Bowed keyboard- Streichklavier #1: My third bowed keyboard

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Blog entry by JonJ posted 03-03-2009 08:47 PM 8522 reads 1 time favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Bowed keyboard- Streichklavier series Part 2: It's about to stand on its own... »

After nearly 2 years of planning and other projects…I am FINALLY starting another bowed keyboard; a streichklavier. It is basically a bowed harpsichord, similar in concept to the wheelharp project I posted earlier.
I realize I never finished my blog on that (if anyone was following it) but I kind of went about it backwards by posting the finished project, then trying to blog it’s construction. How this instrument turns out will be as much a surprise to me as it will you all!
While the wheelharp is a type of geigenwerk, which uses a rosined wheel as a bow, the striechklavier uses a rosined belt as a bow. It differs somewhat from most attempts (I think) due to bridge placement being opposite harpsichord or pianos, and a few other little differences I am going to try. These are a very experimental instrument, with very few working or existing models. Akio Obuchi, a harpsichord builder from Japan, is very dedicated to bowed keyboard research and construction. He has been very helpful with my experiments with these type instruments.
(Google Akio Obuchi if you want to see his work)

I will elaborate more on this instrument as time allows, but I am racing the clock to get it done. I want to have it working at least somewhat to display at a festival our town puts on every May.

This was my first attempt at real dovetails (I did a practice corner last summer) and I’m sure there are lots of people who could do nicer ones with a chainsaw…but I think they’ll look ok when trimmed up, and the main thing is, I want the corners STRONG. I can’t believe how strong dovetails are, even without glue.

More to come…

vacuum bagging curved side

vacuum bagging curved side

chiseling dovetails


bowed keyboard, streichklavier

bowed keyboard, streichklavier

-- Jon

5 comments so far

View kiwi1969's profile


608 posts in 4902 days

#1 posted 03-04-2009 02:41 AM

Dovetails on curves, I can,t get my head around the lay out yet . You don,t seem to have a problem, is there a trick? Hope we get to hear it when it,s done.

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

View JonJ's profile


163 posts in 5300 days

#2 posted 03-04-2009 05:12 AM

Yeah, they made my head hurt…I cut the outside of the corners at the proper angle, then layed out the dovetails one side and cut a clear template from acetate. I then transfered the pattern to the back side and connected the lines. I did a lot of “eyeballing” though; imagining how one board would intersect the other. I will definately post video as I get it working.

-- Jon

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 5448 days

#3 posted 03-10-2009 08:28 PM

I just used finger joints on my harpsichord. I figured the it was to prevent the joints from collapsing rather than exploding.

Looking great so far. I can’t wait to see it completed.

Can you do a video of your other instrument. I would love to hear what it sounds like.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View JonJ's profile


163 posts in 5300 days

#4 posted 03-10-2009 11:20 PM

Gary, I arranged the dovetails so that as the strings pull the case together, it tightens the joint. Propably not needed, but I don’t want the corners popping apart. I arrived at the shape by using a stringing chart for harps that gave optimum string length, then calculated my harmonic curve. Akio Obuchi (who I mentioned earlier) recommended best bow placement for strings, so I aligned everything with the bow placement as a centerline and skewed the harmonic curve and bridge (which is under keyboard end) to fit bow placement. The bridge distance is matched fairly close to violin, and bass, depending on which part of the scale you’re in. I made a clip (not real video, sorry, just a picture) one is from when I first built it, and another recording from a couple of months ago. It is very hard to get everything working at once…it was working better the first recording, but the record levels weren’t as high. This new instrument should have a brighter sound as it is steel strung instead of nylon, as the wheelharp.

-- Jon

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5620 days

#5 posted 03-23-2009 07:59 PM

oooooooh my goodness that is a beautiful sound!!!!!!
extraordinary. I can’t wait to show this to my daughter. Extraordinary.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

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