Making unique artistic sound hole images has always been integral to the overall design of my hammered dulcimers. My first sound hole designs were heavily influenced by Richard Amarnick, a fellow art student who cut original works out of paper. He would often cut up menus and napkins and leave the results on restaurant tables. Since my sound holes are circular, I started with circular blanks of paper and cut into them creating hundreds of possible designs but only selecting the best. These designs were glued onto specially prepared curly maple blanks and cut by hand using either a fret or scroll saw. The unique designs give each instrument its own special character.
Over time, customers requested that I help them create unique designs of their own choosing. What started as a trickle now has become a flood, as a much larger proportion of my hammered dulcimer orders sport custom sound hole designs unique to that customer’s instrument. Some are quite simple, others very complex. Some are so complex and with engraving that I have had to occasionally rely on laser cutting. Each has been the result of a collaboration with the customer. Designs present a myriad of structural and visual challenges involving a lot of give and take. Except for the more traditional Celtic designs, I never repeat a design. I have built over 1780 hammered dulcimers and they almost all, accept for the Student Models, have unique signatures. I’ve even begun to create personalized designs for ordered custom bowed psalteries. I’ve included some of my early designs and a selection of more recent ones. If you’d like to see more, you can see them on my sound hole page and in an album on Facebook. Making an instrument personal has been a wonderful way of connecting with customers and keeping my creative talents honed.