Indiana Daily Student

Instrument crafted from Alumni Hall scrap

Mike Webb crafted his dulcimer from scrap pieces of wood that he salvaged after various renovations of the Indiana Memorial Union.
Mike Webb crafted his dulcimer from scrap pieces of wood that he salvaged after various renovations of the Indiana Memorial Union.

After Alumni Hall was renovated last summer, 53-year-old Mike Webb couldn’t help but notice all of the wood lying around afterward.

So he put it to use.

Webb, who works in mechanical maintenance at the Indiana Memorial Union, made a dulcimer, a fretted string instrument, out of wood torn down from Alumni Hall. The dulcimer was displayed last week at the IMU between Alumni Hall and Starbucks.

“It was a fun project,” Webb said. “I worked on it for about a month and a half, just an hour or two at a time. I’ve never made anything like this before.”

After Webb showed the dulcimer to his coworkers, a display was created outside Alumni Hall.   

“He’s really proud of it,” said Assistant Director of Facility Services Gary Chrzastowski.

As well as the dulcimer, the display also contained photos of some of Webb’s other projects, including items he has made for his home.

“I like tinkering,” Webb said. “All I need’s an excuse.”

The only items Webb had to buy to make the dulcimer were the strings, frets and tuners.

Everything else, including the wood for the case, “came out of the trash.”

He estimated that the whole project cost about $50.

“I’m a pack rat of sorts, I suppose,” Webb said. “I would rather build it than buy it if I had the option and the tools.”

Webb first became interested in dulcimers after his wife purchased one for him as an anniversary gift a few years ago. He has since bought another one and now owns three including the one he made.    

A traditional dulcimer is “more of an hourglass shape” than his own, Webb said. He chose to carve dragonfly-shaped sound holes rather than the traditional circles or f-holes found on other dulcimers and string instruments.

“Everybody says it looks elaborate but it’s actually pretty simple,” Webb said. “It’s probably the neatest thing I’ve ever built.”

He said he enjoys playing the dulcimer and has been playing the “versatile” instrument for the last couple of years. He says it is similar to playing a fiddle.

Originally from Bloomington, Webb moved to Bedford, Ind., five years ago. He drives 32 miles Friday through Tuesday to work at the IMU.

He has three kids, two sons in Bloomington and a daughter in Bedford, and multiple grandchildren. Many of his creations were built for his family.

“I’ve built beds and toys for the grandkids and some furniture for my house,” Webb said. “I did most of the woodwork in my house myself. Vanities, sinks, mirrors — things like that.”

He’s not working on a project right now, but his next project will be building his grandsons a bunk bed, “either a fire truck or a tree house.” He said he enjoys making items that can be heirlooms for his family.

“Hopefully the dulcimer is something I can pass along to my kids,” he added. “It’ll be around longer than I will.”

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