Robin T wrote:Lisa wrote: What are the reasons for their relative scarcity as compared to hourglass and elliptical dulcimers?
I'd like to know possible reasons for their "relative scarcity", too.
The casual answer is, y'all are Yankees and it's a southern instrument; even when there were a bunch of these in roadside antique shops (say 40 years ago, or so), they weren't along Ohio and New York roadsides. Now, there are a lot of dulcimer collectors, and no steady supply of these anywhere -- even on eBay. So, they are scarce.
However. Thomas and Amburgey instruments are also scarce, and there were a ton of those made. Allen Smith didn't find all of them, any more than he found all extant TMBs, but he did find a bunch. Sandy Conatser had a TMB census going, and when she published her article (1998) she and David had found 48 of them. More have turned up since 1998, but I don't know how many more (and don't know whether she's still counting).
Another problem is that the TMB is not intrinsically a very beautiful object, if you don't play it. The ones I have seen (not nearly as many as Sandy found, but maybe ten or twelve) were kept under a bed, by players; and in an attic or an outbuilding by anybody else. If they sat on the ground, the termites et 'em. If in a hayloft or an attic, rodents nested in them (after suitably enlarging at least one soundhole). Flying squirrels make bigger holes than mice, btw. Both leave nutshells, seed hulls, fluffy nesting materials and rodent poop inside the dulcimer. Giving it a certain aura.
After a while, most of these became nice dry poplar firewood, and ultimately that accounts for their scarcity (it gets cold every winter).
Frimp, or other builders who may still be following this thread -- I didn't think to mention it, but the top, bottom, and the top edges of the fingerboard are not left with sharp, 90 degree edges. The only corners left square are the bottom edges of the fingerboard, and the mitered corners on the sides (they are only square after you nail them together). Everything else is rounded a bit, with a rasp or sandpaper or whatever. Discourage splintering, however you can.
Many of these (including our double one) were not decorated, varnished or finished in any way, and are found with the wood silvered. I used linseed oil (or maybe Finish Feeder, that also contained turpentine and a little beeswax) on mine, 44 years ago.
The "poplar" used is yellow poplar, or tulipwood -- not one of the other species, most of which aren't native to the Tennessee Valley anyhow. The top and bottom are one wide plank. If you can't find lumber that big and need to joint two or more pieces, of course those edges that you're going to glue together are left square. I wouldn't get too hung up on the poplar bit, use any hardwood you can find and don't mind planing; but something of similar density would presumably sound more like the old ones.
And the strings are fairly heavy, I believe .014 inch. I put these on a long time ago. Can check with a micrometer if somebody really wants to know. [Edit: I checked, .014 is correct.]