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Dulcimer Mysteries & Histories

November 10, 2023
Good Morning, Y'all!
It has been a crazy week! Now that festival season is finished for the year, we're back in full "making instruments" mode. We have a good supply of orders which we've promised for Christmas, and barring machine breakdowns (or personnel breakdowns - Cheyenne, don't hurt yourself on that band saw!!!), we're on track for getting them all delivered in time.
Most of you know that Folkcraft started out in Vermont, and spent most of its life (before I took the reins in 2007) in Winsted, Connecticut. Well, here's an interesting bit of history for you! (and I have permission from everyone involved to share their stories here)

label inside a possible folkcraft dulcimer circa 1990s
The label inside, visible from the sound hole, glued to the back of the dulcimer.
Monday morning's batch of emails included one with this message:
"I am trying to find information on a dulcimer I recently purchased. I am told it is a Folkcraft, however the label inside reads as follows:

Wil-Eze Would's
A Division Of JTW Enterprises
Mfg. for Common Treasury from
2 July 1997

It is a beautifully-built instrument and I would just like to know more about it. The person who sold it to me said that he thought the person who built it was a craftsman named Wil at Folkcraft."

top view of the possibly folkcraft mystery dulcimer
The dulcimer in question. The cat sound hole design is definitely Folkcraft's, and the instrument mostly looks like a 1990's FSH Series instrument. Mostly...
The person who sent the email mentioned that he lived in Winsted when he purchased the dulcimer.

scrollhead of the mystery possibly folkcraft dulcimerThe scroll head is correct for a production instrument from the 1990s.

closeup of sound holes mystery possibly folkcraft dulcimer
It is a beautiful Western red cedar top, but the sound holes aren't placed quite right for the body shape. Something was "off"...
My first thought was that the instrument was a kit dulcimer, since the label inside was clearly NOT a Folkcraft label. But one of the top pieces clearly had a Folkcraft sound hole, which (to my knowledge) the company didn't sell with the dulcimer kits. By now, I was intrigued, so I contacted the expert, Folkcraft founder David Marks. David's reply was highly-interesting:
"That instrument was built by Wil Schaefer, an old friend of mine, since deceased. It was probably out of various parts. Wil lived in one of the apartments in the house part of the shop for a while. He dated Dallas Cline who founded Common Treasury. "JTW" represented him and his children - Justin and Tania. Wil worked for me once in a while, and was around the shop a lot just like my other late friend, George Haggerty. There's a lot of old history there."
Many of you knew both Dallas Cline and George Haggerty, and there definitely IS a lot of dulcimer history with just THOSE two people! There were a LOT of dulcimer luminaries associated with Folkcraft - even in those early days of the company. David seemed to have a knack for picking great people. 
So, long-story-to-short: A man named Wil sometimes worked at Folkcraft, and as a side hustle, assembled dulcimers from cast-off Folkcraft parts. Thanks to David (not Marks) the dulcimer's owner, and to David (Marks, this time) for giving me permission to share the information exchange with you all. Both of the David's messages to me were edited for clarity and brevity, so any typos introduced are all from my keyboard.
I love learning about the history of both Folkcraft Instruments and FolkRoots Dulcimers. A lot of history has been made over the decades. Click the link below for a high-level overview you might find interesting:
Thanks for reading - I hope you all have great weekends!
Richard Ash, luthier-who-has-immense-respect-for-the-geniuses-that-made-Folkcraft-what-it-is-today