Tom Fellenbaum is a hidden gem of a dulcimer maker with a classic, understated style. Working from Black Mountain, N Carolina – in the foothills of the Southern Appalachians – he has continued to produce a limited number of genuinely handcrafted dulcimers, and is highly regarded by those in the know. All his dulcimers are beautifully constructed from choice woods and, although not among the loudest, they always have an easy action and exhibit a full, balanced tone.
2.142 1989 Fellenbaum #683 4 String Teardrop £SOLD
Printed label “[h/w] Dec.1989…#683/ Fellenbaum/ Dulcimer Workshop/ 28 Dunsmore Avenue/ Black Mountain, NC28711/ / Tom Fellenbaum [h/w signature]”.
Less common teardrop shape, constructed entirely of cherry, with bookmatched top, sides and back. Back makes good use of attractive lighter (sap?)wood down the centre line. Big, maple leaf soundholes, exposing strut across back lower bout and central shallow strip. Elegant cherry headstock and scroll with Grover Sta-Tite friction tuners, each with cherry, handcut (?) buttons. Contrasting grain cherry tailblock, slightly concave, with a cross slot to hide the bottom of string holes. Simple brass pins as string anchors, with strings running through holes onto fingerboard. Bone nut, cut for 4 conventional or equidistant string layouts, and bone compensating bridge. One piece, hollow cherry fingerboard with conventional 6+ and 13+ frets and black dot markers at frets 3, 7 and 10.
Overall length 36”, lower bout 7⅞”, Depth 2”, FBW 1½”, VSL 27½” (medium/long scale), weight 1lb 14oz (861g). Strings now 12, 14, 22w. 6+ and 13+ frets.
Beautifully built, as always, with a rich red-brown glow. A neat, compact dulcimer with a very clear, well-articulated sound and some depth of tone. It looks great, although perhaps the soundholes are slightly oversize, showing a little too much of the internal workings and making the top more fragile than it needed to be.
2.93 1984 #447 £SOLD
Plain paper label, handwritten, “March 1984 #447/ Handcrafted by:/ Tom Fellenbaum/ 205 W. State St./ Black Mtn. N.C. 28711/ [signature]”. Classic early period instrument with walnut body (bookmatched back) and western red cedar (?) top with f-holes. Walnut fingerboard with rosewood overlay, small brass markers at frets 3, 7, 10 and a 6+ and 13+ fret. The strings run through rather than over the tail, accommodating either ball or loop end strings (copper pins for latter). Elegant long chamfered scroll, cut away underneath the scroll and long, closed pegbox with thick sides. Owned by one of our top UK players, he has commissioned improvement work by Tom Waghorn, master luthier of Bristol. This includes replacement geared 1:4 banjo tuners, with the opposite peg holes neatly plugged; and an ebony nut and bridge, the former optimised for 3 string playing (but slotted for 4 if required), the latter fully compensated. Overall length 36”, upper bout 5½”, lower bout 7⅜”, Depth 2”, FBW 1½”, VSL 27½” (medium scale), Weight 2lb 0oz (919g). Strings now 12, 14, 23w.
As you would expect, plays exceptionally well with easy action and good tone. Responsive, full but not over-loud. This dulcimer has been well played and has some consequent pick-wear on the nearside top, together with other scuffs and nicks. However, it is a genuinely handcrafted instrument, made from top materials and, like all Fellenbaums, is supremely playable.
2.87 1994 #754 £Sold
Printed label, “Handcrafted by/ TOM FELLENBAUM/ P.O. Box 331/ Ridgecrest, NC 28770/ [hw] 1994 #754/ [signature]”. Usual elegant Fellenbaum outline with Ledford-like scroll and pegbox. All cherry body, book-matched back with black centre purfling line; (?Alaskan) spruce top with f-holes. Mahogany fretboard with wenge overlay; 6+ and 13+ frets. Bone nut and (compensated) bridge. Usual later overhung tail with brass mushroom-headed pins and a slot – designed for ball end and loop strings; strings pass through holes in tail and over brass fret string strainer. Grover chrome and pearloid geared banjo tuners, mounted on wooden washers which are fitted inside the pegbox. Strap buttons on both ends. Struts run laterally across back and small struts support the f-holes. Not clear if fingerboard is hollow, but appears to be no slot underneath. Overall length 35¾”, upper bout 5⅜”, lower bout 7⅜”, Depth 2⅛”, FBW 1½”, VSL 25⅜” (short scale), Weight 2lb 4oz (1016g). Strings originally 12/12, 14, 22w – now 12, 14, 23w.
Bright, quite loud, clearly separated notes, very responsive, accurate, very easy action. Probably better for chord/melody play and fingerstyle than vigorous strumming with a pick, but does respond to hard playing with very little clatter. A quality hand-made instrument, beautifully constructed, striking in appearance, great sounding – and in excellent condition.
2.43 June 1984 #472 £Sold
Elegant, minimalist maple headstock with Grover sta-tite mechanical friction tuners. Geared banjo tuners (chrome or gold) with real ebony or ivoroid buttons could be fitted for £30 extra.
Beautiful quilted bookmatched maple back and sides. Cedar top with elegant f-holes (diamond centres). Highly-figured walnut (?) fingerboard overlay with brass dot markers on 3rd, 7th and 10th frets. Elegant tailpiece, suitable for both loop and ball-end strings. Wooden nut and compensated bridge. Overall length 36½”, upper bout 5⅜”, lower bout 7¼”, Depth 2”, FBW 1½”, VSL 27½” (medium scale), Weight 2lb 2oz (962g). 6½ fret.
A pretty, well-constructed, unshowy instrument, with a bright sound, as befits a maple-bodied instrument, but also an attractive depth of sustain and colour. A classic dulcimer.