…so if God gives you lemons, make lemonade? If God gives you pallet wood, make dulcimores? “Why not?” Locally the fire wood industry has all but dried up. Not so many years ago, this pallet wood was collected and cut for fire wood. Many of those who burnt fire wood no longer do, and those who do are inundated by all the free storm wood out there. So the once sought after materials lay in waste, waiting for the dumpster to haul it off to the land fill! I’ve collected a few truck loads of poplar, maple and oak, enough for a year or so for myself. Precut and stacked to dry out completely in the corners of my little world. And knowing myself the way I do, I’ll collect several more in my pack rat mentality, squirrel holed away at the camp. Once I’ve stored up enough, I’ll start making dulcimores for sale with my steady supply of “free” material. I would recon that 30 to 40 percent is dulcimore quality. Some can be used for cases and music stands, and the balance cut to the proper length for the fire place. (Did I mention this material makes awesome fire wood?)
The oak steam bends wonderfully into custom cases. The maple is great peg head and fret boards. The poplar is now my favorite wood. Really poplar has always been my favorite. Our state tree, (Indiana) it has a history and tradition locally unlike any other. I’ve seen whole houses built from poplar. And long before that, cabins made from the straight logs were the norm for hundreds of years. The poplar was used in dulcimore making because of its availability as well as the ease of working. Defined as a hard wood, it’s about as soft a hard wood as they come. Working all by hand was relatively easy with poplar. It was said by a prolific dulcimer maker that they had to be made out of poplar or they wouldn’t have any sound. I had reservations about the softness of the wood. I was concerned the durability would be sacrificed, but the tonal quality easily trumps that. First I leaned towards the mahogany. Guitars have been made that way for many years, but the integral design is much different in the two. Mahogany is bright and clear but not very loud! Whereas the poplar is tonally correct for the design, and has been all along.