Dave Thormahlen first became interested in instrument making
as a mandolin playing teenager in Palo Alto, CA. Dave regularly attended
jam sessions at Gryphon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto. One night
the owner, Frank Ford, let him play a mandolin he had just finished
building. The light bulb went on and Dave thought, "Wow, people
actually make these things. I would like to do that."
With great encouragement from his parents, he went to college, eventually
earning a master’s degree in geology. It was while Dave was
a graduate student at Oregon State University that he happened upon
the Memorial Union Craft Center. There, Dave found his second home,
and with his childhood background of building boats with his dad
and junior high woodshop, he was able to pursue his dream of learning
the craft of making musical instruments. The creative freedom to
work out his own harp design led him to focus on harp making.
Over the last 20 years, Dave has refined his skills and designs while
making over 1400 instruments, specializing in his 36 string Swan,
Cygnet and Serenade harps along with the 34 string Clare and Ceili.
“In my work as an instrument maker, I am fortunate to be able
to combine my love of music and a fascination with woodworking. Although
harps are the main focus of my business, I try to find time to make
a few guitars and mandolins. You can see some of my work at: Thormahlen
Guitars and Mandolins.
With most instruments the choice of woods is fairly narrow, defined
by what the players want and expect. In the harp world, the choices
are wide open. The instrument lends itself to more options of materials
allowing me to combine many different varieties of woods.”
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