Wormy Chestnut for dulcimers - Clifford Glenn

Alegre1
Alegre1
@alegre1
2 months ago
35 posts

Banjimer:

Most of the dulcimer builders who grew up in the tradition tuned their instruments for just intonation to sweeten the blending of the melody and drones.  Modern dulcimer makers use a different intonation (equal temperament) which blends more readily into triads (3-note chords) to facilitate modern chord melody styles.

The older, traditional "just intonation" gives the most traditional dulcimer sound with the bass and middle drone strings ringing out a constant 1-5 drone against the changing melody.  Leonard and Clifford Genn, Edd Presnell, Homer Ledford, A.W. Jeffreys, and a few others continued to use the just tempered scale, and their instruments were made with the drones in mind.

To get one of those sweet sounding "just intonation" instruments like the Glenns made, you need to find one of their instruments in the used marketplace or purchase an instrument from one of a handful of traditional builders.  You will find them in the The Traditional Appalachian Dulcimer (TTAD) forum.  They build beautiful traditional dulcimers based on the tried and true techniques of the Glenns and others.

Your post is so informative--thank you for posting it. 

Alegre1
Alegre1
@alegre1
2 months ago
35 posts

Strumelia:

There is nothing particularly special about 'banjo strings' vs 'dulcimer strings'... except in relation to their being offered in convenient pre-packaged sets. Banjo 'sets' are geared towards banjo scale length (generally 25"-30") and standard banjo tuning: gDGBD (the last D being an octave higher than the first D, equal to a dulcimer high d).

The reason old timers and older books mention using banjo strings is not because they thought banjo strings were better suited than dulcimer strings. Rather, it's simply because there didn't used to BE many places to buy pre-packaged sets of 'dulcimer strings' in those pre-1970s days, whereas banjo string sets have been around for a lot longer and were way easier to find in music stores. Old timers were resourceful and used whatever they could get their hands on. This was pre-internet- there were no websites to order strings from- you had to either go to a music store or order from a paper catalogue using stamps envelopes and sending checks. (and then "allow 6 to 8 weeks for delivery", LOL)

The truly best approach is to use a string calculator (Strothers is the current best one online) and based on the VSL of YOUR dulcimer and the notes that YOU want to tune the strings to, select the gauges you'll need for that tuning. Then buy some separate steel strings (usually loop-end) from a site like juststrings .com. Have some extras on hand for breakage. If you have a typical sized dulcimer and simply want to use typical DAd or DAA type tunings, you can buy packets of dulcimer string 'sets' and it'll work just fine in most cases. It's convenient if you don't need anything out of the norm.

Commercial strings heavier than a certain gauge will more likely be wound, which you'll notice when ordering strings online. If you have your heart set on unwound heavy bass strings then you 'may' have to buy a spool of that heavy gauge music wire and cut/twist your own unwound bass strings. It depends on just how heavy the gauge is that you want. Personally, I found heavy unwound bass strings to really hurt my fingers when fretting, so I do use wound heavy bass strings on my banjos and dulcimers. If you always play with a noter this wouldn't matter.

Thank you for such a detailed post on strings ... this is very enlightening!

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
3 months ago
873 posts

I doubt that banjo strings were used by early because of the sound they produced. My guess is that banjo strings were used because they had loop rather than ball ends (guitar strings). It was a matter of which type of string was easier to attach to the dulcimer.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 months ago
2,077 posts

There is nothing particularly special about 'banjo strings' vs 'dulcimer strings'... except in relation to their being offered in convenient pre-packaged sets. Banjo 'sets' are geared towards banjo scale length (generally 25"-30") and standard banjo tuning: gDGBD (the last D being an octave higher than the first D, equal to a dulcimer high d).

The reason old timers and older books mention using banjo strings is not because they thought banjo strings were better suited than dulcimer strings. Rather, it's simply because there didn't used to BE many places to buy pre-packaged sets of 'dulcimer strings' in those pre-1970s days, whereas banjo string sets have been around for a lot longer and were way easier to find in music stores. Old timers were resourceful and used whatever they could get their hands on. This was pre-internet- there were no websites to order strings from- you had to either go to a music store or order from a paper catalogue using stamps envelopes and sending checks. (and then "allow 6 to 8 weeks for delivery", LOL)

The truly best approach is to use a string calculator (Strothers is the current best one online) and based on the VSL of YOUR dulcimer and the notes that YOU want to tune the strings to, select the gauges you'll need for that tuning. Then buy some separate steel strings (usually loop-end) from a site like juststrings .com. Have some extras on hand for breakage. If you have a typical sized dulcimer and simply want to use typical DAd or DAA type tunings, you can buy packets of dulcimer string 'sets' and it'll work just fine in most cases. It's convenient if you don't need anything out of the norm.

