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Where Are Folkcraft Dulcimers Made?

January 5, 2024
Good Morning, Y'all, and Happy New Year. I hope this year is a good one for all of you.
I've gotten this question a lot lately, and figured I would answer it here in the newsletter: "Where do you get your..." Usually the question ends in "lumber," but it is very often "tuners," "fret wire," or any of the other parts and pieces we use to build instruments.
So I'll give you a specific dulcimer, and break it all down as best as I can. Say (hypothetically, of course!) that you ordered a Folkcraft® Custom Series dulcimer with a rosewood body, a Sitka spruce top, an ebony fretboard veneer, and a Fishman pickup:
Dulcimer body: East Indian rosewood, comes to us from a lumber mill in India. I have "a guy" that picks out some really nice stuff for us, sends us photos, and if I like what he's chosen, I send him money, and he ships us the rosewood.

flag of indiaFlag of India

Dulcimer top: Sitka spruce, grown in Alaska, USA. I have a supplier in Michigan who buys huge quantities from the mill (which is in either Alaska or Washington) and brings it to his shop. I buy the Sitka spruce from our Michigan supplier.

alaska state flag
Alaska State Flag

Grown in Gabon (the country in Africa). Imported to the USA by a company in North Carolina. I buy the ebony from North Carolina, even though it is grown in Africa. 

flag of gabon
Flag of Gabon

Lacquer: Our lacquer is made by a Canadian company. We are lucky to be able to buy the lacquer from a local supplier who will bring this right to our door, so we don't have to deal with shipping a flammable liquid.

canadian flag
Canadian Flag

Machine heads (tuners): Made for us by a company in South Korea, imported into the USA by a California company, and shipped to our door in Indiana.

south korea flag
Flag of South Korea

Strings: The wire is made in the USA (South Carolina), the ball ends are made in Germany, and the wire/ball ends are turned into strings by a company in Michigan. We use some "stock" strings, and they custom make some strings to our specs, too.

south carolina flag
South Carolina State Flag

michigan state flag
Michigan State Flag

Fret wire: Made for us in Connecticut, USA. We specify the alloy (copper vs. nickel vs. the other ingredients), the crown height and width, and the tang depth. They've been making our fret wire for decades.

connecticut state flag
Connecticut State Flag

Pickup: We offer three varieties of pickups - two made in the USA, and one made partly in the USA and partly in China. The Fishman in this (hypothetical) dulcimer is made by Fishman. The company makes the pickup part (the piezo element that goes underneath the bridge) in Massachusetts, USA, and the preamp part (the electronics that go in the side of your dulcimer) in China. The piezo elements are custom-made for our dulcimers.

flag of china
Flag of China

Our cases are made here in our shop. The fabric itself comes from India (via a USA importer), the zipper comes to us from Japan, the foam padding is made in Michigan, and the thread is from Germany. Our embroidery thread is also from Germany.

germany flag
Flag of Germany

flag of japan
Flag of Japan

So a Custom Series rosewood/spruce/ebony dulcimer has parts from the USA (working with manufacturers and suppliers in a variety of states), Gabon, Germany, Canada, South Korea, China, and India. Some components take months to procure, some materials we can get in just a few weeks. We can easily make complete instruments with strictly USA components, if you want one - about the only thing I can't find a great substitute for is the lacquer we use, which is from Canada.

Who would have thought that a traditional American folk instrument could be made from such a world-spanning selection of materials?

We're proud to work with so many great companies all around the world - they provide us with the finest materials, and allow us to focus on building your instruments. The design, craftsmanship, woodworking, assembly, finishing, and so much more is (of course) from our Woodburn, Indiana workshop. 

united states of america flagFlag of The United States Of America

Thanks for reading, Y'all - Have a great 2024!

Richard Ash, luthier-who-started-his-working-career-as-a-music-teacher-and-never-gave-much-thought-to-global-supply-chains!