Wormy Chestnut for dulcimers - Clifford Glenn

Anne Bowman
Anne Bowman
@anne-bowman
5 years ago
60 posts

About the Chestnut ... This is really well worth watching. it will make you appreciate what a great American treasure you have there ... I'd love to have one, if just as a testament to the past glory of the forests of the U.S mountains ...(and this from an Aussie ....)

Cheers,

Anne

phil
@phil
8 years ago
139 posts

Thanks Ken I'll have the Chestnut Next week.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
8 years ago
1,697 posts

Phil - unless you have sophisticated audio instruments, you'll never be able to tell any difference between wormy and non wormy chestnut if you made matching instruments. Even if you could hear a difference it could most probably be traced to something different like different amounts of glue on a given joint. If you've got chestnut of any kind, slice some up and send it to: Ken Hulme 1300 Lee St....

john p
john p
@john-p
8 years ago
174 posts

Do give it a try phil, like to hear how you get on with it.

Can't see that wormy wood would have any special acoustic properties, maybe it does.
I don't see how you could make any meaningful comparison anyway, without finding someone who has done considerable work with both.

A fashion for wormy wood seems to have grown up in the US, where obvious signs of age are seen as all important, image more than anything else.

If you have clean timber from the same era then use it.
It can always be distressed later if that's the sort of look you want.

john p

phil
@phil
8 years ago
139 posts

My question is how does a dulcimer sound made out of Chestnut that's not Wormy Chestnut, I have found some old barn wood that over a 100 years old and have not found a hole in it. We have andAntiques store here that has a load of barn wood they have been trying to sell. This wood is 2-inches thick, so my band-saw will be busy when I get it

Banjimer
Banjimer
@greg-gunner
8 years ago
105 posts

In my experience, wormy chestnut has more often been used for the top or soundboard of the dulcimer. Less frequently it is used for the entire dulcimer. Like someone else has already said, it is frerquently used as a top on a walnut body and gives a very mellow sound, much like an all-walnut dulcimer.

I own an hourglass-shaped,walnut dulcimer with a wormy chestnut top. It was made by Clifford Glenn on September 20, 2001. Sweet sounding 3-string dulcimer. The melody rings out, while the middle and bass drones are a little more subdued. Perfect balance between melody and drones.

I also own an Echo Hollow Tennessee Music Box made by Jared Weaver. Once again a wormy chestnut top on an all-walnut body. This one has 4 strings and mechanical tuners. The larger soundbox creates a loud booming sound that tends to drowned out the melody if played on a single string, so I usually play double melody string on this one using a noter. It was made in November 2008.

Walnut and wormy chestnut are a beautiful combination of woods.

Greg

phil
@phil
8 years ago
139 posts

OK time for me to get my eyes checked9.gifGrin.gif I blew the Pics up a bit and I see what your talking about. Boy is my face red.Grin.gif

Geoff Black said:

Phil

It's actually a very light instrument and, although I can't measure the thickness of the sides, I would imagine they are similar to the thickness of top and back - which are only 1/8th. I think you are looking at the incised marks on top and back (think Homer Ledford-type simple incised decoration).

Patrick

Yes, I was sceptical before it arrived, but I agree it does sing out really well. Think it needs a little work still before it's possible to play in modern fashion...or I may decide to leave it as it, a supreme example of traditional craftsmanship.

Geoff Black
Geoff Black
@geoff-black
8 years ago
23 posts

Phil

It's actually a very light instrument and, although I can't measure the thickness of the sides, I would imagine they are similar to the thickness of top and back - which are only 1/8th. I think you are looking at the incised marks on top and back (think Homer Ledford-type simple incised decoration).

Patrick

Yes, I was sceptical before it arrived, but I agree it does sing out really well. Think it needs a little work still before it's possible to play in modern fashion...or I may decide to leave it as it, a supreme example of traditional craftsmanship.

CD
CD
@cd
8 years ago
61 posts

It is how God blessed this wood for this particular instrument.

phil
@phil
8 years ago
139 posts

Geoff can I ask you about the sides of that dulcimer? can you tell me how thick they are? it looks like they might be a 1/4" and the sound broad looks as if it set down inside of them.

Blue Hand
Blue Hand
@blue-hand
8 years ago
8 posts

Hi Geoff,

That looks like a really nice dulcimer. And do you agree with Clifford's statement thatthis kind ofwood made some of the best singing dulcimers?I can't wait to hear it in action:)

phil
@phil
8 years ago
139 posts

I know them books well Don. The one that had the Dulcimer was Book number 3.

