Where's Homer II?

Curtis Carlisle Bouterse
08/10/14 05:05:45PM

I had hoped that by now some resident of Sutton would have delved into the records and narrowed the identity of 'Homer of Sutton." This dulcimer definitely doesn't look like a one-off so I suspect there may be others. (I recently contacted the Town of Sutton website to inquire about older instrument makers. Reply pending.)

It is made of some rather indistinctive wood that seems only slightly lighter (oxidized but a different color) inside than the stained outside. It is 35" o.a. with the upper bout 6 1/8" wide, the lower 6 3/4," and the waist 5 5/8." The boards are 7/32" thick and nailed together, with no linings or braces; the (hollowed out) fretboard is 1 1/4" high and 1 5/16" wide, with neatly-placed wire staple frets. The round(ish) soundholes seem to have been added, or at least enlarged, after the instrument was assembled: there are tool marks on the inner wall of the side under the largest (and closest to the side) hole. The most enigmatic aspect is the string length. There is a slot (with no nut) at the proximal end but there is also a filled slot slightly down from it; likewise there is a [very strange] nut at the distal end but a worn area just in front of it. Thus, there are four different possibilities of VSL. [I will eventually set up a testing board with all the varieties and see/hear if there are any more-logical sequences than others. So, those who want to hear what it sounds like will have to wait like the rest of us.] The "very strange" nut at the tail end seems to be made of plastic, though to me it looks most like amber. It is golden colored, slightly translucent, but is also partially covered and/or patched with putty and wood chips. I'm not sure it's the best candidate for retention but it seems at least stable, so I'll try. The area around the end also seems crudely modified and puttied, with a rusty metal (repurposed?) tailpiece. Except for the nut areas, however, it appears fairly well constructed, giving no impression of an amateur. The most distinctive aspect of the instrument, of course, is the carved head. It could be a woman, or perhaps an Indian, but lacking any evidence or identifying marks it is, probably, sufficient to observe it was likely intended to portray something more specific than generalized.

[I trust this has been linked to the West Virginia Group.]