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A Day in the Life of a Dulcimer Shop

September 15, 2023

Good Morning, Y'all!
Here it is Wednesday, September 13, (as I'm writing this) and we're about halfway through the work week. We're all at our desks/sewing machines/workbenches, making progress on a hundred different tasks. I just took a few random photos and hope you'll enjoy seeing our staff in action!

pam sewing dulcimer cases
Pam - sewing dulcimer cases, as always.

If you look closely, you can see a FolkRoots® logo (in white thread) on the case pocket she's working on . It looks like Pam is doing the foldover part at the corner of the case pocket - this'll give the case pocket a little depth, so it'll hold all of your strings, straps, tuners, and tiny little bottles of whiskey (which are only for use before breakfast, though). Pam spent the first few hours of today putting books and strings into our inventory - she updates the available quantities on the website, so you can buy all the small items. Looking at the company credit card, it appears that she ordered a bunch more stuff we need, too.

cheyenne holding dulcimer parts
Cheyenne - holding some 7" x 32" cherry dulcimer backs in his right hand, and some already-bent hourglass-shaped walnut dulcimer sides in his left.

Cheyenne has been making parts for dulcimers all day long, except for early this morning when he packed our outbound orders. We use a slew of parts - backs, sides, tops, fretboards, heads, etc. - when we make dulcimers, but we also make parts for other dulcimer builders, both professional (companies you may have heard of) and hobbyist.

richard ash repairing a dulcimer top
Richard (that's me) - sanding the top of a David Beede-built instrument (in our shop for repairs).

This one came to us with cracks in the top - probably from a fall. We do a LOT of repairs these days - for nearly all makes of mountain dulcimer. It is sometimes tricky to figure out the best approach to a repair, but we've done so many fixes that it generally works out fine. In addition to working on this repair, I've been answering the phone, taking care of email, upgrading the website (adding shop blogs going as far back as 2008), and spraying lacquer on instruments that are getting close to shipping.

dominic working on a folkcraft resonator dulcimerDominic - adding machine heads to a brand-new Folkcraft resonator dulcimer.

Dominic spent part of the day working on an instrument with a magnetic pickup (our NT-11 model), part of the day packing machine heads into sets for resale, and part of the day hand-rubbing the lacquered finish on several other dulcimers. He's also been keeping our laser cutter going, making cardboard dulcimer kit parts.

jim ash holding a fretboard neck of a folkcraft lapjoJim (aka "Dad") - showing off a neck/fretboard for a Folkcraft® LAP-JO. 

The piece of mahogany Dad's holding represents several hours of work already, and still has a couple of hours to go before it is ready to bolt to a rim (banjo body). He'll install mother of pearl position dots next, then move on to adding the frets themselves. You can see the slot for the nut at the upper end of the neck, and the hole for the position dot at fret 3, between his left thumb and left index finger.
It seems like a bit of chaos, doesn't it? Ha! It isn't. This crew knows what needs to be done, and makes it happen. I provide broad direction, and then leave all the details to my small staff of experts. It is an amazing crew. Every instrument you buy from us has all of our hands on it at one point or another, from making parts, assembling instruments, sanding, finishing, setting up, making the case, and actually shipping the completed dulcimer.
A lot of you have seen our building/workshop (which is just floor/walls/roof, with some tools, really) - but now you've seen the most important part of our shop. The people that work here, and, as a team, make your instruments.
Thanks for reading!
Richard Ash - luthier-who-is-grateful-for-his-utterly-amazing-crew-of-artisans