Building The 16/15 Indian Santoor

After having built a number of aspects of Indian Santoors, I finally got a commission to build a complete instrument based on a traditional Santoor. You can see photos of some traditional instruments here including the instrument I used as a guide (Kamaljeet Ahluwalia's Santoor). She provided a lot of photos and measurements from her instrument as well as information on string gauges and tuning. The instrument I completed(see photo below) accomplished the first three characteristics the customer desired but wasn't quite the sound she was looking for; the level of sustain was excessive. As a result, changes were made to the first version.  I replaced the continuous bridges with chessman style individual bridges which can be seen in the rest of the included photos. Eventually I will have sound clips of the second version. Information on the completed Santoor and shots of the process of building are available on this page as well as a PDF on Building an Indian Santoor which includes some drawings and descripton of the process. Although not complete, it is far more information than currently available on the web. If there is additional information you'd like to contribute, send me an email. If you are interested in acquiring one of my Santoors, again contact me. Prices are here. Options to be discussed. Thanks

Desired Characteristics:

  • It had to look like a Santoor with specific traditional dimensions and be comfortable on a lap sitting cross legged with no support from a stand.
  • It had to have a specific weight, again for comfort on a lap and for travel.
  • It had to be built elegantly, with care and craftsmanship, as opposed to how Santoors in India are built.
  • It had to sound like a Santoor (listen to sound samples Kamaljeet created below)


FInished first version of a James Jones 16/15 Santoor with continuous bridges
FInished second version of a James Jones 16/15 Santoor with chessman style bridges

Comparative Santoor Sound Samples

Traditional Santoor James Jones Santoor

Construction Photos

Glueing up spruce soundboard. A spruce back is done in similar fashion.
Elements of composite pin blocks; three ply maple in center surrounded by poplar to decrease weight.
Being glued up
Drilling tuning pin holes for zither pins
Drilling holes for hitch pins. Sled shown enables drilling holes at an angle on the drill press
Finished drilled pin blocks with accompanying drilling templates
Glueing up frame
Another view of glueing up frame
Corner joint
Completed frame
Back brace and center brace installed
Single back brace installed with routed insets for sound board braces
Preparing to install sound board bracing. Ends of spruce bracing rounded to fit into inset on frame and center brace.
Frame with all bracing glued in. Sound board face is up
View of all bracing with soundboard glued on. Back is up
Another view of all bracing with soundboard glued on. Notice sound post from center of soundboard brace to center of back brace.
Another view of all bracing with soundboard glued on
Side bridges of poplar with acetal and stainless steel saddles (later replaced with acetal to reduce sustain)
Rosewood bridges being shaped
Two sides bridges with completed body
Glueing on side bridge
Pounding in the hitch pins in preparation for string. Santoor was finished with a black waterbased finish.
Rosewood bridges were finished with white.
Stringing the instrument. A continuous 1/8" acetal rode was used for the bridge saddl with stainless steel on the low side bridges..
More stringing
Close up of front showing side bridge configuration, zither pins, and stainless steel and acetal saddles.
Applied design on front of santoor
Close up of side bridge
Continous bridges
Back of instrument showing sound hole
Chessman Style Bridges

- Glue up blanks of Poplar 1 1/2" X 22/32" X 42". Grain would be running top to bottom.

- Rout 1/8" groove in top for acetal saddle

- Plane to triangle and then shape with drum sander like regular hammered dulcimer bridges

- Using pattern mark and cut all 31 bridges on small band saw. Cut out to size using pattern and sand with drum sander Approx. 7/32" width of center.