robert schuler
robert schuler
@robert-schuler
3 weeks ago
241 posts

A Fingerboard can easily account for 25% of the soundboard. So raising it has to make a difference. You only need to raise it a couple millimeters. I prefer to hollow out under the Fingerboard and leave 4 mm. on each side glued to the top. I add a soundhole on the fingerboard like I've seen on some Galax dulcimers, that might help tone a bit and looks cool too.

I think restraining the top with a glued fingerboard can actually help in making that very  intimate tone that is unique to dulcimers. Although I welcome those who push the envelope we better be careful not to end up with dulcimers that sound like skinny guitars....Robert

Matt Berg
Matt Berg
@matt-berg
3 weeks ago
75 posts

Sorry about the "Eww". sometime my fingers work faster than my brain.

Matt Berg
Matt Berg
@matt-berg
3 weeks ago
75 posts

These photos are a recent build so you see a little of what I am talking about.

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Matt Berg
Matt Berg
@matt-berg
3 weeks ago
75 posts

Eww, metal dowels?  I use a wooden dowel at the head and a true bridge placed so that the fret board is properly tensioned and does not warp, takes some practice.  The fretboard floats about a 1/4 inch above the soundboard.  The fretboard becomes part of the vibrating part of the instrument and adds (or detracts) from the sound.  This is different from the neck of a guitar.

As far as the soundboard goes, yes, you need to practice bracing so that you emphasize the sound you are looking for. If you are building a standard (treble) dulcimer, try thicker and more bracing.  This will dampen the bass and give you clearer melody notes.  For a bass (my favorite), try longer thinner bracing so that the bass can vibrate.  (The shape of a MD allows for much longer bracing than most other instruments, a difference that can be used.)

If you have difficulty placing the bridge properly, try a second bridge under the seven fret.  A wooden bridge still transfers vibration to the soundboard.  I prefer lighter wood like cedar for my bridges, but like everything a luthier does, whatever works for you is best.

If you are going to try this, you might want to subscribe to American Lutherie.  This magazine focuses on the guitar, but you will find lots of articles by people who have been shaping bracing for years.

Bill Robison
Bill Robison
@bill-robison
3 weeks ago
12 posts

Thank you all for the response on floating fretboard.  I am going to attempt one

Bob Stephens
Bob Stephens
@bob-stephens
3 weeks ago
14 posts

Dusty is correct in that my Fingerstyle, the recent parallel braced dulcimer being played by Butch Ross and the latest X-braced dulcimer supplied to Aaron O'Rourke all have bolt on fretboards that are raised above the soundboard on posts.  The entire soundboard is free to vibrate.  Although I have never done a direct comparison, with and without gluing the fretboard to the top with everything else being equal, the instruments with an elevated fretboard are clearly more responsive and have more volume potential.  The overall character of the tone is also altered because of the large vibrating plate that results.  There is a shift to enhance the mids and lows relative to the high end.  The resulting sound will not be what everyone is looking for.  As we build more of these dulcimers we are learning more about how to alter the sound profile to achieve a particular desired response.  Adding braces in particular patterns and using different top thicknesses is opening up a world of new possibilities.  I expect that over the next few years, a lot will be learned about how to reach the full potential of these instruments.  Aaron, Butch and I are attempting to learn all we can and push the envelope as far as possible.  The results of our efforts will be detailed in the blog section of my website, stephenslutherie.com.  

I am currently in the process of relocating my shop from South Carolina to Wisconsin, so there will be a gap in progress for the next four or five months.  The new shop will be focused solely on instrument production and should be much more efficient once it is up and running.  Between Aaron, Butch and I we have plenty of ideas to keep the new shop busy.

Bob Reinsel
Bob Reinsel
@bob-reinsel
3 weeks ago
81 posts

This is an example of an arched fretboard that I built with only one pier between the nut and tail end.

arched.jpeg
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--
Bob
Site Moderator

The greatest music is made for love, not for money -- Greg Lake

updated by @bob-reinsel: 01/04/21 03:37:13PM
Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 weeks ago
1,397 posts

There are at least a couple of builders who do not glue the fretboard to the soundboard at all. My octave dulcimer by David Beede has the fretboard screwed into the dulcimer with three metal dowels, but it sits entirely about 1/4 inch above the soundboard. His logic is that the top is free to vibrate that way. And I think FOTMD member @bob-stephens also makes dulcimers with floating fretboards.  In this discussion he specifically says that his "fretboards don't touch the top."  I think he also uses metal bolts to attach the fretboard to the dulcimer and allow it to sit above the soundboard.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie

updated by @dusty-turtle: 01/04/21 08:20:14PM
Bill Robison
Bill Robison
@bill-robison
3 weeks ago
12 posts

Ken,

 I realize the fretboard is glued to top somewhere, I was thinking along the lines of gluing the fretboard only at the head and tail blocks and making the top a braced single unit  with just a fraction of clearance between it and the fretboard  and setting the bridge on the top instead of on the fretboard

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
3 weeks ago
1,798 posts

Bill -- they're all glued to the top.  It's just that floating FBs have the area under the bridge separated.  IIRC floating a dulcimer fretboard does not have "significant" effect.  Whatever "significant" means;  almost no one builds floaters these days.  That was one of the post-revival ideas of Howie Mitchell I think.  These days many builders offer arched fretboards which significantly reduce the amount of FB-to-top contact while still supporting the fretboard for its entire length.

If you can find the archives of EverythingDulcimer, I believe that Richard Troughear, from Australia -- who for years had an on-going series of Experiments which he posted there -- did an experiment with the same body with different FBs including a floater.  Almost no other builders conduct true scientific investigations into various aspects of dulcimer construction; rather they give us quantitative, not qualitative comparisons -- feelings not numbers.


updated by @ken-hulme: 01/04/21 06:55:55AM
Bill Robison
Bill Robison
@bill-robison
3 weeks ago
12 posts

I know there are builders who "float" their fretboards. I am sure there are discussions on methods and pros and cons for this.  Have  any builders made a comparison of floating versus glued to top? Thanks 

Bill R