Friday, July 5, 2013

Finnish Kantele Build: Discussion, Plans, and Step 1: The Top Section

Hello Everyone,

Well if you live in the US, I hope you had a very nice 4th of July yesterday. Hooray for the colonists!


The Finnish Kantele Build

Here's the background to this latest project:

I've been wanting to find plans for a simple harp-type instrument that I can easily make and perhaps even learn to pluck out a few tunes on. If you Google harp plans or something similar, most of the designs are rather advanced and require more equipment and woodworking knowledge than I have. Several days ago I stumbled across a website about the kantele, a Finnish folk-type lap harp. It consists of a box frame and a solid top along with a bar to hold metal strings with and some pins to attach the ends of the strings for tightening and tuning.

Discussion and Plans

There is a gentleman in the UK named Michael J. King ( who offers plans for a variety of musical instruments including the kantele and for 9 pounds he emailed me a pdf-book that contains complete plans for a 5 string kantele and a 10 string kantele.

I'm going to make the 5 string version.

Kanteles can be made one of two ways: out of one solid piece of 2" thick hardwood or they can be constructed out of a thin piece of wood for the top and 4 separate pieces for the box frame, which sits underneath. The solid piece kantele would require a lot of hand carving, which after my spoon extravaganza of earlier this week, my hands are still pretty sore so the constructed version is what I'm going to make.

I have several pieces of poplar for the frame and a thin, wide piece of clear poplar for the top. I'm going to purchase the tuning pins for it along with the strings a little later.

Now, as Mr. King's instructions are something he's developed over the years, it would be improper to share all the instruction details online so I'm not going to do that. But I will show you some photographs of my build along with an changes that I make. It's my intention then to make a small prototype kantele and if this works out, I'll make a nifty one out of some of my shop hardwood.

Step 1: The Top

The plans come with a ton of drawings and so the first thing I did was to print out a drawing of the top and tape it down to the poplar sheet and transfer the shape to the wood with a pencil:

Now since this is a soft wood, I'm a little concerned that the tuning pins won't hold well so I'm reinforcing the poplar sheet with a thin piece of aspen wood that is left over from another project (see a good reason to keep some of your scraps!). I've cut it the same shape as the end of the poplar sheet:

And I've glued the two pieces together and I'll leave these until tomorrow to make sure that they are really dried and the glue bond is strong:

My next step is to cut the remaining poplar pieces into the framework sections.


1 comment:

  1. FANTASTIC! :) Kantele is our national instrument, so it's great to see someone building it abroad. It's a very common instrument at schools, so don't worry, it's very easy to play - at least the 5 string version is. :)