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3.59 – 1970s?  – Jon Paterson 3 String Hourglass – Hybrid Diatonic/Chromatic Dulcimer – £Sold

Unusual – possibly unique – dulcimer from a little-known British luthier.  Printed L-shaped label:  “Jon Paterson/ [turtle logo]”.  Undated, but probably late 70s.  Basically a diatonic dulcimer, but chromatic – i.e. with all the frets – on the melody and middle strings.  The fretboard layout is very similar to that of modern epinettes, which can play in both major and minor keys, without re-tuning, against a common bass drone.

Nice wide body, made from solid walnut, bookmatched on the back with purfling up the centre, and fully bound.  Bookmatched top, probably of spruce, straight grained, but with a knot near the strum hollow.  Small heart soundholes, pointing in different directions.  Carved, wide walnut pegbox with odd scroll.  Originally wooden ebony-like violin pegs, now fitted with expensive open-geared Grover 708N 1:14 dulcimer tuners.  Fine ebony overlay on walnut fingerboard, with narrow brass frets arranged in epinette style – diatonic full frets across all three strings, chromatic half frets across melody and middle strings only.  Strum hollow is formed where the ebony overlay ceases, before it resumes for bridge and tail.  Tail and head of back come to a point, giving it a boat-shaped appearance from underneath.  Tail is therefore narrow – like the stern of a boat – and has three brass mushroom-headed pins for the strings (with the angle of pull slightly astray).  Nut, ornate bridge and neat string strainer appear to be bone.  Well strutted top and bottom, so a taut feel.

Overall length 35½”, upper bout 6”, lower bout 8⅜”, height 1¾”, FBW 1½”, VSL 27⅛” (medium scale), weight 2lb 5oz (1050g).  No full 6½ fret, but all chromatic frets available on melody and middle strings (see above).  Strings now 0.010, 0.014, 0.022w.

Decent sound, quite sweet and loud, with an action that has had to be raised slightly to avoid buzzes.  Once you get used to it, the mix of diatonic and chromatic makes sense and would be familiar to an epinette player.  Works well in 1:5:5 tuning (DAA, CGG or similar), but also surprisingly in 1:5:8 DAD or 1:4:8 DGD.  Could therefore be played like a D dulcimer or like an epinette (in C, D or G).

Click on thumbnails below to see larger pictures:


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