About the Luthier
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I have been making things since I was allowed to use my father’s tools in the early fifties. My brothers and I had free access to our basement with tools and a supply of wood. My father's philosophy was to just let us go at it. I don't remember him showing me how to use tools. To me they were self explanatory. We made boats, daggers, swords and other implements of warfare necessary to take part in the great works of literature that were being read to us and that later we would read ourselves. We joined King Arthur, Robin Hood and Old Shatterhand and Winnetou from the writings of Karl May. We lived in an idyllic garden oasis on a dead-end street that was the astronomical observatory of the Leiden University in the Netherlands. It bordered on the botanical gardens of the university, where we roamed freely and illegally after hours.
In sixth grade in a one-room school, I was introduced to "proper" wood working. We had school on Saturday mornings, and that time was devoted to the handcrafts. After paper crafts our first project in woodworking was to make a dowel by sawing a square stick out of a board, planing it to be eight-sided, shaving off the ridges with a piece of glass and then sanding it until it was round.
We grew up on recordings of folk music, of the Almanac singers, the Weavers and various of our own family members. My Aunt Peggy lived with us for a year while she was taking classes at the Leiden university. This was a special time for me. She would come around at bedtime with her banjo and sing us each a song. Music became an important part of my life. Especially in high school it offered me special meaning and a sense of balance. I had never done well with spelling and writing and I repeated several grades. I started playing folk guitar after a couple of years of classical guitar. I also became acquainted with the singing and playing of Jean Ritchie.
In 1965 I was invited by my aunt and uncle, John and Ellie Seeger, to run the craft shop at their Camp Killooleet in Hancock, Vermont. It was a life changing event that precipitated my decision to drop out of school at age twenty-one. I came back to the U.S. in 1966 for a second season at Killooleet and started work in the fall in the machine shop of the physics department at Yale University. There, I received on-the-job training. I learned to work to very close tolerances, to know where accuracy mattered and where "close enough" was a good measurement.
After another summer at Camp Killooleet, I entered Goddard College. When I got to college I planned my studies around crafts and education. Whenever I wanted something, my first thought would be, can I make it myself? In my second semester I took a musical instrument building seminar. I went off on my own and built five dulcimers. It never occurred to me that some instruction might be a useful thing to save time and shorten the learning curve. After all, I had looked at many dulcimers and knew what I wanted. Over the years I kept making dulcimers. My instruments have grown and matured over the years, but my A-model dulcimer still bears a strong resemblance to my first hourglass shaped dulcimer built in 1968.
Having grown up in a large musical family surrounded by folk music, I have learned to love and appreciate traditional instruments and their sounds. For this reason the craftsmanship, sound quality and action (ease of playing) of each instrument I make are all very important to me. I strive to produce high quality dulcimers of Shaker simplicity that will give a lifetime of enjoyment. Each instrument receives the time and care required to produce the highest quality possible.