning like myself.

The reason I think I will go with the kit is that I tend to goof on cuts, which usually ends up my using two to three times the board feet that a skilled wood builder would use. This basically means I would end up price wise about the same as purchasing the kit which is already precision cut.

I tried "Woodfinder.com", but it really didn't provide anything much better than Cherokee Wood Products. And I discovered that this company also has an EBay account that makes it easier for me to purchase things.

As for all the Luthier stores, I looked, and they basically cater to the people who make guitars. So I couldn't use the wood they have to build anything larger than what the material was intended for. And besides, the sound board wood is reallllllly expensive. I looked at Sitka Spruce, and could not believe that small pieces cost into the hundreds of dollars. I guess that finding clear, problem free wood gets expensive.
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Re: Wood Suppliers

Postby Bob Gramann » Mon May 06, 2019 10:31 pm

RC Tonewoods has some Engelmann spruce on sale
http://rctonewoods.com/RCT_Store/engelm ... -1986.html
You don’t need the highest grade tops for what you’re doing—the differences among the grades are mostly cosmetic. As long as the long grain part of your spruce piece doesn’t need to be more than 20 inches you can get the width by gluing up several top halves.

I agree that the kit will likely provide a more successful first experience. The first guitar I built was from a kit. They did the things for me that I was most uneasy about. That was 124 instruments ago. I learned a lot from that kit. I’m still learning.

I have found the luthier suppliers to be very accommodating for special requests when I call and talk to them. Some of the folks I have attempted to deal with on woodfinder haven’t had much use for a little buyer like me. Others have been very helpful and have made large sales to me. You can’t tell until you call them and talk to them. It does help if you know exactly what you want.

If eventually you find you do want Sitka spruce, Alaska Specialty Woods is very good about meeting special requests. Their prices are quite reasonable.
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Re: Wood Suppliers

Postby Caley Hand » Thu May 09, 2019 3:27 pm

Bob, Thanks so much. Now I have some sources for when my skills are good enough to risk working with more expensive wood. For now I am going to use fairly cheap wood for practise. I figure that's better than ruining a $30 set of Spruce panels, or some other expensive wood. Plywood seems to be the way to go for learning. But I still need hardwood in certain areas to provide strong footings for things.

I ordered the Hammered Dulcimer kit, though I have not received confirmation in the two days since. I guess it's a small operation, and just takes time.
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Re: Wood Suppliers

Postby Daryl Kosinski » Thu May 09, 2019 10:56 pm

Try to locate a small sawmill owner not a commercial large one but a hobby mill. A call to the nearest Wood Miser dealer or some other small mill manufactures could put you on to one.

It has been my experance hobby mill operators love to help out other hobbyest. Tell them what you are up to, ask for advice, stand back.

Before my brother got his own mill I would go to the "mill" talk about my project and leave with the wood I needed. Not a lot of money.

If you look around you should find someone within 100 miles.
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Re: Wood Suppliers

Postby Carl Dickinson » Fri May 10, 2019 12:58 pm

That is a good idea Daryl except that Caley lives out in the desert, mostly Joshua trees and palms there. Freshly milled wood would air dry pretty quickly though.
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Re: Wood Suppliers

Postby Peter Wilcox » Fri May 10, 2019 2:56 pm

There is Parker's Building Supply in 29 Palms, and Home Depot in Yucca valley. You should be able to look through their wood and choose boards that might work, especially for a first build that will almost certainly have a lot of mistakes (we've all been there :) .) I've made several instruments out of Douglas fir. Of course if you don't have access to a bandsaw for resawing that may not work, but maybe you have an acquaintance there that has a shop.
Maybe I can't fix it, but I can fix it so no one can fix it
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Re: Wood Suppliers

Postby Caley Hand » Fri May 10, 2019 7:45 pm

Hi Peter, Unfortunately Parkers had a fire. Right now they are closed, and in the process of fixing all the fire damage, and from what it looks like, I think they are actually going to update the store.

As for Homely Despotty in Yuccy Valley, that is where I got some of my wood. I have two selections, Red Oak and Poplar. I'm not familiar with pricing, but it seems the wood is a bit pricey to me.

The closest thing we have to people with wood are those who go up into the mountains and harvest trees for firewood. Like I said earlier, the closest place is called Cherokee Wood Products in Upland, California. I probably will one day drive up and see if they can sell me some Hard Maple, since that wood seems to be what most people use for pin blocks and bracing. And they stock 21 different kinds of Plywood ranging from African Mahogany to White Oak Plywood. Maple Red Oak and Baltic Birch come in 1/8 inch sheets, and the rest 1/4 inch sheets. So I have a choice for plywood to some extent.

Grassroots finally got my order going, and it should arrive in five business days. That will give me a chance to get some building skills before I go to the scratch built method.

I do have a Ryobi band saw, but right now it only has a 1/8 inch blade. It can take 1/8, 1/4 and 3/8 blades. Not sure which size is ideal for cutting lumber.
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Re: Wood Suppliers

Postby Alan Carruth » Sun May 12, 2019 8:31 pm

Re-sawing with a bandsaw is possible, but can be frustrating. No matter how carefully you set them up, the blades themselves will drift; cutting a bit to one side or the other. A fence that is set up perpendicular to the wheels should give you a precise thickness of cut, but usually won't. It's not too hard to make up a fence that pivots around an axis that lines up with the blade, and can be set to the drift angle of the blade you're using. It's also helpful to have a 'finger' mechanism that pushes the wood in against the fence with a nice, steady pressure for the full height. Use the widest blade the saw can keep up to tension. I find the blades that alternate between 3 and 4 teeth per inch work well. The surface you'll get won't be smooth or very level, so be prepared to spend some quality time leveling it up.
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Re: Wood Suppliers

Postby Caley Hand » Tue May 14, 2019 8:30 pm

Alan, I guess the band saw I have is basically for cutting small thin pieces, and curved things. I probably will still order several different widths and teeth combinations. I'm sure that eventually I will need a particular blade for some kind of project.
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