Kaitlyn's 5 string Kantele (her first instrument)

It is a lot of fun to teach my daughters how to build instruments, and much fun to build them myself.  But teaching someone else, someone who doesn't have access to these tools and this art on a regular basis, that is probably the most satisfying activity of all.  My daughters get to show off their and my work a lot at school, and many of their friends are used to them having cool things. But sometimes, when circumstances permit, I can work with one of the friends to help them build something cool.  I had just such opportunity with Kaitlyn, a 12 year old friend of Ceilidh and Aislinn, and we decided to make a bunch of Kantele (the zither of Finland).  Here's some of her work, and the end product.

  Sure, I probably interfered more in this one than I do in the girls, because we had limited time and she had almost no knowledge of my shop tools, but she did a majority of this herself and learned a bunch as well.

This is a where it starts.  Sanding the basic shape of the instrument on the oscillating sander.  A common step in the construction of almost every instrument I build.  I cut the blank from the board at the bandsaw - it didn't seem appropriate to have Kaitlyn cut hers out without some saw training, and time was limited.

Then on to hollowing.  Using a forstner bit set not to go all the way through gets rid of a lot of wood quick - handwork finishes it up.

Drilling for the tuning pin bushings.  Since this is pine, we needed something a bit stouter to hold the pins securely, and used pieces of oak dowel set into holes drilled in the instrument.

Gluing and inserting the pin bushings.  Titebond wood glue, a very tight fit, no clamps needed.

She wanted natural colors and theme, so we decided we could do some basic elemental sign carvings.  Minwax rosewood wipe-on stain, green micronized stain on the bushings, and carving right through with a Dremel into the natural pine below.  The first sign is earth.

The second sign is air.  After carving the instrument was coated in clear BriWax and buffed to a satin finish.

Then Water as the third sign.  Large simple carvings and they stand out well.

Then Fire on the Ponsi.  All 4 natural elements.

The instrument is rustic and beautiful, and she can be proud of it.  I am proud of the work that comes from my shop, and this is really no exception.  The Kantele, while simple and straightforward, is a blank canvas for artistic expression, and I never cease to be amazed at the visions that people manifest into wood and strings when they build one of these little things in my shop.  This one though, I must say, is one of my favorites, and I was glad to spend the time with Kaitlyn in the shop bringing it to life