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, July 13, 2014


The shop is now air conditioned, so it truly is a 4 season shop. Doing some furniture repair for the Wife, then a small "rebuild" for our Church, then back to work on the Ukeleles ad another dulcimer, then I think its time for another banjo.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


I am building a couple ukelele's tenor ukes to be exact! Yesterday I made the fixtures, tonight I cut some black walnut for the back sides and top.
The next uke will be made of mulberry, Pam's choice!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Monday, May 19, 2014


Pam and I went to the lumber place, lots of rough sawn lumber! Only bought two black walnut boards, $3.50 a board foot, nice quarter sawn lumber. Afterwards we went to Soulard, bought some veggies, then Pam tripped and broke her left wrist and dislocated her right middle finger. Spent the rest of the day at the ER.
On a happy note, Pam decided that she wanted her ukelele made of mulberry, so the first weekend in June, I'm headed back there for more lumber.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Lumber shopping

Pam and I are going out to hopefully restock the shop with walnut Saturday. I found a company in St Louis that saws reclaimed logs . Trees are cut down in the city for a variety of reasons, new construction, storm damage, etc. Most of the time, these logs end up in a landfill, this company saws them up, and I'll turn them into musical instruments. Can I get greener than that?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Shop

It is fully insulated and drywalled, slowly mudding it in. Have put the first finish coat on 154 and the top is glued onto 155. Things are progressing once again!