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I ran across a blog of a fellow who wondered what was used for frets in early mountain dulcimers. His research found that fence post staples were used on the melody string and  one fellow used his wife's ear to tell him where to nail the fret. Interesting eh?

 So I was talking to self, a figment of my wanderings in life, the other day at Lowes and self said I think finishing nails glued to a solid body electric dulcimer fret board for the frets might work if we grind the heads a bit and dull the pointy end and cut a grove to lay the nail in.

Self and I have many conversation so since he has led me astray in my younger days, I thought I'd ask here  what others thought of the idea and what glue might work well.

It's been a quiet day here at the pottery shop so self and I have plenty of time to work on this idea. If any one would care to comment, we're open to advice.


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Can be done, has been done, but a lot of extra work to get not as good result as using manufactured frets... if you're looking for do-it-yourself vide, go for it.  If you're looking for a player and don't want an extra 20 hours fiddling with frets, skip it and go straight to frets....


the best,


Wichita Sam

Thanks Sam. I have a test fret board(To Be) from Lowes I might try both just to see what the difference is. Lot of fun learning about this stuff.

BTW if you run across a fellow on TV named "Les Feldick" he has a Bible Study that's very good, IMO, worth listening to. He has some free MP3 lessons  on his website as well.

Later Wyndham

the nails may look straight, but their anything but! used em on my lap steel but never again - too much hassle

I'm still searching for the best fence staples -- all the ones I find are too large or more horseshoe shaped.  But I still have a notion to build a Tennesee music box one day, with the fence staples under just the melody string.


There is a cool slide show on here somewhere of the Museum of Appalachia's musical instrument exhibit - lots of dulcimers to look at with non-fretwire fretting.


I had good luck with 3/32" cotter pins cut to size.  I sawed in a trench with my miter saw so the trench was square, and set them in with crazy glue.  The tend to pop out (i just glued them back in), but they went in pretty consistent and even - no need to dress or file them down.  And you can get them in brass if you look about a bit.  This was before you could get goldtone fretwire from Gitty so easily.

Folks have used nails, staples, cotter pins, bicycle spokes, windshield wiper stiffeners, thin rod, thick wire, wood strips and everything else available.

Here's the Museum of Appalachia slide show Diane mentioned

Find more videos like this on Handmade Music Clubhouse

Thanks for the video, might try to get over there someday.


just bend some staples from stiff wire like this |___|  and drill holes at each end of the pencil line with a peice of sharpened wire and pop em in. no grooves.

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