This page talks specifically about the woods and materials we use for Dusty Strings hammered dulcimers. For more general information about the hammered dulcimer, try the dulcimer info page.
We use two different materials for our soundboards. The lower priced instruments have laminated birch for their soundboard and back. This helps us keep the price of our beginning instruments affordable because we can buy it in ready-to-use sheet form. It is the highest grade of plywood available, looks quite nice and has the added benefit of being fairly impervious to changes in temperature and humidity, enhancing the instrument's stability. It gives a clean, clear and pleasing quality of sound. (More details available on our blog: Plywood vs. Solid Wood Hammered Dulcimers)
All of our solid wood instruments have soundboards and backs made of high-quality, quarter-sawn sapele. We chose this wood for its visual beauty, dimensional stability, and most importantly for the sound. The acoustic properties of sapele combined with our instrument and bracing designs give a rich, deep brilliance, controlled sustain, and clarity of fundamental tone that results in a smooth, professional sound.
While the use of a plywood soundboard and back provides an economical, good-sounding instrument, solid wood on the same instrument will produce more resonance, depth, brilliance and volume. Also, the tone quality of a solid-wood instrument continues to develop over the years, enhancing its long-term value and the satisfaction of owning and playing it.
Through many years of building dulcimers, we have focused a lot of attention and research on strings. We have carefully balanced the string gauges and materials across each instrument for best tone and tension, providing a comfortable and consistent resiliency. This is a subtle detail that gives our instruments a pleasing "feel" under your hammers as well as a balanced and even tone. We use plain steel, phosphor bronze, phosphor bronze wrapped, and steel wrapped strings. There are two loop-end strings per course.
See our dulcimer strings page for string diagrams and information about ordering strings.
For long-lasting protection and beauty, each instrument receives multiple applications of clear lacquer, allowing the true color and character of the wood to shine through. Black lacquer is also an available option.