Why We are Switching Away from Baltic Birch

December 1, 2022

By Nicolette Foss

For years, we’ve been using Baltic Birch on many of our hammered dulcimers. It was economical and built good, solid, durable instruments. However, the conflict with Russia has made the wood harder to get, forcing us to switch our materials.

Some other problems with Baltic Birch include: 

  • Getting woods shipped from far away lands adds to the carbon footprint
  • It is not managed for sustainability
  • The Birch grown in Siberia is slow growth 


A Word on the New Wood Grains


Now is our opportunity to bring in some wood sources! There are other solutions that will work well with hammered dulcimer production. 

Here are the new woods we are now using to replace Baltic Birch:


  • Sourced from the United States
  • High quality
  • Typically grows in Pennsylvania (which is where the best Cherry is said to come from)
  • We’ve got some especially pretty Cherry right now from a private seller here locally in Iowa

Radiata Pine

  • Native to Central California coast (most widely planted plantation wood in the world)
  • Managed and well done
  • Will be the top and back of new dulcimers and Chickadees
  • Made by Arauco

Softwood Ply

  • Sourced from the United States
  • Durable, affordable wood that allow us to create an affordable quality instrument


New Changes to Our Models

Since we are doing away with the Baltic Birch, we’ve made changes to our production line. Here are the changes/upcoming changes to our wood grain selections. 

  • Phoebe and Phoebe Chromatic models: From Baltic Birch, we’ve already switched to a lovely Cherry veneer and with a softwood ply back. We believe Cherry makes it a much prettier dulcimer!


  • Chickadee and Chickadee Chromatic models: Our last stack of Baltic Birch will get us through Christmas, then we will switch to making these models out of Radiata Pine. Right now is your last chance to get a Baltic Birch Chickadee!!


What do you think? Will you miss the ol’ Baltic Birch? Let us know in the comments below!

About the author: In her childhood, Nicolette Foss could be found playing underneath piles of sawdust in her father’s hammered dulcimer workshop. She helped with odds and ends in the business, attended folk music festivals, and learned the importance of hard work. These days,  you can find her belly dancing to instrumental Arabic music, learning the Serbian language, making short films with friends, and cuddling her cat Georgie. If you’d like to hire Nicolette for content writing or copywriting work, contact her at: nicolettelady@protonmail.com


  • Joseph A Baumgardner says:

    I see that you are getting rid of your Baltic Birch!! Not a bad decision based on world problems with Russia
    In looking across the web last night I found same articles that were not very nice to Radiata Pine. Maybe you should take a second look some of the problems with the Radiata Pine. I have been looking at purchasing a Chickadee chromatic hammered dulcimer in the very near future and what I saw about the Radiata Pine might just change some of my plans. I think I’ll give you guys a call tomorrow and we’ll have to talk about it. Thanks.

    • Songbird Dulcimers says:

      Hi Joseph,
      It would be nice if we had choices in what wood we can use, but unfortunately there is little else that will work for a ply top dulcimer that we can actually get. What I saw online is mostly about it escaping cultivation and becoming invasive which has more to do with us messing with the environment than the tree itself. Or using too much water which is again a management problem. The other woods we could get are fir ply, or various marine plywoods. The fir is construction grade and not suitable visually and causes trouble in sanding, etc. But it is what we are currently using under cherry veneer for the Phoebe and Phoebe Chromatic. We like the sound and look a lot and it fits (barely) within our cost structure. Of the marine plywoods, Meranti is the only one that we can afford and source here in the midwest but it is way too coarse grained and doesn’t sound very good. None of the others will work. Also, we have to use 3/8 plywood which vastly restricts our choices. In the last 20 years, the cabinet industry has switched from veneer core plywood to MDF core plywood which won’t work at all. We need a veneer core plywood that is the same species all the way through, looks good, works well, and sounds good, and that brings us to Radiata which is the only one. For the Chickadee and Chickadee Chromatic, we have enough birch for a couple more months, then we will have to switch to the Radiata without a veneer which would skew our costs way too much. It is a very difficult balancing act to make a business like ours work. Given the pros and cons of both Radiata and Baltic Birch, I think the Radiata is the better choice. Otherwise we would have to quit building Chickadees without which we would not survive. We are the only US builder still making a 12/11 size dulcimer, it would just be gone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *