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Fr.Harpsichords

James W. Vanderberg

This is my first scratch-built keyboard instrument. I am a compulsive wood gatherer, so old cabinets, tables, and the like are always in my sights. I wanted to build the instrument on a budget out of refuse wood finds. Over two years, during my free time, I planned and constructed the virginal that cost me virtually nothing.

A bit about the materials: The soundboard was resawn from (hand sawn) quartered lumber. The keyboard has rosewood naturals cut from the top and bottom of a jewelry box and hard maple sharps which were ex crib railings. The mouldings were created using a profile scraper, which was made by grinding down a steak knife to the desired profile, and scrapped repeatedly until the desired shape appeared. The jacks are maple (I think) and the tongues are holly, quilled in Delrin and Canadian goose quill. The hitchpins are cut and heat-blued sections of coat hanger wire. The tuning pins are cut from wire that was holding up paper political signs from the last election ("discarded" republican signs, mostly). The keywell is a combination of walnut and figured maple veneer, guilded wood, faux abalone, mother of pearl, and ebony. The rosette is comprised of three glued-up sections of punched, acid-free sketching paper. It is strung in brass and soft iron.

What I learned:

  1. Don't make your first keyboard instrument a polygonal Italian virginal. I think a grand Flemish or Italian single would be easier.
  2. You don't need power tools, but resawing in 90+ F weather makes you wish you had them.
  3. Learn to make use of local area wood.
  4. Measure thrise. Cut once.
  5. Pay attention to your significant others once in awhile, and even though you may want to talk about harpsichords 24 hours a day, there's life beyond the cembalo.

It sounds very very nice.

My Email link:

-- James W Vanderberg

Polygonal Italian Virginal

Polygonal Italian Virginal

Polygonal Italian Virginal

Polygonal Italian Virginal