Fretting over frets

FretworkThe frets, of course, have to be as close to perfect as possible. The placement of the frets are determined by a mathematical formula. Using a fret calculator available from the Stewart MacDonald website, all I need to do is plug in the scale length (in this case 28″), choose “dulcimer” as the instrument, and indicate how many frets I will use (typically 19). Out spews the formula for placement, down to the 1000th of an inch. Of course, there’s no physical way to be THAT accurate, but I do have a specialty ruler that is marked to the 100th of an inch. I use an exacto blade and magnifying glasses to determine the frets (and in this case, including one at the one and a half position). I’m usually too bleary-eyed to finish a fretboard in one sitting, so once it’s scored, I’ll come back later with my Japanese fret saw to make the official cuts.

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