Sorry to took so long getting back - I am not used to communicating this way.
To answer Greg's questions, and I hope that I don't ramble on too long.
I returned to Columbus Ohio from a stint in the Navy and a 6 month recovery in Mexico in 1963, and got together with Kix Stewart, who I had gone to school with in high school in Worthington, Ohio and at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. Kix was making mountian dulcimers and banjo necks in his basement. This was after Kix and Dennis had been into dulcimers in Athens, Ohio a year or two before. I had never heard of a dulcimer, but as I was hanging out with Kix and his friends, I became interested in them as something that I could do. I didn't have any idea what I really wanted to do, but I could see that I would be better at building them than Kix was. He wasn't patient enough. The early dulcimers were made by cutting saw kerfs in the 1/8 inch side wood so that they could be easily bent into a rough form. Then we would glue them to the top and back using the weight of cases of beer for clamps - very crude, but it worked.
My first dulcimer, which I still have, was made out of cherry and was a very long tear drop design that I designed without much input from any other dulcimers. Eventually, I set up my own shop at home in Worthington, Ohio to build 3 more traditional hour glass shaped dulcimers, a rosewood guitar that was patterned after a OO Martin, and a banjo that had a rim made from an automobile breakdrum that was turned down on a lathe. My intent was to learn how to play them and go to California, thinking I could impress the girls - I was 23 at the time, with not much money. I went to California, but found out that I wasn't a musician and that I did not impress the girls. So, I moved back to Athens, Ohio - out in the country, and set up a better shop to build dulcimers and banjo necks for 4 string to 5 string conversions.
Kix Stewart had gone and worked at Ode Banjo in Boulder, CO, and when he returned, he and I set up shop together for a short time. Kix found a lot of jobs building banjo necks, but he couldn't seem to complete them. So I took over the jobs using techniques that he had learned at Ode, and was on my way to the profession that I have followed ever since. I did go back to Ohio University and ended up with an MFA in Ceramics and Sculpture on the GI bill - all the while supporting myself building and decorating instruments.
Kix took me to visit Anne Grimes, and I photographed and measured a lot of her instruments. I visited her several times, and took some of my dulcimers for her to see and play. I guess she liked them, as she asked me to build her a copy of her favorite boat shaped dulcimer so that she would have a new one to play and to preserve her old one. At some point during this time, I also was asked to do a week long demonstration of dulcimer building at the Ohio State Fair, in the entrance hall to the Arts and Crafts display.
I really don't remember who was buying my dulcimers, and I built about 100 of them over a 5 to 10 year period. I know a lot of friends bought them and others bought them by word of mouth. I never really did any advertising. I developed a production line of building several at once, and ended up with about 20 unfinished dulcimers that I sold cheap as kits when my wife and I decided to leave the country for a few years.
With the banjos, I was making more income, so I finally focused only on that. Eventually I even stopped building banjos and focused on only doing decorations for other builders - metal engraving, inlays, and wood carving.
Robin T., I am sorry, but I am not much of an historian, and I have no memory of any dulcimer tradition other than my friends building them and Anne Grimes' collection. I used ideas that I got from seeing Anne's dulcimer and others, but I tended to develop them into my own ideas of shape and decoration, as well as develop my own ways of construction. I have never kept track of from where or what I developed my own dulcimers.
If there had been as much interest in the mountain dulcimer 50 years ago as there is today, perhaps I would have continued building them for a longer period of time. Decorating banjos has been far more profitable than dulcimers were for me. Having just turned 70, I continue to do decorative work for several companies and expect to continue for perhaps another decade.