fret spacing

Just share stories or offer advice

Postby kwl » Tue Feb 10, 2009 9:36 pm

Welcome to ED, bmleff! The placement of the frets is determined by the vibrating string length (VSL) of the dulcimer. This is the distance from the inside of the nut (side facing the bridge) to the inside of the nut (side facing the nut). I use a free computer program, WFret, to calculate the position of the frets. The program will print out a template to use. You need to tell the program you want a diatonic scale and you want to add the 6 1/2 fret. The fret spacing works for both DAA and DAd. You can use banjo strings which are loop end strings.
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Postby mrchips » Tue Feb 10, 2009 10:52 pm

Sde note... I used mediem banjo strings on those 2 scrsp burners of mine simply because I had a half dozen sets for some reason considering I dont own a banjo. :lol: :lol: Could be because in a wild hair moment I was thinking something like a 28 inch slide dulcimer. :lol: :lol: :lol: Now that I got a good stock of Hammer dulcimers stashed away its a bit hard to go cold turky on wood butchering.. Bit soft for a 24 inch VSL but are workable,, ,010 .013 .020 wound, A .022 or a .024 wire wound would work better.

For say a 26 inch VSL the strings as they are might work. On any given VSL smaller strings give a lighter touch and vice versa. At the same time the wire guage has effects on the overall tone too.
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Postby Frimp » Wed Feb 11, 2009 12:43 am

Also keep in mind that the thinner the string, the easier it is to stretch out of tune when pressed to the frets. With a short VSL use thinner strings, with a long VSL use thicker strings, as a rule.
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Postby Dave-M » Wed Feb 11, 2009 10:24 pm

Don't know what rule of 18ths is, but the 12th root of two gives you equal temperament, which is what you'll most likely want.

You can use this http://members.cox.net/dmurray777/fretMult.html and all of the frets marked with a + are extra on a mountain dulcimer. If you put them all you'll have a chromatic. Use the ET column on the left for 12th root 2. Don't even think about just intonation for now (or ever :D)

You don't need to figure out a software program, it's elementary school math to use the multiplier table.

Peace and music,
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Postby KenH » Thu Feb 12, 2009 8:14 am

bmlett - Welcome.

The new version of WFret unfortunately only generates chromatic fret placements, while dulcimers use (mostly) diatonic frets placements. For a first time builder it will be easier to use Dave's Fret chart. You'll need a ruler than has very fine increments to lay it out. I think Dave has his spacings listed from the nut to the bridge. Some programs list spacing between frets. Either will work.

Fret spacing has nothing to do with tunings such as Ionian (DAA, CGG) or Mixolydian (DAd, CGc etc.).

Strings are categorized by type of end (ball or loop) and gauge (diameter) and only secondarily by use (guitar, banjo, dulcimer). Buy strings by end type and gauge, regardless of use...
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Postby Thud » Thu Feb 12, 2009 8:21 am

But DO pay attention to what the strings are intended for. I don't know why, but I ended up with some mandolin strings. Problem is, they're too short for a dulcimer! Make sure the strings are long enough for your dulcimer.
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Postby Dave-M » Thu Feb 12, 2009 9:03 am

But DO pay attention to what the strings are intended for.


I buy banjo strings for my dulcimers. If you use nails with heads too large for Ball end strings and can't find loop end strings, you can remove the eyelets. The how-to is somewhere in ED :0)

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Postby Karl O » Thu Feb 12, 2009 9:35 am

KenH wrote:The new version of WFret unfortunately only generates chromatic fret placements, while dulcimers use (mostly) diatonic frets placements. For a first time builder it will be easier to use Dave's Fret chart. You'll need a ruler than has very fine increments to lay it out. I think Dave has his spacings listed from the nut to the bridge. Some programs list spacing between frets. Either will work.


Keep in mind, this advise is coming from someone who is only now building their first dulcimer, but, I would recommend making all your measurements from the nut to each fret placement. While, in theory, you can place each fret by measuring the spacing from the previous fret, any slight errors you make in placing the frets will become cummulative if you are measuring fret to fret. You will eliminate any cummulative error if you reference all your measurements back to the nut. However, the fret to fret spacing is very useful as a second check to verify your placement is correct.
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Postby mrchips » Thu Feb 12, 2009 12:35 pm

ALWAYS go from the nut, not from fret to fret. If your off by say a thirty second each time and go from fret to fret by the time you get to say 16 frets the total error could well be a half inch off. It IS a good idea to check the fret to fret spacing though jus to be sure.

Personally I like to work metric in laying out frets if I happen to be doing something thats not using what I consider my normal VSL. Less thinking involved. :lol: Just tape down a good 2 foot steel rule with masking tape so it wont move then all you gotta do is put your marks at the right spot. None of that line counting stuff like lets see 3/32, etc.

For the VSLs I normally work with I created some paper templates with autocad I simply stick down with a glue stick then just cut on the lines. These are fully chromatic with the diationic frets marked on them. If I want diationic ( dulcimer) fretting, i sinply cut the diationic marked one. For chromatic, I get them all. The spacing values came from my copy of Fretcal and its checked against several others. When youre through slicing up the fretboard just dampen the paper and it comes right off and witha good wipe of a damp rag, the rest of the glue is gone too.
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