New Super Light-Weight “Voyager” Hammer Dulcimer
A compact super light-weight 16/15v $1499 or 16/15vc $1699 Hammer Dulcimer
The Voyager is, basically, a 16/15 tuning pin pattern squeezed very carefully onto a 15/14 pinblock which means the body is the size of a 15/14. Our customers have been so pleased with the voice of the full-sized 15/14 model that we took another look at how to better serve our customers using its basic design, especially after receiving several requests for an even lighter weight chromatic instrument to carry around for busy daily performing duties.
Because the body is a bit smaller than a 16/15, the bridges come to the very edge of the instrument. We are very precise in clamp-up to push the internal endrails (hidden behind the external endrail – visible from the handle port in the back) to the very end of the pinblock and then grind, as minimally as possible, the endrail surface flat then add the external endrail after that. The body does end up ever so slightly deeper than a regular 15/14 from wide endrail to short endrail. These processes are just the beginning.
The internal endrails are thinned and honeycombed to lighten the body. The bracing is sugar pine, lighter than spruce. The back is made of sugar pine. The soundboard is made of spruce or western red cedar, both extremely light compared to mahogany. Most importantly, the pinblocks are trimmed slightly and hollowed out internally to remove more than a pound off the instrument without any structural effect whatsoever. When sanding down the body, we grind off all external corners, as well as the long outside edge of the pinblocks, removing excess maple that has no structural purpose. Some of these processes only remove 1 – 3 ounces but by doing it everywhere and in any way possible, as much as 5 pounds disappears!!! That’s as much as 40%!! Combine that with a bit smaller case then add a sit-down stand made of sugar pine and you are now incredibly portable.
The voice of the Voyager is surprisingly loud! The sugar pine back (built my first instrument of similar design in 1979!) gives the instrument volume and a sweet mellow tone working in conjunction with the soft wood top. It actually becomes a very active extension of the soundboard much like the back of a mountain dulcimer. Spruce is probably the loudest soundboard material available. Cedar is similar but offers a bit mellower attitude due to it being a bit physically softer. They both sound great and, as always, can be stained to produce contrast to the silver strings.
Sustain is always a tough aspect to describe and a tough decision to make concerning which bridges to use. The bridges dramatically affect the voice of the instrument and the apparent sustain. The strings typically continue to vibrate long after it has been struck and you have moved on to play many other notes. The harder and denser the wood the bridges are made from and the stiffer or larger the design of the bridge, the more apparent sustain is to the listener. The less dense and softer and more petite the bridge, the less apparent sustain is. Also bridge cap material has the same affect. Most hammer dulcimers utilize a fiberglass-like 1/8 inch rod called Delrin. The strings slide effortlessly on this Teflon-like surface. Rosewood is the bridge material of choice here at Master Works. Rosewood is God’s gift to mankind. No other wood has its personality or ability to resonate. Since the bridge’s purpose is to transfer vibrating energy into the soundboard from the strings, the choice seems simple to me. But, does it do too good of a job? For some folks, that might be true. I highly recommend you locate the section on this subject in the “Hammer Dulcimer Models Comparison” and study the comments there concerning playing styles and bridge choices. Concerning the Voyager and its super lightweight design, I would probably suggest you go with a bridge choice that reduces sustain a bit (low-sustain rosewood) or maybe even a lot (low-sustain cherry) if you intend to play a lot of faster and exotic tunes. The spruce or cedar top along with the sugar pine back and the extremely light design will definitely produce more overtones than you are likely used to. But it sounds so wonderful, responsive and rich, you’ll love all the music it throws back at you. We offer regular rosewood or cherry bridges at no charge and the low-sustain version of either wood for $50 more.
As on any Master Works instrument, we offer sealing the inside of the instrument to reduce moisture changes when performing. Microphones can be installed when constructed or can be added later. Chromatics can be added after the fact on a 16/15V. Dampers cannot be added to a Voyager because there simply is not enough room on the soundboard to attach them. The Voyager does come standard with hardware built into the back to accept a heavy-duty video tripod and a monopod for playing sitting down. The back of the Voyager is very soft and is easy to scratch but we consider it a fair trade for it’s super light weight and loud voice.