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Cutting fingerboard slots


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Hi everyone! I’m a newbie here, making my first mountain dulcimer, hourglass shape. I have familiarity with some basic instrument making. I want to know how you builders cut the fretboard slots. Do you use a template to mark the slot positions? Also, what tools did you use? I am doing this on my basement workbench with limited power tools. I do have a couple friends with more extensive woodworking shops. Thanks for any tips!

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I mark fret locations with a pencil and a small square, from a table of fret spacings generated by WFret or one of the other fret calculators for the specific VSL I am building.     Measure ONLY from the nut to each fret individually.  Do Not measure fret-to-fret distances, as errors in measurement compound radically! 

My first dulcimer, years ago, was made with only a palm finish sander and drill as power tools.  I cut the sound holes with an X-Acto knife, and the fret slots with a very thin blade in an inexpensive jewelers saw.  Later, I used a thin blade in a scroll saw,   I've also used purpose-made fret saws in a purpose-made fret cutting miter box.  That is probably the least expensive option.  They came, I think, from Stew Mac.  Even the thinnest hacksaw blade makes too wide of a slot.

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Thanks, NoterMan!  Glad to hear from someone who started this with limited tools.  And so glad to hear about the measurement tips as I can see myself measuring from the wrong spot!  Do you have a recommendation for VSL as this is my first build?  

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  • 4 weeks later...

I think it was after my third dulcimer build that I bit the bullet and bought a fret saw from StewMac. I've used WFret to make a template for a 27 inch VSL. I use a square to put lines on the fret board and place my fret saw against the square when starting my cut. I use a different method for installing staple frets.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

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