I have been making things from wood for about as long as I can remember. I built models of Columbus’ ships for an elementary school project with the help of my father, who had a workshop in the back yard. I spent much of my time growing up in that workshop. My grandfather on my mother’s side was also a woodworker, who had a couple of patents on items he had designed. He also built a violin which I now have. Although he died when I was just 3, perhaps it is from him that I got interested in building musical instruments.
I built this dulcimer in 1973, during summer break from college. I was working at a steel warehouse during the day, and made this during the evenings and weekends. I had a book with some plans to work from – I am not sure I had ever seen a dulcimer up close before.
I was amazed when I put strings on it and it actually made a decent sound. I took it back to college, found some friends with guitars, banjos, etc, and we played music in the dorm many nights. Today, I see all the flaws and all the things that I could have improved on. Over the years, my joinery has improved, and my tools today allow for closer tolerances. This dulcimer has a solid Brazilian Rosewood back – wood that is no longer available. Perhaps one day this dulcimer will get a new back and that piece of wood will go into another project.
This dulcimer is now about 39 years old. Hard to believe!