Dulcimer beginnings

Dulcimer beginnings
The type of dulcimer that the group in Sharon play is most popularly called the mountain dulcimer but is also known as the Appalachian, fretted or lap dulcimer according to Appalachian Dulcimer Traditions by Ralph Lee Smith.
This is to distinguish it from the trapezoid shaped hammered dulcimer which is played with felted hammers, another instrument entirely.
It is thought to have been modified by European settlers from Virginia coming over the mountains with a zither like instrument.
Indeed most of the instruments found by musical historians have been in Eastern Kentucky and North Carolina.
It was re-discovered by folk musicians in the 1950s and 1960s and is a popular instrument all over the country today.
Shanes started making the dulcimer when Ary and others approached him a few years ago. Retired from Parker Manufacturing in Greenfield for about three years, Shane had filled the house with wood furniture made in his workshop next to the house.
He also makes beautiful bowls; some have as many as 200 pieces of wood.
“He had overfilled the house,” jokes his wife Barbara.
“He had to start making something else.”
That something else was the dulcimer.
In every nook and cranny of his workshop, Shanes has tucked away pieces of wood he has collected over the years from neighbors and family, including 100 year old poplar pieces from a log cabin.  “I’m a scrounger,” says Shanes.
“I’ve always liked to mess with wood.”
Starting with a rough set of plans from the internet and dulcimers members of the Sharon group had, Shanes taught himself how to make the instrument.
“It was a trial and error kind of thing,” he says. Thin strips of wood are worked into the hourglass form that most of his dulcimers take. He soaks the wood, bends it on forms, holds it in place with special spool clamps and cuts and glues it into shape.
The tops have sound holes of various flora and fauna, even a half a walnut.
A hard strip for the fret board goes down the middle of the instrument and has to be measured and marked off just right.
Each dulcimer has different wood pieces, shapes, necks and slightly different sounds. Shanes has about 15 hanging on his wall in the house. Some of his dulcimer colleagues have dubbed Shanes own instrument “the boat” for its shape.
He says he is still searching for the one that satisfies him , the one with just the right sound.
Yet Shanes is adamant that he does not want to go into the dulcimer business, turning it into a job.
“I’ve worked all my life and do what I want to do now.”
And that includes playing “the boat” with the gang in Sharon every Tuesday night.
WCP 9.09.10

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