Buying a used McSpadden questions

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 weeks ago
1,881 posts

Dulcinina I love that story! That dulcimer must be very happy to have a loving and appreciative new owner. love




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
dulcinina
@dulcinina
3 weeks ago
50 posts

Here's an update and intriguing history.  I bought the McSpadden after trying it out and questioning the young man selling it.  The guy's girlfriend's parents bought a house with partial contents and the dulcimer was among them.  No one knew what it was!  When the owner developed dementia, her children sold the house with several belongings left in it.  The new owners gave the guy the dulcimer for helping them move.

The dulcimer was found in the bedroom with the owners manual, warranty and books and music.  From the loose tab sheets left, I think she may have belonged to a dulcimer group as the music is the same that I've acquired from my groups.  I called the fellow back and asked him to find out the name of the people who sold the house.  Maybe I can locate them and find out more.

The dulcimer really sounded good despite of the aged strings.  I offered him $100 less than he was asking and he readily agreed, having no vested interest in the instrument.  We both were happy.  I polished it when I got home and ordered strings from McSpadden.  I don't care for the strings our local music store carries.

So, I'm learning patience while waiting for the strings and just admiring my new to me dulcimer.  Dulcinina

 

 

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
4 weeks ago
649 posts

Well, we kind of got off track here. I have to agree with Richard that $225 would be a more realistic price.

Ken

The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Kusani
Kusani
@kusani
4 weeks ago
253 posts

When I use the term 'traditional' I am only referring to the folks in Appalachia and building their mountain dulcimers. The first standard sheets of plywood were not introduced in the U.S. until around 1928 for general building construction. I doubt they were available for building instruments (dulcimers) in those remote geographical areas until later years. This is not a commentary on the quality of sound of plywood, just an observation of what may be traditional and more contemporary. dulcimer


updated by @kusani: 10/23/18 08:47:59AM
Brian G.
Brian G.
@brian-g
4 weeks ago
110 posts
I had a conversation with Jim Woods at McSpadden about the move away from plywood years ago.  He told me that the original driving factor was that they were finding it very difficult to get good quality plywood.  It was a custom item and their supplier's quality controls were not working and they would've had to build dulcimers with wood that they would have preferred to not use. Jim told me he fought the issue for several years and finally decided to go to a material they could control.  Making the backs takes more time than cutting them out of the plywood sheets but this way they can at least plan ahead and select wood that will make dulcimers of which they can be proud.

I also know the bracing was changed with the move to solid wood backs and Jim says that there is a difference in the sound (that they are now a bit louder with a stronger bass voice).  Most of their customers have preferred the solid backs, but a few have disagreed. I've listened to and played many McSpaddens with both solid and plywood backs, and I think it comes down to the individual instrument - I've heard fantastic instruments with each type of back.

updated by @brian-g: 10/22/18 11:04:21PM
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
4 weeks ago
1,795 posts

'way back in the day, laminate or plywood was the 'carbon fiber' of the time -- amazing stuff it didn't have grain in the normal sense, it was strong and relatively lightweight, and capable of taking complex shapes if cut properly.

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
4 weeks ago
649 posts

Using a dulcimer made of laminate material (plywood) is not against the tradition. I have seen and handled many older dulcimers may of plywood.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Kusani
Kusani
@kusani
4 weeks ago
253 posts

I was just surprised as I have always thought of him as wishing to pay tribute to the more traditional dulcimer lore. 

 

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
4 weeks ago
649 posts

I do not know for sure, but I was told that he played a dulcimer made from a cherry laminate and liked it. Thus, when he designed his own model, he specified the cherry laminate. I am not sure where I read this. Since my files are not very organized, it may take me some time to find the original information.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."


updated by @ken-longfield: 10/22/18 08:10:30PM
Kusani
Kusani
@kusani
4 weeks ago
253 posts

Ken, do you know why Schnauffer requested laminates for side/back?

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
4 weeks ago
649 posts

Dusty, McSpadden stopped making dulcimers with laminate back and sides when the supplier stopped production of walnut and cherry plywood. I do not remember the year. It also was when the Schnauffer model was discontinued as David specified the cherry laminate for the back and sides of the model named after him.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
4 weeks ago
1,051 posts

Dulcinina,

Someone here such as @Ken-Longfield probably knows what year McSpadden stopped using ply and started using solid wood.  That is something to take into consideration, although I think we are too afraid of plywood.  You certainly want a solid soundboard, but I've played some wonderful instruments with ply sides and back.

It's rare that McSpaddens on Ebay go for much less than $300.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
Richard Streib
Richard Streib
@richard-streib
4 weeks ago
122 posts

Dulciana, I agree that price seems a bit high. I did buy one made in '91 from an auction locally that was like new. The pick and noter were still sealed in a little kraft paper envelope. It appeared to have been purchased and never played. If you find one like that,  the $300.00 would make a good starting point to bargain for a selling price. Another concern to consider is if someone stored an unused instrument in a not so instrument friendly environment; such as a hot attic, a damp basement, or a non climate controlled rental storage unit. As for the plywood back, the quality of the plywood which McSpadden used was the very best and very stable over time. I would not allow that fact alone to cause much hesitation.

I would think a price $225.00 price range would be more reasonable.

Fortunately for those of us who look at used dulcimers, many were purchased and left largely unplayed. Sometimes someone picks one up at a yard or estate sale or a family member disposes of the estate without knowing a lot about a dulcimer. They can be real treasures when we find one.

dulcinina
@dulcinina
4 weeks ago
50 posts

I'll be trying out a used McSpadden tomorrow that was made in 2000. I called the company and they said it's walnut and the back is made of plywood. It is not from a kit.  I read the posts from 3 years ago when someone asked about buying a used McSpadden.  What else should I consider when trying out this instrument.  He's asking $300.  Dulcinina