My eldest son, then age 7, and I were sitting in our guestroom one morning about a year and a half ago. This is the room where a lot of the instruments live that I don't play regularly. There is the big old jumbo-sized six string made by Seth Hedu, an acoustic baritone guitar made by Steve Wishnevskey, and a banjo that belonged to my wife's uncle. There is a charango that my mother in law brought back from La Paz, Bolivia after a visit and a five string mountain dulcimer made by the great W. E. "Bill" Young, who was a North Carolina maker of some distinction before he passed. I am still looking for more information on him, so if anyone has some, send it along. I'd like to make him a memorial here.
There are also a bunch of things I have made over the years that are of varying levels of recognizable. The only factory made instruments in the room are the banjo and my own personal most expensive instrument, which is a round-necked Dobro that I bought when I played with the Brooklyn Jugs fifteen years ago or so.
So my eldest and I are sitting there and he says "You should make a guitar with three humps instead of two humps. "Hm," I say. "What would that look like? Could you draw it for me?" One of the things I LOVE about kids is that there is little inhibition. "Sure," he says, and pads off to find a pen and paper. He draws what he is thinking of and I say "well, that's cool looking. What is it called?" With all of the confidence a (then) seven-year-old can muster he says "It's a Deltrula."
So of course I have to build it.
I had to back-burner it until this past June, when I was at Haystack Mountain School of Craft leading a workshop, and it was there that I filled some spare hours beginning the work of making a Deltrula. It is... Weird.
Weird to say the least.
Jaydan Moore (who was teaching the metals class that session) for a tailpiece. It is a piece of an old serving tray and is just about right for this crazy thing.
Because he was born on the 13th, it has 13 strings and 13 frets. I played with the drawing a little because I wanted it to have a ridiculously short neck to deal with all of those strings. It is strung in four courses of three strings each, with one extra bass string. That extra string is tuned to A, with the four courses tuned to DGBE, which is how I keep my tenor guitar tuned. Pretty weird to play.
The whole thing is chestnut out of a Shoninger Piano that was built in 1913 I think. So a combo of wormy and not, with a piece of the original mahogany veneer on the completely silly and massive head stock. It is pretty loud, and my eldest says it sounds "like a robot," which seems about right. Not sure it will come out on this video, but it sure is a weird thing. Sort of like my eldest.