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 and
Cygnet harps along with the newer Serenade, Ceili, and Ceili-Mor.
“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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