Friday, October 24, 2008

Tongues, axles..ACTION!

Each jack requires a spring. Normally hog or boar bristle, which will last for centuries, by the way, I'm using high carbon monofilament (30 test) which I happen to have a lot of-so, why not use it?!

I use sewing needles of various diameters for my drills heated up and flattend and filed at the end, and then reheated and water hardened back. I use a Dremel-type felxible shaft grinder with a chuck that will hold these small homemade drills.

Once drilled thru the back and down through the toungue slot they receive a section of "bristle", which is later trimmed.

A jig was made to drill the axles for the tongue. The tongues will be angled back about 1-2 degrees to best facillitate the return when the key is disengaged. The drill is another needle slightly larger than the axle.

For the axle I use ordinary pins (the type that come with new men's dress shirts). The pins are a loose fit through the first tang and the tongue, but later tapped a few millimeters into the second tang of the jack. Here is a video of the process

The extra bit is clipped off with small wire cutters and filed flat to the wood.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Jack tongues and keyboard rack

The jigs provide uniformity and hasten the work.

Here is the jig I made to cut out tongues. There would be a better way to make tongues had I room for a table saw. Plus I had long thin strips of wood suitable for tongues.

The punch for the plectrum mortises is a pin vice, and a wood cabinet handle. The actual punch is a ground down dry wall screw, heated up and hardened again.

In position and pushed with some body weight rather than struck.

Keyboard marked out and ready to cut and key rack with balance rail

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Birth of a Clavicytherium

My hobby is making (hopefully) beautiful and useful musical instruments from discarded materials, such as old furniture, picture frames, etc. Here's my other website .

All of my instruments cost nearly nothing to make, not counting the hot hide glue which I purchase--it's just far superior to any synthetic glues. I use mostly hand tools as I don't have a lot of room in an apartment. My workshop is the kitchen counter. This also means having to set up and take down every time I want to build something.


A clavicytherium is an upright harpsichord such that the soundboard and strings face the player.

Mine will be a simple clavicytherium inspired by the oldest known harpsichord, the so-called Royal College of Music Clavicytherium of 1480.

Unlike the RCM clavicytherium, however, it will have one sound hole and will be strung in "gut", actually high carbon monofilament. So the similarities are minimal, other than the dimensions of the critical bits, like string speaking lengths.

This is being made entirely of found wood from the streets of Baltimore. {Hint: Bulk trash days for furniture}

I start by gluing up and then planing down pine boards for the keyrack.

Each key requires an integrated arm attached to a jack that will come in contact with the string when the key is depressed. Each jack will require a tongue escapement and a bird quill for plucking the string. There will be no damper as is the usual arrangement for harpsichord jacks. Thus, a sustain will be produced.

This integrated jack/arm/key lever arrangement makes for some awkward setup in terms of cutting out the tongue slot, but not that difficult, ultimately.

I cut out all the arms and jacks

Then I hide glue them at right angles using coffee stirrers (thanks, Starbucks!) as "go bars" while it sets up

The tongue slot requires a 45 degree angle to stop the tongue from flipping backwards, so several jigs were made, one for cutting out the slot on the band saw, one for "chipping" out the scrap piece of wood with a chisel, one for cutting the tongues, etc. If I were doing this for a living instead of just a hobby, I would make several permanent jigs for my main sellers...maybe in my retirement!