Commercial strings heavier than a certain gauge will more likely be wound, which you'll notice when ordering strings online. If you have your heart set on unwound heavy bass strings then you 'may' have to buy a spool of that heavy gauge music wire and cut/twist your own unwound bass strings. It depends on just how heavy the gauge is that you want. Personally, I found heavy unwound bass strings to really hurt my fingers when fretting, so I do use wound heavy bass strings on my banjos and dulcimers. If you always play with a noter this wouldn't matter.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990

updated by @strumelia: 03/02/22 08:57:22AM
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
3 months ago
1,926 posts

As Dan said, there were old time builders who used banjo strings, but I don' think that that is the reason for the different sound.  There have always only been a literal handful of music wire manufacturerscubic inches under the hood" of many  and many string makers and brands.  Basically wire is wire. 

What does, from our own experience as Dan says, make a difference is the wound versus plain steel bass string.  That, even I can hear a difference in the sound.  That, IMHO is what helps produce that "high silvery" old time sound. 

Another factor, IMHO,  is the generally smaller interior volume "cubic inches under the hood" of many old time dulcimers compared to the deeper-bodied modern instruments.  Larger interior volumes emphasize  the baritone and bass tones.

Dan
Dan
@dan
3 months ago
154 posts

I. D. Stamper used banjo strings on his 36 inch VSL pieces! I seem to recall Jean Ritchie making reference to using banjo strings in one of her books? (Page 17 in the Dulcimer Book) You will find a very different "timber" using a wound bass string verses the solid music wire. I guess it's going to be how "you" define old time sound, but yes very different between wound and plain string. (I use solid wire for most my pieces.)


updated by @dan: 03/02/22 09:04:31AM
Kevin63
Kevin63
@kevin63
3 months ago
20 posts

Thank you again everyone for such incredible advice/information. I’ve now read this thread three times and I’m still learning!

I’m an admitted vintage mountain dulcimer collector/junkie and purist. I own a Homer Ledford, Edd Presnell, AW Jefferies, Clifford Glenn, Rugg CapriTaurus, Keith Young, George Orthey and a Bill Davis.

Also, I’m about 2 years in playing and collecting. I love players/makers like Richard Farina, Michael & Howard Rugg, Jerry Rockwell, Steven Seifert, Jean Ritchie, Joellen Lapidus and Neal Hellman.

I’m so fascinated by the beautiful sweet sound of a mountain dulcimer and the early high quality craftsmanship.

Ok, now with all that said I have a question for everyone…I once read that the older dulcimers used banjo strings to get the nice old sound.

I looked at a John Pearse set of (5) banjo strings. They’re  light/medium gauge .010, .012, .013, .20W, .010. I further read you can use the two .010 strings for the melody strings and .012. & .013 for others and set aside the.20W.

Does anyone have thoughts on using banjo strings verses dulcimer strings?

Thank you for reading. 

Banjimer
Banjimer
@greg-gunner
3 months ago
131 posts

Interesting dulcimore for sure.  I wasn't aware of the fact the Glenns may have helped Stanley Hicks fill orders for dulcimers.

The Glenns apparently made several dulcimer models:

1. A Teardrop Model (1950s)

2. Their Standard North Carolina Model (Based on a dulcimer made by Leonard Glenn's grandfather, Eli Taylor Presnell, in the 1880s.)

3. Their Standard Kentucky Model ( Based on one of Homer Ledford's or Jethro Amburgey's dulcimers.)

4. A Nathan Hicks Model (Based on a Nathan Hicks dulcimer taken to Leonard Glenn by Nathan's son, Lewis Hicks, with a request for two copies for Hicks family members.)  This pattern was used to make dulcimers for Frank Proffitt.

The dulcimer in the picture appears to be made in pattern 3, the Standard Kentucky model.  It would be interesting to know the explanation for the Stanley Hicks label in the interior.  If I had to guess I would say Stanley saw an economic opportunity at a time when he was not yet building the instruments commercially.  Stanley was known as an entertainer and often had to be talked into building an instrument.

