Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Corn Dog

Mmmm.....corn dogs!!

In my last post I spoke about the hand cramps I was experiencing when I gripped a noter when playing for periods of more than 30 minutes or so at a time. I had decided to make a soft padded cover for the handle of my noter...

If you look at this photo of me holding the noter with the padded cover, and compare it to the previous post's picture of my hand holding a bare noter, you can see how this padding prevents me from closing my hand too tightly around the little stick. My hand now stays more open and relaxed, and my hand cramps have pretty much disappeared, even when I play for 3 hours or so. I think this little gizmo would work well for anyone who either plays for hours or for people with problems like arthritis, which can certainly cause hand pain and cramping.
I called this simple padded sheath my corn dog...well because with a noter in it, it looks convincingly like a (somewhat unappetizing) corn dog! Here is the one I made in about 15 minutes, and it has lasted me about five years so far. It does look a bit worse for wear at this point. In this photo you can see the side seam, and how the end of the tube of felt was pulled closed with needle and thread in a gather. The dog gets a rounded look all by itself with age.

Here's how to make yourself your OWN corn dog:

Just kidding.

But hey, I wish I could make some dulcimer corn dogs this easily, six at a time, in a handy dandy corn dog machine!

To make a padded dulcimer corn dog noter cover:
Get a piece of soft plain foam rubber about 1" thick and cut a squarish piece that will just wrap around your noter and meet along the edge, and long enough to hang 1/4" over the handle end of your noter and then end right about so you have one inch of bare noter sticking out the end to do your playing with.
Cut a piece of craft felt so it is about 1/2" bigger on each side than the flat piece of foam. Felt works well because it sort of stretches and molds itself to the shape you are coaxing it into, and it does not fray or unravel. I chose dark brown felt so it wouldn't show dirt. =8-o Thicker felt is better than cheap thin felt. If the felt is thin you could use it double thickness I suppose.

Wrap the foam piece around your noter handle and keep it in place with a couple of pieces of scotch tape going all around it. This part does not have to be perfect, and you can just leave the tape there in the finished corn dog- it won't hurt anything.
Then take your felt piece and start wrapping it over the felt. Start it somewhere other than the seam of the foam. Wrap the felt around foam, and have the end overlap snugly over the beginning of the felt, and then just turn the very edge under neatly and hold it firmly while you begin to sew the felt closed over the foam along the long seam. Hold it slightly snug as you sew, you don't want a floppy loose covering. You are making a felt tube that will hold the foam firmly inside and keep it snug around the noter handle. Best to use strong button thread for this so it will hold up over time and use.
Next, take your needle and thread and tuck the handle end of the felt tube into itself and sew it neatly closed. Then, move to the stick/playing end and sew around the circular felt edge in a simple running stitch that you can pull closed, thus gathering the end of the felt tube together a little. Make sure you don't make it so tightly gathered that you can't take the noter in and out anymore. You might want to change noters! It's handy to be able to slide noters in and out of it.

Now your foam tube is totally covered and secured by the felt tube and is finished on both ends. There's your corn dog.

I must warn you that people will inquire as to what "that thing" is that you are holding and playing with. I always like to have a bit of fun and hold it up by the stick and say "It's a corn dog!". Then I savor the bewildered look on their face for just a moment before I break down and take my noter out and show them about the padded cover that makes it easy on my hands. At that point they always look vastly relieved that I might not be a total nut-case after all.

Enjoy years of playing in comfort with your new corn dog! :D


  1. What a great idea! I would love to make one of these corn dogs and give it a try. I started having problems several year with cramps in my hand when I played too much. My solution, as strange as it sounds, was to not really grasp the noter at all. I will try to describe what I mean.

    I do play with my index finger on top. I use a very thin craft stick as my noter, so it extends far back into my palm. I brace the end of it in my palm. Basically, the weight of my hand is just resting on the noter and that keeps it in place as I play. Hmmmmm...this really doesn't make much sense! I will try to take some photos this weekend! :)

  2. Your Noter Dog is gonna save a lot of people a LOT of handcramps, Liza!

    One reason the "Thumb on Top" noter grip doesn't work so well these days is that many dulcimer makers do not build with the old style tall fretboard. Thumb-on-top means knuckles below, and if your fretboard is less than 1" tall there just isn't room for your hand (knuckles attached) to fit between the top of the fretboard and the top of the dulcimer. Look around and see how many of your, or your friend's dulcimer have fretboard more than 1" tall - not many. The older style dulcimers had fretboards between 1" and 1.5" tall.

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