As I wrote the title to this post I found myself thinking of 1950’s films about the future, but I digress.
One of the most frustrating things for a dulcimer maker or player is a fretboard with playability that changes with the weather. Such a fretboard will bow up, down, or twist with the change of seasons.
I use some design and construction methods to assure my fretboards remain stable but the first step is to use seasoned, stable and straight-grained wood.
Trees do not produce perfectly straight-grained wood by request. I know. I’ve asked them. There is often a compromise of qualities that must be weighed and balanced when choosing from the best wood available.
This board came from the mill with pretty straight grain but it wasn’t running parallel to the edge of the board.
I penciled a line parallel to the direction of the grain and went to the garage to rip the edge on the bandsaw. I always bang on the door first to let the squirrels know I’m coming.
Whenever I see that coffee can I think of this scene from “The Big Lebowski.
From the bandsaw it is back to the bench to joint the edge with my trusty #7 plane.
After jointing the edge it is down into the basement to rip the board into fretboard blanks on the table saw.
After ripping the fretboard blanks to over-sized dimensions they are dated and put in the attic to relax for many months.
At first the fretboard blanks protest and don’t want to go to the attic but after convincing they are going there to relax they become less reluctant. One asked for a foot-rub to help it relax but I had to remind it that it didn’t have feet. I’ll stop now.
During this time they may warp or twist but it is better they do that long before they become part of a dulcimer. The fretboard blanks were milled over-sized so they can be brought to final dimension after working out any twists and turns they might develop. If one of the fretboard blanks twists and turns more than I am comfortable with it will either become braces or firewood.