4 String Dulcimer Build #6: Frettin' over the finger board

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Blog entry by Dave Rutan posted 11-18-2016 10:03 PM 1329 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: Friction Tuning Pegs Part 6 of 4 String Dulcimer Build series Part 7: Sound board »

[Above] With the fingerboard otherwise finished, it’s time to cut the fret slots. This is actually the most important part of the whole process as the position of each fret makes the difference between musical instrument and a nice wall hanging. I looked up 3 separate fret calculators online and they all gave me the same answers.

Using milimeters and my true to life meter stick, I marked the location of each fret on the wood, starting from the nut end.

[Above] I’m using a miter box made especially for cutting frets with my dovetail saw. I previously checked all my saws and the dovetail saw made a kerf appropriate to my fret wire.

[Above] With the fret slots cut, I’m cutting a piece of native maple for the nut and bridge. The pieces need only be 1/4 inch high, so I’m cutting them down with a chisel.

[Above] And here’s where I have to deal with yet another short coming. Somehow I cut the finger board about 2 inches short. My solution to this is to add a bit at the end. To help hide this, I’m covering the joint with an inlay. (There! I meant to do that! It’s extra fancy now!)

[Above 3] So what I’m doing here us filing a rabbet on the ends of the two pieces on 3 sides to accept a wrapping of light colored wood. Each piece is held up against a block so that my 1/8 inch thick file can work without ruining anything else. I’ll add the inlay after the fingerboard/top assembly are glued to the box.

[Above] So back to the frets! I’m using banjo/mandolin frets left over from the first dulcimer. I’m lucky that I ended up having just more than enough for this build.

[Above] First thing is to cut the frets just oversize. I’m using side cutting pliers. Music stores sell similar tools for twice the price. (Did I say that out loud?) After putting the fret wire in each slot, you tap them in using a block of wood. Then, if needed, you cut the fret wire as close to the wood as possible.

[Above] Next you grab one of these. It’s just a hunk of wood about 6 inches long with two kerfs cut into it on the table saw. One kerf is at 90 degrees, the other at 45 degrees. A metal file sits in the kerf by friction.

[Above] Us this gadget to file the edges of the fret wire smooth, or at lease remove the sharp edges. You may need to switch it back from 45 to 90 a few times. few frets may pop out. Those can be glued into their slots with CA glue.

I took my fingerboard outside and hit it with a few coats of spray lacquer to help glue the frets in. The mahogany looks great with the maple bridge and nut. Getting close to the home stretch!

-- Ni faru ion el ligno!

2 comments so far

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11405 posts in 3171 days

#1 posted 11-20-2016 02:05 AM

When you are finished with this one, it would be interesting to hear both of your dulcimers being played, Dave.

-- God bless, Candy

View Dave Rutan's profile

Dave Rutan

2009 posts in 3519 days

#2 posted 11-20-2016 02:19 AM

When you are finished with this one, it would be interesting to hear both of your dulcimers being played, Dave.

- CFrye

I’m sure that could be arranged after Christmas.

-- Ni faru ion el ligno!

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