A Brief History





Back in 1978, I was attending college at Southwestern College in Winfield, Ks. The first fall I was there, I saw an ad for help at a local Bluegrass Festival. A college student, broke, chance to make extra cash? I was all over this, so I signed on. Not only did I get paid, but I received free tickets to the festival. So there I was, walking around on Saturday, when on one of the back stages was a mountain dulcimer workshop given by three attractive women. I still remember two of them, Cathy Barton and Mary Faith Rhodes. I sat back and watched. I also fell in love with the dulcimer. Here was a simple instrument that originated in the USA, the Appalachians in fact, and made with woods that I was very familiar with due to my families mid western logging business. I went to these ladies shows, watched the Dulcimer Championships. I spent my earnings on a very cheap dulcimer. I could not learn to play.

The strings were too high, it was poorly made. The next June, there was a June Jamboree segment of the fall festival. Once again, I worked it, this time I spent my earnings on a dulcimer kit. I built this with less than half the recommended tool list, I remember using a rock to pound in the frets and a stack of bricks for clamps. I ended up with an instrument that was more playable, and amazingly enough, better looking.

It was at this time I transferred to Iowa State. A few years into school there, I discovered that there was a wood shop available for student use. Wood from the family sawmill, and my first dulcimer was made. Again I looked at it, thought about it, saw my mistakes, a cherry board from Dad, and I built number two. It was an hourglass, all cherry, natural knotholes for the upper sound holes. My Mother still has this one, A-2. I made 5 dulcimers at Iowa State, except for #2, I have no idea where or who has them.

I ended up back at home next, worked for the family logging business, built a few more in the basement of my parents house. One of those was shipped back to Winfield, Ks. I also entered one in the county fair, it received a ribbon. Can't remember how many I built in Woodbine, but they were numbered W-6 on.

I ended up back in Winfield, Ks next. Here I decided to get serious about the dulcimer business. It was here that I also took first place in a major art show with one of my dulcimers. These dulcimers were numbered Wf-XX. Not sure the starting number, but when I moved I was in the 50's.

My next shop was in Wapello, Ia. Here I got busy. The last dulcimer built there was Wp-149. Formed a loose partnership with a singer/teacher named Pat Walke. She had me build a student model. These were very simple in shape and design, allowed me to use a lot of scrap lumber and also try out new and "exotic" woods such as mulberry and honey locust. It was here that I also branched out into other instruments. I built two 3/4 size guitars, 18 old-time banjos, 5 hammer dulcimers, some kalimbas, and assorted other things.

My next move was to Winfield, Iowa, where I built WFI-150 for my wife. That was over ten years ago, and I am ready to re-open my shop in Webster Groves, Mo.



Sunday, January 15, 2017

#160 almost done

Put the first coat of finish on #160. The dulcimer is all walnut, looks nice, all quarter sawn, no fancy figure, but still stands out. Walnut is a great wood!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Guitar #5 is coming along nicely. Here's a few photos of yesterdays work.






The top is glued up. This is Sitka Spruce sourced thru Alaska Speciality Woods. They do not cut down trees, but rather obtain the wood from fallen trees, trees that were once used as floats, etc. A very green way to obtain some spectacular lumber!
This is the back. It is quarter sawn white oak, a hard dense wood that should ring out as well as the best rosewood. Logging oak in the USA is a sustainable enterprise. Where as most tropical hardwoods are the result of rain forest being cut down to make way for farms and cattle ranches. I use nothing but US and Canadian woods in my products.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Back in the shop.

It's been a while, many projects not finished, diving in and finishing. Coming up is a dulcimer with a yellow cedar top, black walnot everywhere else except the tuners and binding. The binding is curly bigleaf maple, the tuners will be white oak to tie in with the sound holes. Leaves have been intriguing me lately.
Speaking of white oak, guitar number 5 is made from white oak. I think I'll use a walnut neck and a persimmon fretboard. This will be followed by a walnut back and side guitar.
I'm glad I'm getting back in the shop, enjoying the smell of sawdust and the sound of a plane slicing thru wood.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

New Ebay Listing

Put #158 up for sale on Ebay. Ebay had a recommended starting price which I used, 42.50. Hope this doesn't bite me in the butt. See it at http://www.ebay.com/itm/-/151982824906?ssPageName=ADME:L:LCA:US:1123

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Old pictures

Found a picture from yesteryear. Had trouble keeping these in stock back then, the fretless ones sounded really good in the hands of a good claw hammer player.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Mountain Banjo

This banjo is halfway finished. An interesting take on the old "Fox Fire" banjo.