José Alejo is a wood, good sound, well-made things and pipes enthusiastic. After many years working in the furniture industry, he trained as a technician in Fine Arts and Industrial Design, and later decided to merge his knowledge and his passion for music to create DEPALET. Since then he is devoted to create guitars and basses by upcycling pallet wood
How would you describe the instruments you make with pallet wood?
They are personal and sustainable, the only ones that are capable of blush those people who underestimate the potential of the wood used.
We read this sentence in DEPALET website: ‘When we stop thinking about ourselves, everything becomes much easier’. It is obvious that you’ve already come this way. Do you think that, if everyone did the same, this planet would improve, if only a little?
Heh, heh… I am glad you found that sentence, no doubt for me it is very important, as it is one of the things that I have learned from DEPALET. And yes, if only a little, I’m sure that something would improve. I think we coexist with much more than with humans, pets, and accumulated assets. We should have all ‘the rest’ in mind as well: the sea, the forests, the rest of animals… Because they also have a role in this comic book which is life.
Sometimes, maybe as a matter of fact, we spend such effort on ourselves, on what we need or we yearn for that our live become an implosion. And here is something I have learned: when you project your efforts in a common good, the reward is just around the corner, although we do not have to wait for it. By the way, those who believe that the reward is money will need to read my sentence again.
We forget we are just passing through and the best tracks to leave behind us are those which others voluntarily wish to follow.
On the basis of your experience as a woodworker, why did you turned to make musical instruments?
It was something unavoidable. I started to play the guitar when I was 27 and I already had certain knowledge about the world of furniture by those days. Simply, one good day I thought I was able to make my own guitar. That was the beginning of everything.
Some well-known musicians and singers already have their DEPALET guitars. What do you think they find in your instruments?
There is no doubt: empathy. Very honest and necessary actions are carried by our instruments: recycling, ethical consumption, local production, crafts, a fair use of the planet resources… Those who buy a DEPALET instrument do believe in our philosophy.
How do you work at DEPALET? Only by request?
Yes. The DEPALET portfolio contains ‘Natural’ standard models with no added customization. Besides, there are several customizations which can be combined to get closer and exclusive instruments. Every guitar we make has its own photographic history with 10 photos minimum, which illustrates the making of. We treat our products like what they are: works of art. Therefore, the relationship with our clients has to be as close as possible, and we love that.
What basic steps are necessary to prepare the pallet wood before working it into a musical instrument?
1. Disassemble the pallet
2. Remove the nails and other items used for the assembly like staples, screws, straps…
3. Drying: we leave the wood dry between 6 and 12 months, depending on the kind of wood.
4. Once the wood is dry, those pieces with too many knots or cracks are discarded, because they could hamper the making of.
5. Selection: we choose the most suitable woods for each instrument and for each part of it.
6. We start the process.
You often give sessions on upcycling to kids. How do they feel about those activities?
All the children I have been in touch with have something in common: they have the ability to understand that we are not making instruments but we lengthen the useful life of pallet wood instead. They know the instruments are nothing but an excuse for us to try to tell the world that we have to be more respectful with the environment. They always interrupt one another to tell stories about recycling, what is very good because it shows they are really interested in what they are doing.
DEPALET BAND is another activity linked to DEPALET. This band plays with pallet wood instruments. A kind of testing bench for your instruments?
Of course it is, but it is also a testing bench for those people who want to try and enjoy our instruments. One of the strengths of DEPALET BAND consists in giving the chance to everyone to play with them. Everybody can be on stage and play a song with them, and the best thing of all is that those people will share an experience with an experienced band, to whom I thank for all the effort and energy they put in this project.
How do you get the raw material, the pallets?
The beginnings of DEPALET were as expected: one day I just turned up at Lliçà de Vall’s industrial park to ask some companies if they would provide me with the pallets they were wasting. In addition, I had to specify that the European pallets would not be useful to me, because I believe that using them for anything different from the original purpose they had been designed for would not be recycling, to me that would be offshoring instead.
Currently I collaborate with Recupalet Codina, a company based in Montornès del Vallès, which works in recovering and recycling discarded pallets to give the wood a second life.
One day Albert Codina, the Manager, invited me to their plants and he gave me the opportunity to make good use of all the wood that is difficult for him to recycle and therefore it is just turned into board chips and beds for animals, or it is used as biomass (pellets, wood sticks…). So, we started to collaborate and now Recupalet is DEPALET’s main supplier.