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How Big Is The Dulcimer Community?

May 10, 2024
Good Morning, Y'all!
I had a question posed to me this morning, and would love to have your input on the answer. Here it is: "What is the total size of the dulcimer community?"

Quantifying an actual number is pretty challenging, so let's establish a few things. By "dulcimer" we're talking about mountain dulcimer, in all of the variations. And "community"? Let's say "anyone who has played one in the previous 12 months." I'm not going to count a person who touches the strings of a dulcimer while it is on the wall of a store, or other "non-player-touches" like that. 

The question in the first paragraph was in response to the stats on this newsletter (which I shared with Y'all last week). Does Folkcraft have regular contact with a significant percentage of the dulcimer community? Probably. Do we reach a large percentage, or even half of the dulcimer players? Probably not. There's my answer.

What do you think about our instrument's representation in the general public? My town (Woodburn, Indiana) has about six active players, out of 1600 residents. But that number might be skewed (high) because of Folkcraft Instruments being located here, in the middle of town, right next to the post office. (And three of the six are me, my dad, and my wife!)
I'll share some of your thoughts (reply to this email) in next week's newsletter.
With that said - Here's what we've been up to this week:
Pam's on vacation. On a beach. She's probably NOT thinking that much about making cases!
Cheyenne's been making customer dulcimers. In the photo below, he's doing the initial pass of sanding, using a palm sander, before switching to the tedious task of hand sanding.

cheyenne sanding a folkcraft dulcimer

Casey's been gluing up DulciVox braces.
(top part of the photo below)

underside view of folkcraft dulcivox braces and top
In the photo above, you're seeing the inside of a DulciVox top. You can see that we've hollowed out the fretboard, and cut a hole in the top, so that the 10 or so cubic inches of air inside the fretboard are now part of the body's resonating chamber. The dark stripe in the middle of the top? The inside of the mahogany fretboard.
In the photo below, there is a big stack of fretboards for cardboard kits - made by Jim (Dad). He's nearly done with this project, now. Almost all of these fretboards will go to the same customer. They're for a school's summer enrichment program, taught by a champion dulcimer player. Lucky kids!

a stack of fretboards for folkcraft cardboard dulcimer kits

I've been working on getting our latest acquisitions (Dana Gruber's books, and Shelley Stevens' books) integrated into the Folkcraft catalog. Not just getting the books on our websites ( and, but also getting them listed at Amazon and Walmart. And formatting the PDFs, and setting up each book's PDF with the company that prints the books for us. Updating the covers, assigning UPC/ISBN numbers, all the back-end workload that slows me down in the shop!
Books On Sale. While I'm thinking about it - when we bought the rights to print and sell Shelley's catalog a couple of months ago, I also bought Shelley's stock of pre-printed books. A LOT of pre-printed books. So I'm doing something that Folkcraft rarely does - running a big sale. Each week, for the next 13 weeks, we're putting one of Shelley Stevens' books on sale for $3.99. They're regularly $12, which is a good price, but I want to update our catalog to books with the new covers, with bar codes pre-printed. So here's a link to the book that's on sale from now, until next Friday, May 17. 
And last thing today - good news, of course - we've finished our first "production model" of the Folkcraft DulciVox! This is a DulciVox Standard (no ebony, no pickup). I played it at the Woodburn Dulcimer Club this week - on Tuesday, May 7 - and will be tweaking string gauges as necessary. Which might not be necessary. I'm happy with the strings now, but I want to hear it in a group setting, too. The internal bracing that Casey was working on earlier in this newsletter? That dulcimer is one of the Pro models, and will be going to one of our Folkcraft Endorsing Artists

completed folkcraft dulcivox production model
Since I loaned prototype number three to Bing back in February (loaned, Bing, loaned!) I've been playing prototype number two (on the left side of this photo) as my main dulcimer. The production version (in the center of the above photo) is far superior in volume, tone, and sustain. Switching from a walnut body to a mahogany body certainly helped, but the updated bridge design, and tweaks to the interior bracing, didn't hurt either.

Here's the latest demo video for prototype number three (YouTube link). You're going to like this video!

Thanks for reading, Y'all - I hope you have a great weekend. And check out Shelley's Celtic book - it is a good one! (on sale for $3.99 until next Friday...)
Richard Ash - luthier-who-spends-too-much-time-on-admin-stuff-and-not-enough-time-in-the-shop