This is an online diary of my journey in creating my very own 10 strings kantele.
What is a kantele?
According to Wikipedia; a kantele (pronounced ['kɑntele] in Finnish) or kannel ([ˈkɑnːel] in Estonian) is a traditional plucked string instrument of the zither family native to Finland, Estonia, and Karelia. It is related to the Russian gusli, the Latvian kokle and the Lithuanian kanklės. Together these instruments make up the family known as Baltic psalteries.
In order to create this wonderful instrument, I have obtained some plans from a fantastic luthier name Michael J King. Anyone can purchase his cd and learn how to make and play their own kantele. I am very excited by the whole adventure and can’t wait to start making some wood chips!
22th of February 2010
Michael’s cd finally arrives at my house. I have been perusing through the plans and tutorial videos, and gathering information about what material and tools I’ll need for the job.
25th of February 2010
I have cleaned out my workshop in preparation for operation “Kantele!” It’s all ready to rock’n'roll!
26th of February 2010
After many hours of browsing on the internet, I have finally found an Australian company that sells zither pins and tuning keys (Parke Piano Strings and Materials.) I have sent them an email requesting the price of those particular items.
26th of February 2010
I’m umming-and-arring over making a 5 strings kantele or a 10 strings one. I would prefer 10 strings as the musical range is greater. I do not have many tools, so I cannot follow Michael’s 3rd method in creating the kantele (his cd contains 3 ways of achieving the same result.) I am restricted to either method 1 or 2, so I will need a rather large plank to do so. I’ve gone through my timber stock pile and I a very limited with the wood I already own. I would prefer to use up what I already have as my workshop is starting to look like a lumber stockyard! Either I make a smaller 5 strings kantele or I’m stuck using camphor laurel and amboyna for the 10 strings one.
28th of February 2010
I’m at a loss… I don’t know which way to go! I have consulted with my good friends, and both of them suggested a 5 strings kantele. After lots of soul searching, my stubborn streak and crazy sense of adventure finally took over me and I opted to challenge myself with a 10 strings one, using the camphor laurel and amboyna timber I already own. Here are the planks that I’m planing on using for my instrument (amboyna on the left, camphor laurel on the right.) I will have to do some sanding back on the camphor laurel plank to remove the ugly weathered look of it. It seems it has been affected by exposure, hence the greyish tone.
1st of March 2010
The company that sells the zither pins still hadn’t replied to my email, so I decided to simply call them. My credit card now sports a billing of 50$ and I’m expecting a delivery of 20 zither pins and one tuning key. I figured I may as well get an extra 10 pins, in case I decide to make another 10 string kantele (or two 5 strings one) down the track. In the afternoon, I managed to cut out a plank from the piece of camphor laurel. Yikes! My plank is only 45mm thick and the plans indicates that the lower part of the body should be 48mm thick. I’m gonna have to do some juggling around to fix that booboo. I might have to get a veneer that’s a millimetre thicker for the soundboard, just so it’s sturdy enough. Here’s the camphor laurel plank.
2nd of March 2010
After writing to Michael about my concerns regarding the plank size, he told me that a few millimetres wouldn’t affect the end result. Even though I didn’t want to buy any more wood, I still needed to get some for the soundboard veneer, so amidst Noah’s deluge, I went down to Lazarides and bought some. I opted for a gorgeous piece of Queensland maple that actually sported a few “birdeyes”. I also got a length of wooden inlay to separate the soundboard from the head and give it more character. A few minutes later… *KERCHINK*… There goes another 44$!