Wonder who made my dulcimer

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Wonder who made my dulcimer

Postby DownVirginia8 » Sun May 07, 2017 5:13 pm

Hi, I recently acquired a used dulcimer and am wondering about the maker and if there is any history behind this dulcimer. Inside the sound hole I can see "No Y 777 a 77 Mitchell" and underneath that is "1980". I assume it was made in 1980 by someone named Mitchell. However, since the writing says "No Y 777 a 77", I am guessing that this is only one of many dulcimers made by Mitchell. The dulcimer appears to be all walnut, has an hourglass body, scroll head, a vibrating string length of 29 inches (measured from the nut to bridge). The body is 5 inches wide at the top part of the hourglass shape and 6 inches wide at the bottom part of the hourglass. Instead of having inlays at the 3rd and 5th frets, it has diamond shaped wood inlays at the 2nd, 4th, and 8th frets. Does anybody know anything about a dulcimer maker named Mitchell?


I've added pictures. The picture of the writing inside isn't the best, but I can't get enough light there to get a better picture.
Attachments
Dulcimer2.jpg
Picture of signature
Dulcimer1.jpg
Picture of dulcimer
Last edited by DownVirginia8 on Sun May 07, 2017 10:06 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Wonder who made my dulcimer

Postby strumelia » Sun May 07, 2017 9:33 pm

Could be Howie Mitchell, very well known and influential player and builder. But you need to post a photo of the instrument, maybe another photo of the label, too.
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Re: Wonder who made my dulcimer

Postby DownVirginia8 » Sun May 07, 2017 10:03 pm

Thanks for the information and the suggestion. I added a couple of pictures.
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Re: Wonder who made my dulcimer

Postby KenH » Mon May 08, 2017 7:18 am

I agree with Lisa -- this could certainly be a Howie Mitchell instrument. He made a number of variations over the years, which would explain the code numbers.

Howie's son David comes around here periodically, you should be able to find him in the Member List and contact him with photos.
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Re: Wonder who made my dulcimer

Postby strumelia » Mon May 08, 2017 10:50 am

Seeing the pictures now, I'm changing my opinion.

I have an old 1980s kit dulcimer that looks a lot like that- from the Dulcimer Shoppe. See how the frets go all the way down almost to the tail, same tuners, same long peghead, same exact heart shapes. And the most telling thing is that the people buying the kits would be supplied with a label (green?) that they could put inside the instrument, or not....but that the person who assembled it would then be able to sign their name - not on the label, which had no room for more names... but right on the wood inside. Mine had the assembler's name burned onto the wood inside, in a different place than the DulcimerShoppe label. Others might just sign it with a pencil on the wood inside, as in your case. Get a flashlight and look carefully inside the dulcimer for any trace of a label, perhaps rattling around in there having come unglued...or a paler rectangle where a label might have previously been.
By 1980 I'm guessing Howie Mitchell would not have been crudely scrawling his last name in pencil like that- I'd wager he would have had a label.
I'm betting this is a walnut Dulcimer Shoppe kit dulcimer, much like this one (and does yours have the same peghead scroll shape from the side as mine?):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTf4elw9clY&index=1&list=PLEDA7958CA5FC2EEA

Kit dulcimers were very popular around 1980, and more than one company offered them- you buy the pre-cut wood kit and put it together yourself. They often were nice to play, though the inexpensive tuners were not liable to last forever. Here's an ad in Popular Science magazine from 1978 for kit dulcimers:
https://books.google.com/books?id=jAAAAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PA204&dq=Edukits%20Workshop%2C%20Department%20777-A.%20Hewlett%2C%20NY&pg=PA204#v=onepage&q=dulcimers&f=false
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Re: Wonder who made my dulcimer

Postby Frimp » Mon May 08, 2017 5:48 pm

I wholeheartedly agree with Strumelia.
That's just how Dulcimer Shoppe kits look when assembled by a novice.

A person who assembles the kit can add their own touches to it.
For example, I usually replaced the top piece with some Sitka spruce.
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Re: Wonder who made my dulcimer

Postby DownVirginia8 » Mon May 08, 2017 7:36 pm

Yes, Strumelia the scroll head and the tuners on my dulcimer look like yours. I couldn't find a tag inside. The tuners on mine are in need of replacement, but with enough messing around I can get the dulcimer in decent tune. Based on the way the diamond shaped wood inlays and the holes they fit into on the fretboard aren't quite perfectly matched up, I'd be inclined to think a novice made the dulcimer. The dulcimer has a nice sound to my untrained ears and the only thing I don't like about it is that the action is really high, but maybe I can get that adjusted. Thanks everyone for the information.
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Re: Wonder who made my dulcimer

Postby KenH » Wed May 10, 2017 10:33 pm

Adjusting the action height is pretty easy. Start a new thread asking about that, and we'll talk you through it.
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Re: Wonder who made my dulcimer

Postby DownVirginia8 » Thu May 11, 2017 5:11 pm

Thanks, I'll start a new thread.
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