2.62 1981 Sam Carrell – 5 String Fiddle-Shaped – £Sold
Wormy chestnut top/walnut back, fiddle-sided dulcimer by Sam Carrell. Marked (in pen): “American black walnut/ w wormy [?] chestnut top/ January 1981/ Made by Sam Carrell/ Towsend, Tenn.” And in other soundhole: “Handmade for/ Marvin Dunenfeld”.
Striking reddish chestnut top with prominent grain, neatly bookmatched walnut back; long, elegant walnut peghead and five large lathe-turned walnut pegs; hollow box fingerboard, supported by central reinforcement. Top is thin but reinforced by delicate internal struts, especially under potentially fragile lower bout f-hole. Upper soundhole is simple flower-like group of drill holes. Wheat ear incised decoration in strum hollow, none on headstock. Fiddle-edge construction with top and back overlapping sides; fiddle shape, with upper and lower bout extending equally and narrow waist; thinnish brass frets with original 6+ fret; protruding chrome screws as string anchors; wooden nut and floating bridge. NOT signed on the back as some of my other Carrells are.
Overall length 39¼”, upper bout 7¼”, lower bout 7¼”, side depth 1¾”, FBW 1½”, VSL 28¼ (medium/long scale), weight 2lbs 2oz (975g). Original 6+ fret. Fitted currently with 0.011/0.015/0.026w.
This has exactly the same characteristics as my other Carrells: it is light, rigid and very responsive to the strings – the whole dulcimer vibrates on your lap. It sounds loud but clear, with excellent response from both treble (shallow body) and bass (large volume). It is sweet when played softly but can also be driven hard. Has a low action on original floating bridge, with near-perfect intonation. Pegs work well but will always be sensitive to changes in the environment. Part of me would recommend it is kept as originally conceived, even returned to its four courses with two separate wound strings – my 1982 Carrell wormy chestnut/walnut is set up like this and sounds glorious. On the other hand, it could also be updated to provide a slightly compensated bridge (to improve the DAdd intonation still further) and geared guitar-style tuners. With the updates, it would be a close match with the much-fancied modern-day Clemmer dulcimers, currently $600 and upwards in this configuration.