- Associated Press - Sunday, January 21, 2018

YORK, Neb. (AP) - There isn’t much Rod Matlock hasn’t dabbled in within the walls of his shop. From cabinets to an airplane, and now his most recent venture, dulcimers, Matlock is not afraid to dive into any kind of wood working project.

In the late summer of 2016, he bought a canjo at a garage sale for $1.50, which started everything. Matlock had never seen one before, but thought it was a cool looking instrument.

After he brought the canjo home, his grandkids began taking an interest in playing it, so he taught himself how to play. Come Christmas, he decided to make his grandchildren canjos as presents.

It was only a matter of time before he began poking his nose into true dulcimers.

Matlock designs all of his projects on AutoCAD, which he taught himself how to use. To begin, he drew up the dulcimer project on his computer, and then he dove into building it, the York News-Times reported.

Once he completed his first dulcimer about a year ago, he wasn’t able to stop. Matlock has built 18 total dulcimers to date. He has sold some and given some away as gifts. This past Christmas, he gifted four of his nine grandchildren a hand crafted dulcimer.

“I can’t stop building them,” said Matlock, commenting on his love for the hobby.

A dulcimer is a fretted string instrument of the zither family. In the U.S., the instrument originated in the Appalachian region with the immigrant communities located in the mountains. There wasn’t much money available, so the dulcimer grew popular because of its inexpensive design.

There are many different forms of dulcimer, which Matlock’s collection demonstrates. He has gotten creative when it comes to the type of wood, shape, size, etc. Overall, the dulcimer is a quiet instrument, but Matlock finds it interesting to see how he can manipulate its sound by changing the construction variables, such as wood thickness.

He once ordered a dulcimer case off the internet, and then was shocked when it arrived as it was super tiny. Instead of sending it back, he built a dulcimer to fit the case. This smaller dulcimer creates a beautiful sound and is easy to travel with.

Matlock hopes to build an accordion dulcimer soon, which is essentially a double dulcimer going in opposite directions.

Not only did Matlock teach himself how to build the dulcimers, he has also taught himself and some of his grandchildren how to play them. This is a hobby he has enjoyed sharing with his family over the past year.

For Valentine’s Day, he surprised his wife with flowers and a dulcimer tune while she was at work. He had not been playing the instrument very long, but he knew he wanted to do something extra special for her.

Matlock plays mainly hymns on the dulcimer. He practices playing every evening because he finds the sound tranquil.

“The good Lord just blessed me with a lot of talent,” said Matlock. “This is my gospel.”

Matlock and his wife have traveled all over the country, dulcimer in hand. After their daughter moved cross country to Virginia Beach, they decided to make the most of their trips to visit her by exploring along the way. They have visited all 50 states.

Matlock said he rarely leaves the house without one of his instruments because he never knows who he might meet. While traveling through Kentucky, he had the opportunity to meet a famous dulcimer builder, and even here in Nebraska, he has found lots of people interested in building the instruments or are already doing so themselves.

In his free time, Matlock gives presentations about building and playing his dulcimers. He was at Chance R with the Seratoma Club on Jan. 17 giving a demonstration.

Matlock’s dulcimers can be found at Rod’s Wood Craft in Thayer for anyone interested in picking up the hobby.


Information from: York News-Times, http://www.yorknewstimes.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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