In general sitar is constructed in two phases. The first phase starts from selection and ends with assembling all the parts of the instrument. The second phase deals with designing, carving and gets complete with the final product produced.
The process of making the musical instrument ‘sitar’ begins with the selection of well-seasoned wood. Usually all the parts of an instrument is made of single wooden / tree trunk. Initially the seasoned wood is processed to make lumber. The wood is segregated to make the parts of sitar like gulus, tablis, dhandis, pta and tumba. Tumba part of the sitar (the resonant body) is made of tumba gourd that is generally cultivated at the banks of the river. These are neither too thin nor too thick. As the texture of it is smooth and symmetrical without any ridges with minimal flaws and not being too dense or heavy it is easier to use it in sitar, and they play a very important role in regulating the overall quality of sound produced in sitar. The proportion of tumba bounds the length of sitar. Generally large sized gourd are preferred by professional sitarists. To make tumba the top portion of the gourd is cut off and the pulp which is inside is scrapped out completely. Then the remaining portion of the gourd is soaked in water for few hours. By doing this the gourd procures the consistency of thick leather. Later bamboo stick is used as a support for this and it is placed at the accurate point from within (inside the gourd) with a few cursory measurements of height and width. Then it is set for drying in sun, thus determining the perfect shape of tumba.
Dandi is considered as the neck of this instrument. As it is hollow the sound vibrates through it and thus it enhances the influence of generating sound when the instrument is played. Traditionally it is made of single piece of wood that makes it prone to twisting and distorting over a period of time. This dandi is usually covered with pta as top cover. Dandi is based upon six pieces. The major portion is the neck region and there are three front plates with two camel bone bridges known as patri, arda-patri. And gulu is the hollowed wooden cover that joints tumba and dandi together.
Tabli is the main soundboard of the instrument, made of single wooden piece. This should be free of any knotholes or imperfections. The breadth of the tabli shouldn’t be neither too thick nor too thin, as the thinner tabli weakens the sustainability of the instrument but gives louder sound and the thicker tabli gives good durability with a lower volume. Thus the choice of selecting the appropriate tabli plays an important role in this phase. The shape of tabli varies from instrument to instrument, depending on the certain parameters of tumba’s and gulu’s dimension and proportion. Thus all the body parts of sitar is glued together and allowed to set. The process of assembling the parts of sitar begins from joining dandi and gulu by clamping it with two screw that remain inside the instrument. The tabli is glued little extra with the mixture of local glue and sawdust that is applied to the outside joints. After assembling all the parts of the instrument craftsmen focus on engraving/decoration of sitar. Usually it is floral design carvings made on wood which are seen on professional sitar. The intricate carvings on the instrument varies on the quality of the instrument that is commissioned. These carvings are usually simple leaf or flowers which are freehand drawings. As per the commission taken the carvings are changed by referring some ancient carving designs book. The tail piece (langort) of sitar is usually made of tun wood or stag horn. After it is carved / engraved it gets ready for polish. Traditionally before the polish process gets begin, six steps of wet scarping, sanding and sealing is done. This process is called as ‘french polish’. And when it comes to the procedure of polishing shellac polish is used. This polish is the resin secreted by the female bug and takes nearly 2-3 days to dry. But now a days varnish is used which dries faster. Along with langort other parts like koonti (tuning pegs), jiwari (main bridges), parda (fret), targen (nuts) and some other tiny pieces of the sitar are also polished thoroughly at the final stage. Kuntis are generally fixed towards the left side of dandi and jiwari made of camel bone is fixed on the top of tabli that enhances the tonal development. Frets are placed on top of dandi and they are adjustable as they are tied in nylon threads. In the final procedure of making sitar, brass strings are attached to kunti to lay emphasis on rhythm. Some sitars also have secondary gourd as per the requirement of the customer. It is believed that secondary gourds also acts as a resonator and enhances better sound quality.