I got to visit the guys in Hindman yesterday. Doug is a master luthier and has two apprentices Mike and John. I met Doug and Mike at a dulcimer get together earlier in Winchester. Doug also has a studio in Winchester, that’s where he is from. Mike if from Hindman…. now on the my visit!
There is a fellow George Gibson who collects antique instruments and has graciously loaned them to the Hindman studio. (George was born in Uncle Ed Thomas’ cabin!) On loan is a Thomas, an Amburgey, a Ledford and many other makers. There are several samples of scheitholt, banjo, and other string instruments. I got to hold and photograph the three previous makers dulcimers. It made for and incredibly wonderful experience, I can only describe it as a kid in a candy store!
So what a great day! Wait, who walked in the door? Don Pedi! You have what back in your room? Do we mind waiting a few moments while you go get it? He returns with a black case, opens it and takes out a crudely attempted start of a refinish on a Pritchard! Poor thing looked sad, but sounded wonderful.
In one day, I go from reading books and looking at pictures, studying what I can on the internet, to holding in my hand instruments made by the greatest makers in history! And yes I have pictures to prove it, and a signature on my Homer knock off by Don Pedi. He was concerned about writing on the top, but I assured him he added $25 to the value of it!
There have been some circles that are of the opinion that ultra light has a volume unlike any other. I would agree to the extent that everything has a limit on a given scale. There are variables that determine the tone of a dulcimore. With that being said what you believe sounds good throws in yet another variable; one that can’t be tweaked or dismissed in any fashion!
Fancy weighs in at about 20 ounces. The variable here is the thinness of the sound box. Finding that right amount of material that will be strong enough to hold up as a dulcimore, yet light enough to get that ultra light sound. I’ve tried to quarter saw all the sound box stock, but the wood is not the best quality out there. (It is free) I’ve resorted to an alcohol dye to stain the ebony finish so as to not wreak havoc on the thin poplar backs. The iron acetate is vinegar based and will warp the back.
In addition to the alcohol based ebony dye, I’ve started a shellac finish. I love this stuff. The smell is nothing to be alarmed about, and historically as old as time! You can seal, lightly sand and wax it with steel wool, or go as long and as polished as you like. It is durable and very good looking, nothing plastic about it! Once you get the base on right, the finish is forgiving.
I am also brass pinning the loop strings on this one and will conform to a solid bass string. I will just have to get accustomed to the tinny sound of it! It is truly traditional, whether you acquired your strings from banjo or piano stock, both had loop ends. The guitar end strings were later. At the other end, the tuning pegs have a decorative bead at the base of the thumb piece. And again the bone nut and floating bridge will make it even brighter!