Locally sourced timber
Callan harps are made from locally sourced, naturally felled Irish native timber where possible. Timbers used include ash, sycamore, beech, cherry, oak, yew, poplar, walnut and elm. The sound and tone of the harp will vary depending on the wood species used.
Mature native trees are very difficult to find. However, over the past few years, I have managed to source several trees that had fallen due to storms or strong gusts of wind, such as a walnut tree from Kilchreest House outside Craughwell, two flamed beech trees and a 150 year old pear tree from Woodville house – also in Kilchreest – a sycamore tree from Castle Ellen outside Athenry, or another walnut tree from Toghermore house outside Tuam. As the place names suggest, one is more likely to find mature native trees on lands or gardens that were part of a former demesne. Some of these trees are still drying in storage.
The only timber I cannot source locally is the Sitka spruce to build the harp soundboard. Also used to make soundboards for violins, the Sitka spruce is ideal to manufacture instruments with a good tone that will improve over the years as they are played on a regular basis.
While the Sitka spruce is widely grown in Ireland, the predominantly humid weather conditions produce a wood quality that is not suitable for instrument making. I have been sourcing spruce from the colder climates of the mountainous parts of Europe such as Italy.
The drying process
Wood is a naturally hygroscopic material which constantly loses or absorbs moisture from the air depending on the environment conditions.
Once cut into logs or planks, the timber needs to air dry for as long as possible – 6 to 12 months minimum. This process will bring down the moisture content of the wood to approximately 20%. To bring down the moisture content to a workable 8%, the timber is then left for a few weeks in a warm shed, in my workshop or kiln-dried to speed up the process.
In the constant environment of a dry room, the finished harp will eventually stabilise and naturally adapt to the slight variations of the room conditions.