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1977 Ron Ewing Elliptical 4 String

Handwritten inside on back:  “Ron Ewing/ #22 /July 1977”.  Very early instrument from this important and distinctive builder, now based in Ohio.  Ron made this for one of Sandy Paton’s birthdays, when Ron was working for Folk Legacy Records.  Sandy was the co-founder of the label.  His wife, Caroline, also played the dulcimer.  Their son, David, from whom I bought the dulcimer, is best known as an English Concertina player.

 

Even this early in his career, Ron was exploring the potential of mixing woods with different sound characteristics.  This one has a western red cedar top, mahogany back and maple sides.  The thin and lively top has fine scrolling f-shape soundholes with diamond centres – but because they are not braced, small cracks have appeared.  These have been stabilised and are now almost invisible.  Sassafras fingerboard with zero fret and 6½ fret (no 13½).  Headstock and tailblock are a 5 piece laminate of mahogany and maple, the former with a low, stylised scroll.  Originally Grover Sta-Tite friction tuners, now replaced with banjo planetary pegs.  The nut has been cut for 4 equidistant or 3 course string layouts, floating ebony bridge.  Quite heavy bracing, but no lining.  Overall length 34½”, single bout 6½”, depth 1¾”, FBW 1⅜”, VSL 27½”, weight.1lb 10oz (742g).  6½ fret.

 

An outstanding early handbuilt dulcimer by a master craftsman.  Even though it shows a few signs of a full and active life, it is still in good condition and ready to go.  It has great volume and tone; excellent intonation with original 6+ fret; and new geared tuners which suit its sleek style.  This is an instrument suitable for players of all abilities, but will best be appreciated by those whose playing has progressed to more challenging material.