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It’s not every year you get to celebrate 40 years of building instruments! 1979 marked the official launch of the Dusty Strings Dulcimer Company, but the name had to be changed once the requests to design and build harps became impossible to resist. Hammered dulcimers remained our most popular instrument until around 2002, when harps finally surpassed dulcimers in numbers. Currently, we build 80 to 100 instruments a month, and before the end of our 40th year, we will have built 40,000 harps and hammered dulcimers!
When we realized that harp #20000 would coincide with our 40th anniversary, we got inspired to make it something really special. The two things that got us into instrument building were our love of music and our love of wood, and we wanted to honor those passions with a harp that represented the classic and beloved Dusty sound, and also allowed us to indulge our aesthetic fantasies.
The FH36S has been our flagship harp for more than two decades, and exemplifies the clear, sparkly, even, deep, and resonant sound that Dusty Strings is known for. Besides being comfortable to play, the elegant staveback shape has graced the cover of our harp brochure for as long as we can remember, and has come to be an almost iconic representation of Dusty Strings artisanry. What better model to embody our 40-year history and tradition?
The challenge was how to make it a special, commemorative edition without changing the fundamental features that are so well-known and well-loved. We polled Dusty Strings staff for ideas, and after discarding a few flights of fancy (20,000 harps under the sea, for example), we came up with what we hoped would be a winning combination of time-tested and fresh design elements.
We’ve started with premium, highly-figured hardwood for the harp body, which means that each harp in this edition is unique, and is a bit of a surprise! Building a harp out of solid wood is like polishing a stone; in its rough stages you can start to guess what it might look like, and the true beauty of the wood emerges as the pieces are shaped, sanded, and finished. No solid wood harp will ever look exactly the same as another, but the differences are even more pronounced with highly-figured wood. We have especially enjoyed watching these two harps develop!
The solid spruce and mahogany soundboard is overlaid with a book-matched, premium, figured hardwood veneer, outlined with delicate black-and-white purfling and wood edge-binding, and bordered with the subtle sparkle of multi-colored abalone shell, a long-time favorite. We’ve adorned the front of the pillar with our more recent inlaid cherry blossom design, dressed up on these special edition harps with branches of dark wenge wood, leaves of sparkly green “heart” abalone, and petals of pearl shell.
We have also engraved one of the interior braces with a special 40th Anniversary Edition emblem, and have included two of our most popular options: Camac sharping levers and the Dusty Harp Pickup.
For the first two harps of this edition, we chose to use a special batch of very highly-figured cherry wood that we feel very lucky to have found. Though bubinga wood is one of our hallmarks and has long been our most popular wood choice, we have recently seen people choose cherry almost as often. It is a bit lighter-weight and has a similarly big, deep voice, but with ever so slightly more warmth and less brightness than bubinga. These two harps, made from the same tree, sound silky smooth, with the classic Dusty sparkle and lush resonance, and with the warmth and big, bold bass of solid cherry wood. They sing almost effortlessly under gentle playing, and produce a powerful sound if you really dig in.
It’s obvious from the photos below that this particular cherry wood is really stunning. “Waterfall,” “ripples of mermaid hair,” and “wow!” are just a few of the descriptive words heard floating around the shop the past few weeks as the harps took shape. We see a lot of gorgeous wood in our line of work, and cherry as highly figured as this is a rare find. We are curious to know who is more drawn to the contrasting, bird’s-eye maple soundboard veneer and who prefers the matching cherry veneer made from the same tree as the body. We couldn’t decide, so we did one of each!
FH36S #20000 - $11,495 (photos below) SOLD
Includes premium figured cherry, 40th Anniversary engraved interior brace, cherry blossom inlay in abalone, pearl, and wenge, abalone inlay around the soundboard, premium bird's-eye maple soundboard veneer, Camac levers, and the Dusty Harp Pickup.
FH36S #20001 - $11,495 (photos below) SOLD
Includes premium figured cherry, 40th Anniversary engraved interior brace, cherry blossom inlay in abalone, pearl, and wenge, abalone inlay around the soundboard, premium figured cherry soundboard veneer, Camac levers, and the Dusty Harp Pickup.
If you have your eye on one of these first two harps, give us a call! Each instrument is truly one-of-a-kind, though we do have some more cherry from the same tree, and can likely make at least two more similar harps.
Figured trees aren’t made to order, but we’ll be keeping our eyes open for other varieties of special wood that might suit our 40th Anniversary Edition. If you have a particular vision in mind, let us know what it is. If it’s possible for us to make it happen, we would be very excited to build your dream 40th anniversary harp!
We aren’t yet sure how many harps there will be in this limited edition, since it depends a fair amount on the wood we can find. We plan to offer them through the end of this year.