The fretboard is crucial to the success of the instrument.
There are several distinct qualities I require of the fretboard for a Bear Meadow Dulcimer:
- It must be of the very best instrument quality wood
- Accurately quartersawn to minimize changes
- Straight-grained, or a slow steady sweep in the grain
- The fretboard must be a dense-grained lively piece of wood
- The design must be capable of transmitting the strings' vibration to the soundboard, and driving the soundboard in ways that define and shape the soundboard's response
- The fretboard's fingerboard profile must be exact, in order to keep action as low as possible
- The fingerboard's surface and finish must be fine enough to allow easy travel, yet easily renewable by ordinary means, so the musician can restore it to original finish
- The fret spacing error must be within five cents throughout the first, second and third octaves. Without this, the instrument will not sound sweet.
The fretboard is a dynamic element of the design. Many builders make the mistake of using the fretboard like a building's girder, or the keel of a ship, demanding rigidity. Such a fretboard will make for a very quiet dulcimer.