Wood Working Class Made Fun
Those who know me also know that music is an important part of my life. Give me a guitar or a sweet fiddle and I am content to play tunes I learned long ago. When my sons were in junior high they each had a class in wood working. The teacher was a man who was born and reared right here in the Blue Ridge and almost each year in the shop class he taught, he helped his student make a dulcimer, Under his watchful eye the boys sanded each piece of wood they had chosen to make their dulcimer. The woods varied from cherry, Walnut , pine and maple. the fret wire, tuning machines, and strings were paid for by the school.
The instruments when completed had been designed almost entirely by the student with ornamental sound holes of their own choosing. Some had the f holes as you might see on a violin or mandolin while others had sound holes cut in the shape of a heart and I know of at least one that had the shape of a coon hound carved into the top.
It is interesting to me to know the dulcimer is unique to the Appalachian mountains and was introduced by Scott-Irish immigrants to the Southern mountains. The zither is a comparable instrument. The dulcimer gained popularity during the folk revival of the 1950's and 60's. Dulcimers today are the four string variety but still have one octave. The three string dulcimer is what my sons made in shop at school.
Each week my sons would tell me the progress they made with their dulcimers and my oldest even learned to play his before ever bringing it home. Evidently, Jason, our oldest has an ear for music, and enough talent in his genes he surprised the shop teacher when he tuned the instrument and was soon playing a Hank Williams Junior song, There's a Tear in My Beer.
The dulcimer is a nice lap instrument with soft tones. The drone strings provide the harmony notes for the melody string folks with little music aptitudes can soon play simple melodies. Today kits to build a dulcimer can be purchased by those who have a desire to make their own instruments.