Newsletters: 2012 | 2013 | 2015 | 2017

2013 Newsletter

Happy New Year! Yes, well, it is March, but I am getting a little better at getting the updates on the site.

First, there has been a price increase - a modest 4%. I have been avoiding it for a few years, but despite the news about inflation being low, my costs have substantially increased, especially for materials, and I have been left no choice.

The line of instruments offered is essentially the same this year as it was last.


The “dalai lama” setup, with a piezo pickup and both high and low impedance outputs, is discontinued. The goal has been to keep the on-board circuitry as simple and light in weight as possible. Complexity is better kept on the outside, in an external preamp. For those of you who want features, and can carry another pound, I recommend the LR Baggs Para Acoustic DI.

I install a piezo sensor in the bridge. But there are other options for pickups. Pickup the World uses a flat piezo tape, that's to be stuck with doublestick tape to the inside of the frame rail. There's also the Barcus Berry Planar Wave pickup, which is a little rectangular block that also is to be stuck to the inside of the instrument with doublestick tape. These each have their own tone colors. A bridge sensor gives a little more low-end response, and I like this because you can blend the signal with that from a decent microphone to give more of a sturdy sound in the main speakers. But I find both the Pickup the World and Barcus Berry sensors to function perfectly well. If you'd like to use one of these, however, you should, first, check the state of the adhesive tape from time to time to make sure the sensor is not peeling loose and, second, if the sensor comes wired to a plug, have it wired to jack inside the instrument, instead. It's much more durable. I don't stock these, but I can wire them to a jack, or to my own on-board preamps.

I am sometimes asked how often strings should be changed, and other questions of maintenance. I have written a small paper on this. I have also posted a video on YouTube of how to change a string. There should also, soon, be short videos on how to move treble bridge back into tune, and how to locate mysterious buzzes in the instrument. These problems are often simple enough to fix - certainly, simple enough to fix well enough to allow you to do the gig.


It is now hard to find in the east, unless it's old or recycled, and now I am using old or recycled redwood for tops. This means that there can be some marks or discolorations on the soundboards. But these do not affect the sound.

Carbon Fiber

This is something Sam Rizzetta pioneered, and I am making CF versions of the Compact and Extended Range. CF has great strength for its weight, and has been very useful in allowing the creation of durable versions of notoriously fragile things like harps and cellos. For hammered dulcimers it has not been quite as handy. For one thing, wood hammered dulcimers are not that fragile - the box has to resist close to 1,000 kilos of the compression load of the strings, after all. For another thing, it's hammered, and it's hard to escape making some elements a little heavy; a hammer is swung against a string course, and so that string course has to be commensurately massive. And the soundboard and braces have to match the strings. And the tuning pins and hitch pins have to sit in a reasonably massive block of wood. So, it has not been possible to use CF to cut the weight of the instruments in any real significant way. But as CF does not react to changes in humidity, like wood, CF hammered dulcimers do hold their tuning better than regular wood ones. If you plan to busk on the streets in Athens, Georgia in July, a CF instrument might be worth the expense.


There is an almost universal hope among players that the ideal set of hammers will make up for a lack of practice. While a bad set of hammers will certainly handicap you, once you find some that work pretty well for you , you should just play with them and not worry too much about possible perfection. I make just two kinds, and pad them with calfskin or leave the bare. I'm asked to customize them occasionally, but I don't have time.


I do make light folding stands from time to time, but as I don't make adjustable ones I prefer to make them for people who are ordering instruments, because I can get a better idea of what the stand will be carrying and the size of the person using it. Durable adjustable stands are not hard to come by and can be found in various places, String Fever Music being one.


I live and work at the end of a gravel road near Martinsburg, WV, a pretty easy drive from I81. Instruments are always in process, and so something may not be yet worth looking at, let alone playable, when you want to stop by. But I do have examples of the models I offer. If you would like to visit, drop me an email for directions.