John Shaw
John Shaw
@john-shaw
8 years ago
59 posts

Hello Geoff. Just to amplify what others have said, since chestnut trees in the Appalachians suffered the blight in the early twentieth century, they have only grown to a height of 3 feet or so. These days any chestnut wood used there for instruments or anything else is reclaimed from old buildings or furniture. It virtually always has oldwormholes in it - hence 'wormy chestnut'.

I have a wormy chestnut and walnutdulcimer made by the late Keith Young (wormy chestnut top and walnut back, sides, headand fretboard). This was one of his favourite wood combinations, which he regarded as giving a loud, strong sound.

phil
@phil
8 years ago
139 posts

I got the band saw. Without going to messure I know I can run a 4" wide broad through it I thinking it will go a bit bigger. If only we lived closer together I could cut it down for ya,

Don Moores said:

Phil

I made a dulcimer about 10 years ago with wormy chestnut top, rest of walnut. Got an old piece of barn beam that was grey and weather checked on two sides, and about a dozen coats of paint on the other two. When I put it through the planer,the wood underneath all that paint was beautiful, golden. I still have some left ... plan to make another. Problem is that every time I use my table saw 1/8 inch blade to cut a 1/8 inch thick piece, I'm losing half of the wood to sawdust, and it isn't being made any more. Before Imake another I need to find a friend with a big band saw!



phil said:

what great looking Dulcimers. I would love to find some Chestnut wood to make a dulcimer from, It would be so fitting for me considering my last name is Chestnut.Smile.gif

phil
@phil
8 years ago
139 posts

what great looking Dulcimers. I would love to find some Chestnut wood to make a dulcimer from, It would be so fitting for me considering my last name is Chestnut.Smile.gif

Pine
Pine
@pine
8 years ago
13 posts

Thanks Robin...i enjoy woodworking but this kinda stuff is WAY over my head!

Now if i could just learn to play it as well as some of the folks on this site!!

Pine

Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
8 years ago
1,044 posts

Pine, you've got a real piece of folk art there! Though it's not rare to see a dulcimer made of chestnut, it's not one of the most commonly used woods. American Chestnut is wood not easy to come by.




--
Robin T
one of the Moderators here :)
Keep a song in your heart!
Pine
Pine
@pine
8 years ago
13 posts

I also look forward to hearing yours geoff...it's a treasure. I wonder how similar it will sound? Mine has a redwood top so i would think yours may be a bit brighter. Have you posted a tune with it anywhere?

Pine

Sam
Sam
@sam
8 years ago
178 posts

Both instruments are fine examples of an artizan's craft. Beautiful, just beautiful.




--
The Dulcimer. If you want to preserve it, jam it!
Pine
Pine
@pine
8 years ago
13 posts

This discussion caught my eye as i too have a chestnut mtn dulcimer...except mine is only headstock, back and sides. The luthier, Harold Turner from S Carolina, said the chestnut was reclaimed from an old piano. Not pre-worm though. Is chestnut fairly often found in dulcimers? I've never seen it but i'm pretty new to dulcimers. Harold worked at the Hagood Mill, and thus the headstock...

Pine

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
8 years ago
1,749 posts

Wow is right! What a fabulous find, Geoff! I'm drooling over that one...

And the accompanying letter makes it so very special.

I look forward to hearing/seeing you playing it!




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
8 years ago
1,044 posts

Wow, Geoff, you've got a beauty and a treasure! That headstock is exquisite. And, yes, American Chestnut got hit with a terrible blight. Builders here are happy to get the wood from old barns and buildings that have been torn down.




--
Robin T
one of the Moderators here :)
Keep a song in your heart!
Geoff Black
Geoff Black
@geoff-black
8 years ago
23 posts

Hi All

Just received a 1983 Clifford Glenn 4 string which is made entirely from wormy chestnut (save nut, bridges and pegs which are walnut). It's delightful - a lovely natural golden yellow colour and it delivers a full sound akin to all-walnut dulcimers I've owned.

BUT, first of all why chestnut...and then why "wormy" chestnut? Is it for its appearance? Because it's by definition seasoned? Cheapness??! In a letter which accompanied the original sale of this dulcimer, Clifford said: "The reason I made it from Chestnut is that not long ago I made another one just like it except that it was a three stringer, and it was one of the best singing ones I ever made."

And second, is Clifford right when he says later in the letter: "I have made but very few like this (all chestnut wood) and it has probably been 20 years since I made the last one....this wood is becoming increasingly rare, as it is not growing anymore, for the blight killed the native american chestnut these many years ago.


updated by @geoff-black: 02/25/19 08:07:10PM