Well thought-out design enables the player to control the full power of musical expression. The keyboard, for example, is the primary point of the musical interaction. No amount of trouble can be spared or attention to detail overlooked in their making. Details of case proportion are equally important because they are magnified in the sound: two seemingly identical instruments may sound different because of variations in case density or framing layout. My attention to design details means that my instruments are easy to tune, and seasonal regulation requires only minutes.
After many years of researching and making historically-oriented instruments, I have come to realize the importance of historical construction techniques, and the judicious use of traditional materials are. In a project as overwhelmingly labor intensive as making a keyboard instrument, it is often easier to rely on more "efficient" modern methods (laminating, metal reinforcement) and materials (resin glues, plastics, modern music wire) than on the means and components used during the historical period of harpsichord making. But the combination of proper method and material is crucial to the sound and overall quality of the instrument, and deviation from the historic traditions must be fully understood and justified. I do make accommodations to permit my clients to transpose from baroque to modern pitch, to adjust for seasonal changes, and to move their instruments easily. On the other hand, slavish copying of the past can result in instruments that may not be suitable for many players and many climatic conditions. For these reasons, I have chosen to make the casework of my instruments and all parts of solid wood with dovetail joinery and trenail fastenings. I select all woods, wires, leathers, and felt cloth with care. Most important, I use only hot hide glue; above all other factors, this seemingly lowly substance is indispensable to the durability and musical integrity of the instruments. Finally, I use the best quality paint finishes, that resist abrasion and allow the wood to expand, contract, and resonate naturally.
Each of my instruments, except when noted, is finished to the following general specifications: Casework and all parts are solid wood (linden, spruce, and maple) and European picea excelsa soundboards. The natural keys are covered with ebony and the sharps are topped with bone. Jacks are pearwood and holly, and are normally quilled with Delrin, for ease of use; bird feather is available as an option. The jacks may be equipped with bottom adjustment screws. To counteract seasonal changes in the soundboard case, keyboard elevator screws are accessible from the underside of the case. Instruments are strung with wrought iron, yellow brass, and red brass wires of antique composition, and drawn in small batches by traditional methods. I make my own open-wound wires for clavichords. Stands are of trestle form, in stained hardwood, with four turned legs. All instruments are brush-painted in one or two colors with an alkyd enamel, which allows the wood to expand and contract, and are decorated with gold leaf bands and moldings where appropriate. Clavichords are made with hardwood cases and matching lids are finished with multiple coats of hand-rubbed oil finish. Harpsichord music desks are made of quartered oak and are designed to be compact, sturdy, adjustable, and carried separate from the instrument. Each instrument is furnished with an individually constructed, padded moving cover.
At a client’s request, I am glad to arrange for soundboard decoration
and chinoiserie by Boston artist, Sheridan Germann. I charge no commission
for this service. Louis XIV, Louis XVI, and baluster table stands are available,
and can be adorned with gilding and gessoed carving.