Incidentally, Paul Dolce ("Slingerland") purchased all of the Glenn dulcimer patterns from Clifford Glenn after he retired from actively making the instruments.


updated by @greg-gunner: 02/21/22 06:26:25AM
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 months ago
2,077 posts

Geoff that is wild!  surprised




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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
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Geoff Black
Geoff Black
@geoff-black
3 months ago
25 posts

Unfortunately, Hicks dulcimers can also be Glenns!  This 1969 dulcimer is a case in point.  Doesn't look like a Glenn dulcimer shape - much more Kentucky style - though it has their headstock.  Look inside and there's a Leonard Glenn label with a Hicks one rather crudely stuck on top of it!  I understand that the Glenns used to 'help out' when the Hicks order book got too long....

Glenn_Hicks 1969 3.93  1.JPGGlenn_Hicks 1969 3.93  6.JPGGlenn_Hicks 1969 3.93  7.JPG

Banjimer
Banjimer
@greg-gunner
3 months ago
131 posts

Richard, I'm still looking for a Stanley Hicks dulcimer at a reasonable price.

Regarding the traditional dulcimer builders on TTAD, the list begins with Bobby Ratliff, Dan Cox, and John Knopf.

Bobby builds traditional Virginia style dulcimers and a replica of the McKinley Craft hourglass.

Dan can build just about anything you want.  His reproduction dulcimers include the Praetorius scheitholt, the 1608 hommel, a Ben Hicks dulcimer, a Frank Linney Glenn dulcimer, a dulcimer based upon a picture contained in the L. Allen Smith book, and a traditional style dulcimer of his own design based on historic dulcimers.

John Knopf builds excellent reproductions of the Uncle Ed Thomas dulcimer, the Will Singleton dulcimer, various Russell and Melton dulcimers, and the 19th century Tennessee Music boxes.

If you've got a traditional dulcimer in mind, one of the three builders above can probably make your dream a reality.

In addition, TTAD members Ken Hulme and Ken Longfield have been known to build traditional instruments if asked.


updated by @greg-gunner: 02/20/22 08:59:17PM
Richard Streib
Richard Streib
@richard-streib
3 months ago
189 posts

Well said greg-gunner. Just depends on the sound each likes in the dulcimer.

Would be nice to have one of the old ones, like a Presnell. So what about those builders on TTAD?

Banjimer
Banjimer
@greg-gunner
3 months ago
131 posts

Most of the dulcimer builders who grew up in the tradition tuned their instruments for just intonation to sweeten the blending of the melody and drones.  Modern dulcimer makers use a different intonation (equal temperament) which blends more readily into triads (3-note chords) to facilitate modern chord melody styles.

The older, traditional "just intonation" gives the most traditional dulcimer sound with the bass and middle drone strings ringing out a constant 1-5 drone against the changing melody.  Leonard and Clifford Genn, Edd Presnell, Homer Ledford, A.W. Jeffreys, and a few others continued to use the just tempered scale, and their instruments were made with the drones in mind.

To get one of those sweet sounding "just intonation" instruments like the Glenns made, you need to find one of their instruments in the used marketplace or purchase an instrument from one of a handful of traditional builders.  You will find them in the The Traditional Appalachian Dulcimer (TTAD) forum.  They build beautiful traditional dulcimers based on the tried and true techniques of the Glenns and others.

Richard Streib
Richard Streib
@richard-streib
3 months ago
189 posts

I have a beautiful reproduction of an early '60's (if I remember right) Leonard Glenn made of butternut and walnut. Kevin Messenger built it stating it was his first Glenn reproduction and he copied the woods of the piece he had seen and the fret scale/intonation. Mine has a wonderfully sweet sound in DAA. It does not like DAd.

I once talked with an instrument repair person who thought the the Glenn's scale pattern was miscalculated. This person had been asked to "fix" a number of the Glenn instruments for some of his NC clients wanting to play modern melody-chord style. The Glenn dulcimers simply were not made with DAd in mind.

Geoff Black
Geoff Black
@geoff-black
3 months ago
25 posts

Hi All

Thanks for the reminder of good times past!

