Mike Clemmer Dulcimers
Mike Clemmer and his wife are now important figures in the mountain dulcimer world. They own the Wood-N-Strings dulcimer shop and small music venue (The Pickin’ Porch) at Townsend, Tennessee. Both worked in other fields, but wanted to get out of the rat race. Mike had been repairing guitars and basses for a few years on a part-time basis and leapt at the chance when dulcimer-maker Sam Carrell asked him to help out with his order backlog. He learnt the trade and started building on his own when Carrell returned to his home state Florida in 1984. Mike continues to craft the very distinctive fiddle/hourglass shape dulcimer which Carrell made – and Bill Davis before him. But he also makes unique instruments such as the small scale length “Sweetie” and the dulcimer/banjo hybrid “Banjammer”.
2.141 2015? Clemmer Banjammer Deluxe, 4 String, 3 or 4 Course “Hourglass” £320 including soft carrying bag
Only identifying mark is stamped behind peg head: “15 035”.
Solid walnut body (i.e. not hollow) in shape of a Clemmer full size “fiddle/hourglass” dulcimer with standard walnut dulcimer fingerboard (6+, 13+ frets). Has a short, stubby Clemmer “Sweetie”-style head with gold Grover enclosed gear tuners. Gold strap buttone each end of solid body. Bone nut cut for 3 or 4 equidistant string layout, standard banjo bridge, 3 machine screw as string anchors. 7½” grey metal banjo tone ring, flanged on the underside, holding Remo practice pad skin with 6 stainless tension screws. Walnut facing on top of tone ring, marking it as a Deluxe model – useful for resting hand comfortably on banjo pot. Wheat ear branded designs on head and on “upper bout”.
Overall length 32½”, upper bout 5½”, lower bout 7¾”, FBW 1⅝”, VSL 25¼” (short), weight 4lb 0oz (1806g). 6+ and 13+ frets. Original (?) strings 11, 16, 26w phosphor bronze.
Surprisingly authentic old time banjo sound, also with unexpected volume. Simple construction but nicely made.
2.73 2005 Clemmer – 5 String Hourglass – £Sold
Mike Clemmer’s modern take on the old Bill Davis/Sam Carrell theme. Mike had been repairing guitars and basses for a few years and was asked by dulcimer-maker Sam Carrell to help out with his order backlog. He learnt the trade and started building on his own when Carrell returned to his home state Florida in 1984.
Handwritten inside near soundhole: “HAND CRAFTED BY: Mike Clemmer/ 8-2005 No. 9076”.
This is a fiddle-shaped all walnut instrument with the traditional body depth – not Clemmer’s Church Style dulcimers which are deeper (2”). Sides are fiddle-edged, with back and top overlapping the sides. Back is nicely figured and bookmatched; top is darker and altogether more rustic (with the odd small shake) and vine soundholes. Wheat ear decoration the length of the (single piece) fingerboard, on the front of the “scroll”, strum hollow, each end of the sides and on the back at the tail. Headstock is slightly different to the Davis/Carrell version, partly to accommodate modern guitar-style tuners – these are good quality chrome enclosed tuners by Ping. Also has 6+ and 13+ frets, but retains the choice of 3 standard or 4 course equidistant string configurations. Also has bone nut and deep hardwood bridge.
Overall length 38 [39¼]”, upper bout 7⅛ [7¼]”, lower bout 7¼”, depth 1¾”, FBW 1⅝ [1½]”, VSL 28¼” (medium/long scale), weight 2lb 12oz (1260g [1010g]) – [comparisons with early 80s Carrell]. Has a 6+ and 13+fret.
A pristine example of Mike Clemmer’s update on the old Bill Davis/Sam Carrell theme. These handcrafted Tennessee dulcimers are very popular in the US, combining good looks with real drive and breadth of tone. Can be set up with four equidistant courses (as in the pictures) or in the more conventional three (with the extra melody/drone string omitted). I’m really excited about the sound and playability of this dulcimer. It has power, balance, clarity – and it happens to be in perfect condition. A similar spec would now cost at least £500 to import.