Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hand-crafted Hammered Dulcimers in Bennington, Oklahoma

Something I really enjoy about visiting different places, be they Guatemala, Canada, Mexico, Texas or Oklahoma, is finding people who specialize in doing things well by hand. Like many people, I see the decline in many hand crafted things and am worried by it. I appreciate people who have those specialized skills.

While in Guatemala we saw many amazing woodworkers, weavers, and leather workers to mention a few. While in the States, we took the opportunity while in Bennington, Oklahoma to visit a handmade hammered dulcimer shop: Master Works Hammer Dulcimers and Bowed Psalteries designed by Russel Cook.

We lucked out since our friends and cousin works there, and we got a personal tour!

First, Russel, part owner and craftsman of the handcrafted dulcimer shop, played an amazingly talented demonstration and explained some of the set up for chords and how to hold the hammers.

We then got to see many hammered dulcimers in progress on carpeted storage shelves to protect the beautifully finished different woods.

Russel showed us how the wood changes color with water, which gives you an idea of what the finished product will look like polished. This rare piece of wood alone cost as much as a used car!

Many tiny precise holes are drilled individually into each dulcimer.

Here is the hole-cutting station, one of the very labor intensive parts of creating a good dulcimer.

A hammered dulcimer is played on a special stand. My cousin uses this station to create the stands.

Another of my cousin's workstations where she sands the delicate dulcimer parts by hand.

A customer trying his hand at playing the dulcimer.

I was amazed at how much precision and intricate detail went into each and every hammered dulcimer. People from all over the world who know how to play hammered dulcimers know about this little shop in Bennington, OK. Hand-crafted hammered dulcimers can sell anywhere from $1,200-$5,000 depending on the rarity of the wood, age, condition and special additions. If you would like to see a hammered dulcimer being played, check out this version of Amazing Grace:

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