Iron Kantele

Kantele is an old (history going back about a thousand years) stringed instrument and the national instrument of Finland. It is known in other Baltic Sea countries too. It varies from 5 to 30 string versions, the oldest ones being mostly five-stringed. Kantele is a distonic instrument, meaning it is able to play one tonality at a time. Today kantele has gained popularity in rock and indie music.

A spiky, dark look was designed for the look. Bronze string holders and decorations catch light nicely, the cast iron can be both shiny and dark, and it´s naturally very durable. A16-string version of kantele was selected, to give both bass and treble tones, with impressive sound and enough notes for diverse music.

The Prototype

To evaluate the designed shape and to confirm the usability of the instrument, a wooden prototype was made. Besides evaluating the sound and the overall look, the untraditionally shaped body needed testing - whether the instrument is playable (it is). Also, some custom tools were prototyped in the process.

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The body is wood-matched (making continuous pattern on the cover) pine on a birch body, with almost-invisible aeroplane plywood reinforcement. An inlaid dragon shape of cedar was added to the cover. Bronze stringholders were made, to test the effect on sound. The result was very succesfull. The instrument is very solid-feeling, and the pull of the strings (270kg!) doesn´t skew the body. The sound is quite dark, resonating and clear. A definite encouragement to make the iron version!

The Iron Kantele

The iron version of the kantele has the same shape as the wooden prototype, except the decorative dragon is now embossed and the corner claws are raised. The cover texture is left from the cast mold. The total weight of the finished instrument is 14 kilograms.

Casting

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The body of the kantele was cast in a small iron foundry. The master had given instructions for making the pattern beforehands, and a sand mold was then made from the pattern. The mold was then poured full of 1,200 °C iron and left to solify.

The iron is gray iron, the most common in various casts, and used since the ancient times. The alloy has a carbon content about 3%, making it somewhat brittle, but also very rigid. The mold was opened quite soon after casting, for air-hardening, to make the cast ring more like a bell.

Bronze parts, strings, finishing

palat
palat
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työkalu
työkalu
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rautakantele_viimeistely_9
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rautakantele_pitimet1
rautakantele_pitimet1
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rautakantele_kielet_basso_lähi
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rautakantele_viritys1
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In the final phase all parts were put together. A combination of tight fitting, screws and gluing was used, to make the most durable and best looking result. Overall, the kantele is made of 64 parts, of four differrnt material (cast iron, bronze, steel and copper wire).

The strings - 11 plain and 4 wound - were ordered ready-made from an instrument maker. Attaching them was a thus a simple process. All tuning screws were fastened with violin resin additive, to keep the tune better. Then it was time to play the kantele the first time.

Playing the iron kantele