I have a few Glenns and I would want to use 1:5:5 tuning on all of them (DAA or CGG) - they really sing and intonate beautifully.  You won't get the same effect in DAD,

I endorse everything said about getting wooden friction pegs 'unstuck' and how to get them to work properly as they did when new.

As for the chestnut top, I think I have a few candidates.  The first is one of my earliest Glenns and still a firm favourite - a 1983 dulcimer which has an interesting letter from Clifford about choosing secondhand American chestnut!  The second is from Leonard and not wormy, but I think still chestnut.  Both are some of the best-sounding Glenns I have - a light but stiff tonewood.

Clifford Glenn 83  10 edit.JPG

Leonard Glenn 1981  17.JPG

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
3 months ago
1,926 posts

That's me Strumelia -- Retro Ken!

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 months ago
2,077 posts

And additional thanks to @geoff-black for starting this real nice thread over ten years ago!

-I wonder Geoff- do you still have your wormy chestnut Glenn? Any photo you could add for us? Would love to see your thoughts on this dulcimer of Kevin's.  nod




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Kevin63
Kevin63
@kevin63
3 months ago
20 posts

Wow…thank you everyone for your incredible advice! I’ve learned so much and every reply was so helpful. And thank you @strumelia for reducing my photo size.

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
3 months ago
873 posts

That Clifford Glenn dulcimer is beautiful; a real treasure. You've been given good advice, so I have nothing to add to it. Just enjoy the dulcimer.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
3 months ago
1,326 posts

Wow, @kevin63, your Clifford Glenn is a beauty!  

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 months ago
2,077 posts

That dulcimer is lovely!  (btw Kevin I reduced the size of your pix- they were way off the page)
Not having a 6.5 fret, I would strongly recommend a 1-5-5 (DAA, CGG) tuning... would make your life way easier in playing tunes without running into 'missing' notes.

I highly recommend the "Peg Drops"- for both sticking and slipping pegs. The drops seem to correct all woes with stubborn wooden pegs. They are made from liquified rosin and they make my wooden pegs behave beautifully- holding tight when i want but also moving smoothly and not getting stuck.

Since the peg ends are not actually sticking out from the pegbox, use a little dowel with a bit of fabric over the end (to cosmetically protect the peg ends), and tap them inwards as Greg said. Tap lightly with a little hammer and increase only as needed. Make sure the dulcimer has been for several hours in a room that is not too cold or too dry when you do this. Never put the instrument anywhere near a stove or radiator.

The only Glenn dulcimer I ever saw in person was from the 70s and as I recall was quite petite and slender. Use the Strothers string calculator! If it's a petite dulcimer you may not want a standard string set.

Most dealers in old items consider "antique" as anything 100 yrs old or more... and "vintage" to be something between 50-99 yrs old. 'Retro' is a term people nowadays use for something like 20-40 yrs old.
A 1975 dulcimer would now be 47 yrs old, and personally I'd call it vintage.
KenH I'd call you and myself vintage as well, but maybe you'd prefer Retro Ken?  lolol  oldman




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
3 months ago
1,926 posts

 I won't call a 1975 dulcimer "vintage" -- that would make me an "antique"!   Those earlier post-revival instruments, for the most part, weren't designed with DAd home tuning in mind.   That doesn't mean that the pegs won't hold that tuning.  It just means that if you are absolutely set on DAd as the home tuning you will want to experiment with different gauges of melody strings -- instead of the .012 which comes in a package set, you may want to try .011 or a .013

If you are playing with others, then DAA or Ddd would be good home tunings.  If you play mostly by yourself, as I do, then the key of C (CGG or Ccc) might fit your voice better. 

I find that those Bagpipe tunings (Ddd/Ccc) have an advantage on dulcimers without 6+ frets, similar to the advantage that the 6+ fret gives to players who prefer DAd/Chord Melody.  Ccc/Ddd gives us the ability to easily play in two or more Modes without re-tuning.   

Richard Streib
Richard Streib
@richard-streib
3 months ago
189 posts

Beautiful Dulcimer Kevin63. The Glenns intonation seems to favor DAA tuning. I have an earlier Glenn reproduction that is very sweet in DAA.

Banjimer
Banjimer
@greg-gunner
3 months ago
131 posts

Regarding string gauges to use on a Clifford Glenn dulcimer, I have found that standard string sets sold by GHS or other manufacturers will work just fine for D-A-A tuning.  Bass = .020-.022, Middle = .012, Melody = .012.

