Harpsichord, a small one

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Project by GaryK posted 08-11-2007 12:44 AM 5834 views 1 time favorited 39 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I thought I would save what I think is the best for last (well, almost last).
I built this in 2001 before I had a digital camera so I don’t have any construction pictures.
This was built from a set of plans I got a long time ago, and it took a while to get all the
supplies together to build it.

The case and legs are poplar. The sound board (surface below the strings) is spruce,
the bridges are beech and the jacks (the part the key press up to pluck the strings) are made from
swiss pear. The keys are made from basswood.

The curved side was laminated on a form I made.

Here you can see all the jacks lifted up. You have to do that to take the keyboard out.

The next three pictures show on of the hardest pieces to make. I think I spend the most time on it than anything else. It’s the curved bridge.

No matter what I tried I wouldn’t get that tight curve by steam bending. I ended up doing it in two pieces.
I steamed it as close as I could then cut off the end and glued another piece to it which I carved into shape.

The keyboard is probably the most complex part. Not really hard but just a lot of thinking and work.
To get everything to line up you start by gluing up a piece the width of the keyboard and marking a
diagonal line across the blank the keep them in order. Then it’s the bandsaw and coping saw to cut
them out. This leaves a bandsaw width space between the keys.

There is a lot more to it but this is the gist of it.

The jacks are made from swiss pear. It won’t warp no matter what you do to it.
In a harpsichord the strings are plucked versus struck like a piano. The felt silences the string when you let
up on the key.

Here you can also see the rear beech nut (the part with the tiny pins sticking out).

Here it is with the lid closed. You get a softer sound when it’s played closed

Here is my long term project. It’s a full size harpsichord that will have two keyboards, three strings for each key
and three sets of jacks. This one I couldn’t find plans for so it is being built from pictures in a lot of books.

I will take progress pictures from this point on and post it if I ever get it done.

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

39 comments so far

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 5232 days

#1 posted 08-11-2007 12:54 AM

I’m impressed! That is an involved project.

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4880 days

#2 posted 08-11-2007 01:00 AM

My word, Gary, I’m impressed!!! I have to admit, I play a guitar but have never tried to build one but a harpsichord???? My heavens what a task. I’ll hand it to you, my,friend, this is a piece of work. It is beautiful. Hurry up and get to the next one, I want to see it.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View TomFran's profile


2964 posts in 4912 days

#3 posted 08-11-2007 01:18 AM

Wow Gary, you’re not afraid to tackle anything!

Beautiful work. If you can make musical instruments, you can some money (I think…).

-- Tom, Surfside Beach, SC - Romans 8:28

View Bob Babcock's profile

Bob Babcock

1809 posts in 5004 days

#4 posted 08-11-2007 01:47 AM

Amazing Gary…..truly amazing. The crafstmanship you exhibit is astounding. Thanks for sharing,

-- Bob

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4073 posts in 4981 days

#5 posted 08-11-2007 02:32 AM

My goodness! That is a masterwork, Gary. Bravo!

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over two decades.

View Chip's profile


1904 posts in 5010 days

#6 posted 08-11-2007 03:25 AM


-- Better to say nothing and be thought the fool... then to speak and erase all doubt!

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14187 posts in 4900 days

#7 posted 08-11-2007 04:33 AM

beautiful work … huge … really huge accomplishment !!

how does it sound ?? ... you should play it, record it and post the sound track in a blog !!

really interesting project.

been on my mind since I first noticed it 4 hours ago,

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View MattD's profile


150 posts in 4862 days

#8 posted 08-11-2007 04:47 AM

Now that’s a project. Wow. You can do anything if you can builld something like that. I’d love to hear how that sounds.

-- Matt - Syracuse, NY

View cajunpen's profile


14578 posts in 4983 days

#9 posted 08-11-2007 06:46 AM

Gary that is an impressive piece – well done. I think Don will like it – but it probably won’t be his favorite, I hear he REALLY likes small boxes. The LJ Forum never ceases to amaze me – we sure have a talented bunch of artists/craftsman (and craftswomen) on this Forum. Visiting LJs is like visiting with family.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

View dewoodwork's profile


241 posts in 4873 days

#10 posted 08-11-2007 07:19 AM

Holey cow!! that’s one heck of a project. I’d be to intimidated to take on such a project. My complements to the harpsichord master.

-- Express creativity with wood, Dewayne. Vacaville CA.

View Karson's profile


35229 posts in 5318 days

#11 posted 08-11-2007 07:46 AM

Great job. Truly an accomplishment to be proud of.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Don's profile


2603 posts in 5094 days

#12 posted 08-11-2007 10:34 AM

This is one very serious project – way outside my skill-set! Terrific work, Gary. Thanks for sharing it with us mortals. LOL

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

View snowdog's profile


1167 posts in 4900 days

#13 posted 08-11-2007 01:35 PM

I would enjoy hearing it played, can you capture an MP3 of it and share?

I liked the idea of cutting a diagonal to keep the keys in order, good idea (I’ll file that in the brain, maybe I’ll remember :)

-- "so much to learn and so little time"..

View lclashley's profile


244 posts in 5032 days

#14 posted 08-11-2007 02:13 PM

Excellent job!!! Are you a musician also?

View rentman's profile


230 posts in 5012 days

#15 posted 08-11-2007 03:49 PM

wow thats all i can say!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

-- Phil, Chattanooga,TN

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