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3.39  1975  Keith Young – 4 String Hourglass – £385

Relatively early dulcimer from this important maker.  Keith Young (1929-2012) from Annandale, Virginia was a highly respected dulcimer craftsman who made innovative and unusual instruments throughout a long career.  He died in 2012 after a fall in his workshop.

Meticulously handwritten on pasted-in label:  “Handcrafted by/ Keith R Young/ Annandale, Virginia/ June 1975  No. 131”.

It is beautifully crafted from rich cherry throughout, with a bookmatched, strikingly figured top, bookmatched back and single piece fingerboard.  As with many of Young’s dulcimers, the bridge and tailpiece are designed in one piece and undercut – to isolate them both from the instrument’s soundboard and from the endblock.  The string anchors are accordingly on the underside of this cantilevered bridge/tail.  Has a broad endblock, contrasting with the narrow tapering headstock and its flat-sided scroll.  The pegbox is neatly contoured beneath.  Standard rosewood violin pegs with neatly rounded wooden fine tuners in a small gap on the tail behind the bridge.  Rosewood (?) nut and bridge.

Overall length 37”, upper bout 5⅝”, lower bout 7¼”, depth 1⅞”, FBW 1⅜”, VSL 28½” (medium/long scale), weight 2lb 2oz (962g).  Possible original strings:  12/12, 12, 23w, now 11/11, 15, 23w.  Originally no 6+ fret (now added).

This is a most attractive and historic dulcimer.  It has many of the features which made Young dulcimer famous and much sought after:  it has elegance with a well balanced shape and small heart soundholes; it has the famous undercut tailpiece, which gives added volume and a degree of precision – notes have a shortish decay; it is made from the best of materials with great craftsmanship.  It is quite loud, but well balanced and responsive.  A beautiful piece of lutherie with a distinctive sound, but it also a practical, very playable instrument in absolutely immaculate condition.