View Only
Expand all | Collapse all

Harpsichords-To (re)build or to not (re)build?

  • 1.  Harpsichords-To (re)build or to not (re)build?

    Posted 06-20-2021 13:19

    As an apprentice technician I look for various ways to achieve a successful end result, and to find the way that works best for me and my needs. I do not want to start a superiority complex thread, but instead a thoughtful and deliberately educational discussion on why your way works for you and how.

    Long story short:

    I absolutely love harpsichords. My mother was a piano major with harpsichord as her secondary instrument, and I was fortunate enough to find a harpsichord, built in a build your own kit, for free that I got. Alas, I am at a stand still with figuring out what exactly to do to fix the issues. The owner provided me with excess jack, plectra, wire, and tools to fix it (he just didn't want to). Are there any good books/manuals on how to basically build a harpsichord from scratch, since this would be the basis of how to rebuild this neglected instrument I have.

    In my area (Vancouver, WA/Portland, OR) I can't seem to find anyone that is even willing to work on a harpsichord. Which is sad, because so many churches in the area own harpsichords and can't use them because of the lack of technicians to work on them.

    I am open to any suggestions, book recommendations, blueprints, ideas, anything really.

    Curtis S.
    Technician Apprentice
    Michelle's Piano Company

  • 2.  RE: Harpsichords-To (re)build or to not (re)build?

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 06-20-2021 15:37
    Reach out to Ed Sutton. He's not following these lists anymore but he's in our online PTG directory. 





    "Good, better, best; never let it rest, 'til the good is better and better best!"

    "Providing quality service for the world's pianos" (When the world opens back up)


    Doubletree Orlando at Seaworld

    Aug 4-7, 2021


    George W.R. "Bill" Davis, RPT, SERVP

    The Piano Place GA

    2315 Rocky Mountain Rd NE

    Marietta GA 30066



    Sent from my iPhone

  • 3.  RE: Harpsichords-To (re)build or to not (re)build?

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 06-20-2021 16:09
    Do you have make and model of the kit? Hubbard, Zuckermann, Burton? Single manual or double? If the owner didn't have the manual, I may have a copy (I have a few archived) and could provide a scan. 

    I don't know of any book as you describe.There are some books about maintenance, including  Ed Kottick's Harpsichord Owner's Guide  (out of print, but can be bought used) and Jason Cassel's  eBook on Harpsichord Basics for Piano Technicians. In the library for this Harpsichord Discussion you can find some materials, including some class handouts I prepared including Fine Tuning the Harpsichord, Introduction to the Harpsichord, Harpsichord Voicing. They may contain material you would find useful.
    Fred Sturm
    University of New Mexico
    "Art lives from constraints and dies from freedom." Leonardo

  • 4.  RE: Harpsichords-To (re)build or to not (re)build?

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 06-20-2021 16:33
    A couple more suggestions.  

    It turns out there is a book about making harpsichords, Martin, Darryl The Art of Making a Harpsichord (I haven't seen it).

    Margaret Hood wrote a short book/manual called The Harpsichord Repair Guide, that you might be able to locate a copy of. 

    A good online resource for various technical articles is Carey Beebe's web site (Australian harpsichord maker). Select Resources, then Technical Library in the left column, then look at the two drop down menus. There's a lot of stuff there, including extensive bibliographies (which has an additional book or two about making harpsichords), though it does take a bit of navigation to get to things.
    Fred Sturm
    "We either make ourselves happy or miserable. The amount of work is the same." - Carlos Casteneda

  • 5.  RE: Harpsichords-To (re)build or to not (re)build?

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 06-20-2021 17:36
    One more:
    Harpsichord Design and Construction by Evan Kern (1980)
    Fred Sturm
    "Since everything is in our heads, we had better not lose them." Coco Chanel

  • 6.  RE: Harpsichords-To (re)build or to not (re)build?

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 06-20-2021 15:45
    Mr. Sutphin-
    If yours is a Zuckerman kit, Zuckerman Harpsichords <zhi.net> can help with parts and advice.
    The Harpsichord Owner's Guide by Kottick is full of information.
    There are several Facebook harpsichord groups, and an internet based discussion group <https://jackrail.space>
    And there are some good minds in this group, which I am following, Bill. :-)
    Kottick's book will give you the terminology for discussion.
    For discussion here, the kit company name and some photos would help.

    Ed Sutton
    (980) 254-7413

  • 7.  RE: Harpsichords-To (re)build or to not (re)build?

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 06-20-2021 20:12
    I would add that harpsichord technology is not a "subset" of piano technology, it is a craft that treats the harpsichord in its own right.
    Don't be quick to apply piano repairs and ideas to a harpsichord.
    On this list you will reach a small group of piano technicians who have a fairly broad experience of harpsichords.
    Bring your concerns here before you make changes in the instrument.

    Ed Sutton
    (980) 254-7413

  • 8.  RE: Harpsichords-To (re)build or to not (re)build?

    Posted 06-20-2021 21:01
    Curtis...So in Oregon at least 2 professional resources  ... Instrument Workshop in Medford and Owen Daly harpsichord maker in Salem ..

    Martin Snow
    South Burlington VT

  • 9.  RE: Harpsichords-To (re)build or to not (re)build?

    Posted 06-21-2021 04:52
    Hello Curtis - Michael Gamble here in UK. Until I retired in 2006, I was for 26 years Piano and Harpsichord Tuner/Technician at Glyndebourne Opera. I have collected a few helpful and encouraging books and list them here. They can usually be found on-line Ebay or Amazon.
    John Paul: Modern Harpsichord Makers. Portraits of 19 British craftsmen & their work. Gollancz.
    Hanns Neupert: Harpsichord Manual. with illustrations. Baerenreiter Kassel. Basel. New York.
    Hanns Neupert: How to maintain a modern Harpsichord. Baerenreiter Kassel.
    Frank Hubbard: Harpsichord Regulating and Repairing.Tuners Supply Inc. Boston Mass.
    William Dale: Tschudi the Harpsichord Maker. (given me by John P.Morley) Constable & Co. UK
    My own (very heavy) Willian de Blaise sgl.man. is stored under my Model 'A' S&S. So not big!
    Good luck
    Michael  G.

  • 10.  RE: Harpsichords-To (re)build or to not (re)build?

    Posted 06-21-2021 06:46
    You may find Ernest Miller e-book helpful.
    It's details the constructor 

    Thus, the Harpsichord Project was born. The goal was to take an existing instrument, the 1640 Andreas Ruckers single manual harpsichord, and describe in great detail the processes involved in its construction. The result is an e-book whose 1,048 pages and 1,041 photos and illustrations is, to the best of my knowledge, the most complete book of its kind ever written on the subject.

    RMP Piano Services
    17423 Old Covington Hwy
    Hammond, LA 70403

  • 11.  RE: Harpsichords-To (re)build or to not (re)build?

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 06-21-2021 08:18
    I recommend a beginner's approach because it sounds like you need grounding in basics.
    Kottick's Harpsichord Owner's Guide is, I believe, the best available introduction.
    It gives a broad overview and lots of details in ways to help the first-time harpsichord owner.
    It will prepare you to understand more specific or advanced books.
    It is available on Amazon.

    Ed Sutton
    (980) 254-7413

  • 12.  RE: Harpsichords-To (re)build or to not (re)build?

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 06-21-2021 10:10
    Owen Daly is in Salem.  He is a top-notch harpsichord builder.  If you can't find his number, email me.--
    Douglas Laing