I will take and post some pics when I go back east. They are in Boston and I am in Phoenix, at the moment.
Care Advice Sought for 2 Really Old Instruments:
Salt Springs - Hah! If I send my dulcimers to you in Florida, I'm going to send myself along with them and get a little vacation time away from Phoenix (and a big ol' slab of key lime pie).
Seriously, folks, thank you for the input so far. Regarding setting them up to be played again, if modifications of any sort are needed, then I think I would prefer to just keep them intact. The luthier I spoke with back in WV said other than the fact they have aged 150 years or more since when he estimates they were put together, that they are in an amazing state of preservation. He was sure, because the finish and "oxidation" was so consistent, that nothing had ever been done to them - no modifications or repairs,and he even was pretty sure they both had the original (or at least period) strings. I am thinking Dan's suggestion of a museum might be a good option for them, as I have no one to leave them to. There is a stellar musical instrument museum just outside of Phoenix, I am told, but maybe it might be best to see if there's some place back in WV where they came from. Meanwhile, I can learn and practice on the McSpadden that came with the lot.
I would keep them in a cabinet with a couple of guitar humidifiers that you can buy online or in a music store. Or, if you wish you could send them to me and I'll be glad to keep them here in high humidity Florida.
They should be playable, but I would be cautious about using too high a string tension on the oldest of them. Post some pic's if you have a chance.............you have a treasure trove to enjoy. Drop Dulcimore Dan a note if he doesn't reply in short order as I am sure he can help you out with any questions you might have so far as cleaning etc.
I clean with distilled water, gently wiping with a soft cotton cloth (an old t-shirt) and Q-tips. Dry air is not good for any instrument so some sort of humidifier would be good. Making them playable would have to be determined by a luthier, depending on whether "you" are O.K. with altering them from an original state, maybe museum pieces?
Where in AZ? I am in Phoenix.
I am quite interested in the care and feeding in the desert question also. I have a 30 year old dulcimer. I would be decimated if something bad were to happen.
But then, I have been here for over 20 years now. The only effect (maybe) has been a bit of drying of the wood and that has gotten a better tone if nothing else.
updated by @ferrator: 10/05/19 06:20:09PM
I inherited a half dozen mountain dulcimers of various ages a while ago. Among them are two particularly old ones which, I was told by a luthier in WV, were made sometime before the Civil War. One is "coffin" shaped (for lack of a better description) and appears to be made of walnut, and one is a long, rectangular and box-like, but with the tail end of the box being a bit wider than the head end. Both instruments have these wooden key-like pegs instead of mechanical tuners like you see today. (Apologies if my descriptives might ba a little vague, but I'm new at this.) They both have finishes that are alligatored or crackled and with plenty of honest grime, but look in good shape with no cracks, breaks or separations, and each appears to have all original parts. The frets, however, only go under the first string and not all the way across like on the McSpadden I have. My question is this: I have recently moved from back east to Arizona, and want to bring the old dulcimers out with me when I return from my next trip to the east coast. What suggestions would anyone have as far as maintaining these instruments in the dry southwest? I have a cabinet I can keep them in - what about humidity? Do I oil or wax them? Are instruments this old still able to be played?
updated by @paulinphoenix: 10/15/19 11:30:21AM