I'm making "Sparrowhawk" a Mountain dulcimer for Vic Griffin. It will have a European Spruce top and Sapele back and sides. This is one of my special "Anniversary Instruments" to celebrate the tenth anniversary of De Faoite Stringed Instruments.


Here are most of "Sparrowhawk's" parts.

The Sapele back is thicknessed and joined using the "tent method" and hot hide glue.

The European spruce top is joined using the "tent method" and hot hide glue - the darker piece shows a rough-sawn face that hasn't been sanded yet and the lighter piece has had some sanding.

Next comes the "cunning plan".

Then the mould is made.

The Sapele sides are thicknessed and the bass side bent to shape by hand on the hot-pipe. Here it is in the mould.

The treble side is bent the same way and here it is in the mould.

The Sapele end blocks are made and glued to the sides in the mould using fish glue.

The next task is to glue in the laminated Sapele linings. These are side off-cuts and there will be two glued in to make each lining - eight in total. Here the first pair of top linings are being glued in using fish glue.

Here's the second layer being glued in.

After the glue has dried the linings are sanded level. Here's the completed rim-set - the linings give great stiffness so that the sides keep their shape out of the mould.

As this will be bound there is a set order of assembly. The top is thicknessed, cut to shape and glued onto the rim using fish glue. It has no bracing as the main neck/fingerboard glued to it serves this function.

The rim-set with top is put back in the mould as the glue dries for ease of storage.

Here's the top after trimming flush with the sides.

The top needs to be bound next and so the Macassar ebony bindings have the bwb side purflings glued on using fish glue.

When the glue has dried the bindings are shaped by hand on the hot pipe. Then the top binding channels are routed.

Followed by the top purfling channels.

The ends of the side where the Macassar ebony binding and side purflings will be mitred into the top and back bindings and side purflings are cut with a handsaw.

The side is then chiselled out.

The treble side binding has the side purflings mitred and is then glued in using fish glue.

This is repeated for the bass side.

Two book-matched pieces of Sapele are glued together using fish glue to make the neck.

The neck is cut to the right width and then where the Bog Oak fingerboard will go the underside of the neck is hollowed out to a depth of 7mm.

Here's the result after tidying up the slot.

The fret positions are marked on the Bog Oak fretboard and the fret slots cut.

The Bog Oak bindings are then glued onto the fretboard using fish glue.

The 3mm holes for the octave fret markets are drilled.

Then the slot for the bridge is routed in the Sapele neck.

Looking like this.

The 3mm saddle slot is routed in the Ebony bridge using this jig.

The bridge is tested for fit. The strum hollow just in front of the bridge has been sanded out of the neck.

The fingerboard is then glued to the neck using fish glue.

The 3mm MoP fret position markers are glued in.

The De Faoite hares and sparrowhaks are drawn on the top for the soundholes.

Then the tricky bit of cutting them out starts. This is carefully done using a router to get close and then needle files and scalpel blade to finish. Here's the two sparrowhawk shaped soundholes cut in the upper bout.

First De Faoite hare cut.

Soundholes completed - there will be more tidying up of their edges to be done later on.

The neck and fingerboard are positioned on the top and four 2mm holes drilled through the nit and bridge areas so that it can be held in position using toothpicks.

The top is masked off and the neck/fingerboard is glued on using fish glue in the go bar deck.

Next job is to fit the frets with the neck supported with a piece of wood inside the soundbox.

Fretting completed.

The back is cut to shape and the European Spruce braces glued on using hot hide glue.

The braces are carved.

The label is signed and glued in.

The top is signed.

Notches are cut in the side linings to accept the ends of the back's braces and the back is glued on using fish glue.

The back binding and purfling channels are cut.

Then the back bindings and purflings are glued in using fish glue.

Finally the end of sides pieces are glued in together with mitred purflings.

Then it's into the Troji and the bindings are scraped flush.

Here's the finished body.

The peghead block is made from Sapele and has the top slanted for the peghead and a hole drilled for the bolt that will hold the peghead onto the neck-block. A slot is cut down the middle for an ebony veneer to cover the bolt and an ebony heel cap has been glued on the bottom.

Here's the ebony veneer cap . . .

. . . and how it will fit.

The ebony peghead veneer is marked out and pinned in place to the Sapele peghead using tooth-picks. The peghead is then shaped.

The ebony veneer is removed and the Sapele peg-head place in position on the peg-head block that has been bolted onto the body. Two 2mm holes are drilled through so that the peg-head can be held in place when it is glued to the peg-head block.

The peghead and block are then glued together using hot hide glue.

The peg-head is then bolted onto the body and two 5mm holes drilled through into the peg-head block.

Two pieces of 5mm carbon fibre rod are then glued in with fish glue.

The ebony peg-head veneer is then glued on using fish glue.

The holes for the tuners are then drilled.

Then they are reamed for the ferrules.

Here's the peg-head bolted to the box. The peg-head, stringholder and the box will be finished separately and then assembled when the ebony strips will be glued in and finished.

The Sapele stringholder has a hole for the bolt drilled and an ebony veneer piece glued on the top using hot hide glue.

The position of the string holes are marked and are drilled at the right angle using a 2mm drill in this jig.

Here's the result.

Where the string holes emerge on the back of the Sapele block a channel is routed to hold the string ball ends.

Here's the result.

Then a channel for the Ebony veneer strip to cover the bolt is routed.

Then the ebony heel cap is glued on using hot hide glue.

Here's the result with the veneer cap fitted.

Here's the completed stringholder on the body.

The body has to be sanded and scraped and checked for any blemishes that need rectifying. Then the back and sides are then pore filled using egg white - 240 grit sandpaper is dipped into the egg white and sanded on the back and sides to make a wood slurry that is pushed into the pores. The egg white acts as a binding agent and the pores are effectively filled by the same wood dust.

Time to spray on the pre-catalysed lacquer.

Here's the front.

Final set-up involves fitting the Grover tuners, bolting on the peghead and stringholder and fitting the ebony end caps, fitting the Bog oak nut and ebony/bone bridge and stringing up.

Here's the finished Sparrowhawk. Here's a recording of me playing my arrangement of Nic Jones's "Ruins on the Shore" on Sparrowhawk in ddAD tuning.

A happy customer !!