Mountain Music Fills the Air: Banjos and Dulcimers: The Foxfire Americana Libray - Eliot Wigginton, Foxfire Students (2011)
THE FRET OR FINGER BOARD
This piece is the most important and critical of all the pieces. The distance from the string nut, near the peg head, to the bridge on the other end, must be exact. The frets must be placed exactly at the right place, or the notes will not be true. This distance or spacing of frets can be figured mathematically, although I do not know the formula. I have a master pattern of a fret board which was given to me by a master dulcimer maker. I go by this, and am most particular about its construction. The quality of the fret board determines the quality of music of the finished dulcimer. A beautiful dulcimer with a poor fret board makes an expensive wall decoration, as that is all it is good for. Remove some of the wood from the inside of the fret board, or hollow it out, to make the sound from the frets and string pass more easily to the sound box (ILLUSTRATION 87).
Keep the top of the fret board perfectly flat from one end to the other. If it is not flat, when you press the strings down on a fret, the string will touch the next fret also. This will deaden some of the sound and make the string buzz. Be sure the frets are seated solidly in their slots; raise the bridge a little, or even file a high spot off the fret to stop the buzzing. Sometimes it becomes necessary to remove all the frets, scrape and sand the fret board straight, and replace the frets to get it to play again.
Use regular guitar frets from a music store, cut to the proper length. Make saw slots with a thin coping saw. Make a saw slot in scrap wood, and file down the side of the blade until you get a thin slot that is a nice tight fit for the fret (ILLUSTRATION 88). Again, take care in making the fret board, as this is the most important part of a dulcimer (see ILLUSTRATION 106).