Woodworker, musician make sweet sounds

July 09, 1992|By Walt Wiley | Walt Wiley,McClatchy News Service

NORTH COLUMBIA, Calif. -- Rick Toles is a musician. Tim Kretzmann is a cabinetmaker. The two callings may not seem to have much in common, but Toles and Kretzmann think they do.

That is why the sounds that emanate from Mr. Kretzmann's shop are often much more pleasant than the screech of the table saw or the roar of a sander.

It is also why the products that come from the shop include not only shelves and cupboards but also an incredible musical instrument called the "bouffant bass" and several models of a sweet-sounding giant, stringed cigar box called the hammered dulcimer.

Their business card tells the tale: "Ananda Woodworking; custom cabinets and furniture; Joyfull Strings Instruments; Tim Kretzmann, owner; Rick Toles, luthier." (A luthier is a maker of stringed instruments.)

Several times a day on a Nevada County ridge top between the south and middle forks of the Yuba River, the sound of the shop switches from industrial din to the ringing, honeyed notes of the hammered dulcimer, maybe accompanied by the booming bouffant.

"Well, we have to do quality-control testing -- a lot," said Mr. Kretzmann with a chuckle as he and Mr. Toles switched off the cabinet-making machines and switched on the music mode.

Both 41 years old, both members of the Ananda religious community where the shop is located, they explained that they became friends a couple of years ago almost as soon as Mr. Toles arrived from Michigan, where he had operated a music store.

"I was broke, looking for just anything to make a living, so Tim let me use a corner of his shop to do some musical instrument repair work," Mr. Toles recalled.

Working together, the two soon learned that Mr. Toles was more of a woodworker than he had thought, just as Mr. Kretzmann was more a musician than he had though.

So Mr. Toles and Mr. Kretzmann started making dulcimers, trying them out and using their failures as firewood. Then one of the experiments was successful.

"It was a start, not perfect, but we were on the right track," said Mr. Kretzmann.

"It had this fat, ringing sound. It sang," said Mr. Toles.

"We set up at music festivals with a booth selling these things, and the people crowd around, want to know when the next show is," said Mr. Kretzmann, grinning, "and we even sell a few."

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