Robert Hicks Harpsichords

Information on the instruments I build


Maintenance-general principles and specific techniques
Completed  Instruments

Building a New Taskin:

being a photo-essay of the construction of an instrument in my workshop,
done in Winter 1998/99.

After the lumber is milled and the flat parts cut, the joints are made. Here is the spine with the upper and lower bellyrails. The lower has a full sliding dovetail. the upper has a half dovetail - the leading edge is dovetailed. The large rectangular mortise is for the pinblock, and the vertical mortise to the front of that is for the nameboard.

Here is the bellyrail assembly. The mortise is overlarge: the upper bellyrail is installed and pulled forward, locking the leading-edge dovetail in. This is an idea I had from Benoist Stehlin; I don't know if it's in Taskin instruments, but I wouldn't be surprised to find it so.

The bentside. The dovetails are in the bentside to prevent the cheek from pulling out forward. All have to be hand cut.


The bentside is then installed with an assemblage of clamps that looks more complicated than it really is. This is a solid basswood bentside, steam bent.


Thinning the soundboard. This is where the music goes in. The amount of weight in a given area influences the tone. The soundboard shown is Sitka spruce; I also use Swiss pine.


Here is the 8' bridge being glued down, using a clamping technique known as "go-bars". The glue here is yellow carpenter's glue (aliphatic resin), but the soundboard staves are glued together using hot hide glue. I've also used hot hide glue for bridges and ribs, and even (with some help from a neighbor) in installing a soundboard.

Installing the soundboard. A forest of go-bars.


The underside of the soundboard in the case. Redwood ribs, Douglas fir framing, poplar boudin, basswood case. The soundboard is signed and dated beside the maker's mark.


Next the 8' hitchpinrail is glued in. Both the bridges and the hitchpinrail are walnut. A brass gap spacer will be installed when the instrument is strung.



The completed case, with soundboard installed. The Taskin framing is light but sturdy, although many other antique French doubles are framed more lightly.


The instrument is now nearly ready to go out for a soundboard painting by Marilee Dudash (wife of Carl Dudash, harpsichord maker in Connecticut). After that the enjoyable part comes: installing the action and making the harpsichord play.


Robert Hicks Harpsichords
314 Hall Road, Lincoln, Vermont. 05443
802 453 3996...