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Re: [HD] Ed Hale dulcimer hammers

To: Hammered Dulcimers <hdlist@hammered-dulcimers.org>
Subject: Re: [HD] Ed Hale dulcimer hammers
From: Ken K <kenkolodner2@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, 29 Jan 2020 09:36:38 -0500
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Hi Peter and fans of Ed Hale hammers,

I spoke again to Russell yesterday. He has reproduced three versions of Ed's double sided hammers with essentially a small, medium and large head. Ed also made some very lightweight hammers out of poplar. I believe the key to Ed's hammers were the balance which is hard to adequately describe in words but the weight was more in the shaft and not so much in the head. I've tested four of Russell's hammers against 5 pairs of Ed's originals. I could tell the difference but it is very slight. The slight difference is in how the shaft is tapered. I am not sure it matters enough to tinker any further because the difference is negligible. Peter, you might think differently! But Russell suggested that if I wanted to get it exactly right he would work with me (or whomever) to get there. I am going to try to provide him with an accurate tracing of the shaft (along with pictures). The width of the shaft is exactly the same - about 1/2"; and the thickness at the narrowest point is just under 1/4". 

Peter, my guess is that Russell's reproductions are going to work for you. But Russell is also very willing to tinker and get them exactly "right" recognizing that there might be a range of what is "right!"

Here is what I wrote to Russell a few weeks ago:

Length: All the samples match the length of the hammers that I have in stock. 


Weight: Ed's hammers varied but you are well within the range of all the hammers that I have here.


Balance: How a hammer balances (head vs handle) is critical to the feel of a hammer. This affects the perception of weight. I checked the balance point on each pair. The balance of the samples vs. Ed's originals are very close.


Head size/shape: Ed's hammers varied in head size and shape over the years with three basic sizes. The samples match the originals that I have.


"Flip-ability": That is not a word to my knowledge but it is important to me to be able to very quickly flip my hammers in the middle of a piece. I could not tell a difference. 


Grip: Here is where I felt a difference instantly but it is very subtle. At least compared to all the pairs that I have, your grip is tapered slightly differently. The originals taper from the end to where you put your thumb and index finger slightly more. The perception is that your handles are slightly thicker. But measuring them did not show a difference (just under 1/4"). The width of the shaft is the same (around 1/2"). My guess is that Ed's hammers varied over the years as well. 


Conclusion: I think you are well within the range. If I didn't know they were NOT Ed's hammers, my guess is that I would have thought that Ed slightly changed the grip but not enough to affect my use of the hammers. I have had about 10-12 players try them out. Some could tell a difference but agreed that it was very slight and would not affect their ability to use them. 

On Wed, Jan 29, 2020 at 7:51 AM ptommerup@juno.com <ptommerup@juno.com> wrote:
Hi All,
Thanks so much for all of your friendly, detailed & helpful replies to my query about "Ed Haley dulcimer hammers"! 
Amusing how I mutated "Ed Hale" into "Ed Haley," but I'm thrilled y'all were able to recognize what I was looking for! Also a bit surprised that when I Googled, " Ed Haley dulcimer hammers," it barraged me with hits by & about banjo players (albeit concerning fiddler Ed Haley's compositions,  on closer reading) instead of also suggesting the dulcimer maker & player as well. 
I'm glad that Russell Cook is carrying on the Ed Hale hammer design, & that these are available, but it's not clear to me (from perusing photos of these reproductions) that Masterworks is reproducing one of the aspects of Ed Hale's design that most interests me: the larger than usual width of the finger grip--specifically, the part that one holds between one's thumb & forefinger. I've discovered that this gives me increased control that I find helpful. Plus the light weight of the poplar shaft & hammer head (& possibly it's longer than average length?) seems to reduce "hammer thunk" (the unmusical thud the hammers make when hitting the strings). Anyway, I really like the "physics" of experiencing these hammers in use! 
Also, Lee Anne Welch (my wonderful wife & active SF Bay Area bluegrass & contra dance fiddler) is currently recuperating from a broken left wrist. Since she also likes the HD, & has noodled about on it over the past 38 years, I've been encouraging her to do a bit of (what I've been playfully calling) "musical physical therapy." Playing the HD seems like a good fit for her at this point in her recovery (recently got the cast off), since she isn't yet able to rotate her left wrist in order to hold & finger notes on her beloved fiddle. And these "original" Ed Hale hammers with the wider grip better help her to more comfortably hold & control a hammer in her left hand. 
So, where is this rambling narrative heading? 
Well, I have another question: Any idea where one might be able to acquire a pair or two of Ed Hale style hammers that REALLY are virtually exact in all their specs--& especially re: the width of the grip (1/4" at its narrowest place between the thumb & forefinger), the use of a poplar shaft, & their weight & balance? 
THANKS A BIG BUNCH in advance! 
Finally, I'm so glad that this HD List has so many subscribers with such a depth of knowledge & experience, even though I do miss the "Everything Dulcimer" website a lot! 
Happy hammering!

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