My “sculptural-functional” instruments, incorporating extraordinary craftsmanship with contemporary combinations of woods, create a modern rendering that draws from ancient roots. I personally handcraft each of my one-of-a-kind instruments to be a unique melding of art and music.
A note regarding prices – I, personally handcraft each of my instruments. Each one is made from real domestic and exotic woods – No plywood (except for the standard plucked psaltery). I slice and bookmatch each top and back on the bowed psalteries and dulcimers. On the Signature Series Bowed Psaltery I also use binding and inlays of various materials – I know of no other maker of Bowed Psalteries who does this. All of my Bowed Psalteies come with the complete package (see above).
My Standard Bowed Psalteries run about $550. (which includes the whole package – case, display hanger, dvd etc.). My Signature Series Bowed Psalteries run from about $1000. up, including everything. Descriptions of these instruments can be found in this section of the web site.
There are a number of bowed psaltery makers that you can find on line who make good functional instruments and can sell them at a much lower price than I. There are a number of reasons for this, but please understand that I offer no criticism of other psaltery builders – it is just that we find ourselves in different categories. For example, some psaltery makers use veneered plywood for the tops and backs of their instruments. These 4′ x 8′ sheets of veneered plywood are expensive, but they will probably be able to get enough tops and backs from one sheet for 10-12 instruments and all they have to do is to simply cut them out. Others may order a supply of standard, relatively straight grained walnut, maple or cherry lumber without consideration of grain pattern and resaw it into thin pieces for tops and backs. This is a more time consuming, and therefore expensive process. Others may simply order pieces of thin wood to cut for tops and backs.
In my case I NEVER buy wood in bulk for tops and backs. I always pick out individual pieces of wood, both domestic and exotic, based on grain pattern, colors, and overall beauty as well as for the acoustics. The first thing that I do when I get a piece of wood is to study it from every angle to determine how to cut it to bring out the best that the wood has to offer. I then cut the wood into pieces about 22″ long and 4″ wide. This often results in much waste, but I will use only the best of the best. Next I use the band saw to saw the piece into slices 5/32 of an inch thick. During this process if the blade slips even to the smallest degree, then I have made very expensive toothpicks. As I saw the slices I keep them in order so that I can take any two, open them like a book, and they will match. This process is called bookmatching and the result is that the two pieces will be virtual mirror images of each other. I glue these pieces together, use a thickness sander to get them down to a light 1/8 inch and use them for tops and backs.
The above is but one example among many of the time-consuming care and quality steps that go into my work. All of this is done before I get to design concepts for inlays, binding, etc. The creation of these one-of-a-kind pieces is topped off with the month long finishing process of 18 coats of classical instrument lacquer. Only then is she pegged, strung and tuned. Finally comes the moment when she is freed to sing for the very first time. It is at this point that she is ready to begin her quest to achieve that for which she was created – to bring beauty, pleasure, joy and happiness to all those with whom she comes into contact.
My bowed psalteries and dulcimers are all signed, dated and numbered and ALL of my instruments are guaranteed for my working life. (Although it is rare, on Jan. 24, 2012 I heard from a lady who had bought one of my psalteries in 1996 (12 years ago) who said that a seam had separated on her psaltery. I told her to send it to me and I would fix it if I could OR send her a new instrument- no charge). I stand behind my work and I try my best to live my life according to the golden rule. (I am a consumer too!)