Carving away everything that isn't a great nylon string dulcimer
As Wayne Henderson likes to say about building a great guitar, all you have to do is carve away everything that isn't a great instrument. The difference between a good and a great instrument can literally come down to a few shavings. Fortunately, my bolt on neck design allows me to clamp the top (soundboard) onto the dulcimer and play it before I glue it to the body. After numerous cycles of clamping, playing, unclamping and carving I can sneak up on the sound I am looking for. By the time I am done, I have gotten to know a soundboard rather well. You might say we bond somewhere during the process. It quite literally speaks to me and I try to respond appropriately. The benefit to my clients is that they can be assured that the nylon string dulcimer they get will have a well balanced, fully developed sound, because if the soundboard can't provide that, it will never be glued to the body of the instrument..