If you have trouble with peg slippage in D-A-A tuning, lowering the tuning one whole step to C-G-G may solve the problem.

If you want to use D-A-d tuning, I'd recommend a string gauge of .011 or .010 for the melody string(s).

Banjimer
Banjimer
@greg-gunner
3 months ago
131 posts

To loosen the pegs try tapping them lightly on the end (tip) of the peg shaft that protrudes through the peg hole.   The idea is to reverse the process used when tuning wooden pegs.  To get the peg to hold its tuning we force it into the peg hole to create more friction.  To "unstick" the peg we tap it back out from the opposite side.

For pegs that keep slipping, you can use a product called Ardsley Peg Drop Compound.  Usually a single drop on the area of the shaft that rests inside the peg hole is all that's needed.

For pegs that are sticking you can use a product called W.E. Hill Peg Compound.  It comes in a tube very similar to a tube of chapstick in appearance.  Remove the string, rub some of the W.E. Hill Compound on the shaft, and reinsert the peg into the peg hole.  Test the peg to make sure it is no longer sticking, restring, and you are ready to go.

Both products (or something similar) can be purchased online or directly from a music store that sells and services violins.

If you play a dulcimer with wooden pegs, these two products should be part of your dulcimer maintenance kit along with wire cutters, fingerboard oil, etc.


updated by @greg-gunner: 02/20/22 06:14:30AM
Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 months ago
1,571 posts

Hey @kevin63, I'm no expert on friction tuners, but there are products called peg compound or peg dope that you might try.  Since it appears you want to put on new strings (something we should all do more often), you might take off the existing strings first, then use a tiny bit of that stuff and work on the tuners before re-stringing. I'm sure others with more experience will chime in. 

To determine string gauge, you need to know the vibrating string length (distance between nut and bridge).  The age of the dulcimer really has nothing to do with it.  Neither does whether you have ball end or loop end strings.  You can use the Strothers String Gauge Calculator to get an estimate.  That tool errs on the light side, but it seems like that's what you want to do anyway.

No tuning is necessarily tighter than any other, but some tunings may be tight for certain string gauges.  What I mean is that whether you want to tune DAA or DAd (which would be the most obvious choices) will determine what gauge you choose for the melody string.

Since that dulcimer has no 6+ fret, it was probably tuned most of the time to DAA or CGG.  So plug one of those tunings into the string gauge calculator, indicate the vibrating string length, and see what comes up.  You will probably want to experiment and see what works best, but the calculator will give you a safe, light point to start with.




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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.
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Kevin63
Kevin63
@kevin63
3 months ago
20 posts

Hello,

I recently purchased a beautiful Clifford Glenn wormy dulcimer. I have a few questions for the community’s help. 

1. How do I untwist the wooden tuning pegs if they’re extremely tight? I’m afraid if I was to force the pegs to loosen I could crack or break the peg. Any suggestions to loosen the wood men tuning pegs I would greatly appreciate.

2. Since this is a vintage 1975 Dulcimer what type of strings and thickness gauge would you suggest. Currently it has ball strings and they seem very thin which I like. I believe my dulcimer has 0.010/0.010/0.010/0.018 strings.

3. Tuning a vintage four string dulcimer would you suggest DAA, DGD, CCG? I have found that DAD seems to be too tight for older dulcimer‘s.

Thank you for your replies.

Kevin

originaloriginaloriginaloriginal

Anne Bowman
Anne Bowman
@anne-bowman
7 years ago
54 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
10 years ago
129 posts

Thanks Ken I'll have the Chestnut Next week.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
10 years ago
1,926 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
10 years ago
173 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
10 years ago
129 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
10 years ago
131 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
10 years ago
129 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
10 years ago
25 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
10 years ago
61 posts

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

phil
@phil
10 years ago
129 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
10 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
10 years ago
129 posts

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

John Shaw
John Shaw
@john-shaw
10 years ago
60 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
10 years ago
129 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
10 years ago
129 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
10 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
10 years ago
1,326 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.

Pine
Pine
@pine
10 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
10 years ago
171 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
10 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
10 years ago
2,077 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
10 years ago
1,326 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.

Geoff Black
Geoff Black
@geoff-black
10 years ago
25 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: 03/02/22 09:03:59AM