Sunhearth dulcimers were built by Walter Martin
of Roaring Spring, a little town in the mountains of western Pennsylvania.
was a world-famous builder of Appalachian dulcimers.
made a thousand of them before retiring at age 80.
Walter founded Sunhearth Folk Instruments in 1971.
had built and driven race-cars, had taught high-school shop for years, and had built the family home (which he
") with the help of his
father in the 1930s.
Now, looking for another challenge, he
happened to hear a group of folk-singers at State College, PA, and fell in love with the music.
invited them all home and bet them a keg of beer they couldn't sing all night long without repeating themselves.
paid for a lot of beer that night, but also fell in love with the Appalachian Dulcimer.
It turned out there was a whole world of music right on his
doorstep he'd never heard.
can't carry a tune in a bucket, but he
is an excellent artisan, and he
set out to research the dulcimer with an engineer's thoroughness.
The design he
came up with in a few months became the heart of the Sunhearth success.
It was half engineering, half wit, and half luck.
Over the first few years, he
puzzled painfully though string physics, fret spacing, musical scales, and design refinements, but he
build dulcimers that has a sweetness and clarity no one else had achieved.
Most dulcimers begin to sound like thumb pianos up in the second octave, but Walt's just keep singing with that same sweetness all the way up to the strum hollow.
was soon winning notice at fairs and music festivals around Pennsylvania.
Somewhere along the way, Mike and Walt
met Lorraine Lee Hammond.
called him his "Number Two Son", and it would be like keeping the business in the family if Dwain took it up.
Dwain Wilder studied formally with Walt
for a few weeks to catch up on the arcane little corners of what Walt knew.
After a few years of development, Bear Meadow dulcimers are louder and more dynamic than Walter's
If you wish to list your Sunhearth instrument (Walter Martin also built banjos and hammered dulcimers) on our site, please contact us with the number, photo, your name and contacts.