Thank you

Posted by Aleyn     Category: keyboards, Uncategorized

I’d like to thank François GOSSELIN of L’Académie Baroque who contacted me with some amazing images from Le Mans Cathedral. These go a huge way to adding to, okay, rewriting, my essay on the English Exchequire. The Chekker was the first of the lever keyboard instruments that lead to the Harpsichord and Piano.
This will give me many hours of enjoyment when my arthritis is too bad to venture into the shop.

Again, Thank you.

Chekker prototype

Posted by Aleyn     Category: keyboards

Once I have my documentation down and the basic theory of how an object is likely put together I like to make a test bed. For the Chekker I made a full string length model with 4 half width keys, C C# D E. this allows me to test my theory before wasting HUGE time building a full size object. These test beds are great to find out:
A: am I totally off base and no way will this work?
B: what tweaking do I have to do?
C: what changes does the tweaking create?

This always follows a pattern:
A: Despair. They never work the first time so step one is utter despair, must throw this on a fire and immediately self immolate.
B: Being a coward at heart where throwing myself on a fire is concerned, I then find out where I screwed up the design. What wee little thing is stopping this from working. In this case, the sound board which on my test beds is loose footed,slipped forward off a support and was swinging in the air unsupported. In this state it did not transmit sound to the instrument and would not allow the notes to even tune properly.
C: Gee, I have sound! Mushy sound, but sound. This is a start.

Return to B:
Discover that dear dog! do you have to wail on the keys to make a good clear sound.
C: But when you do, it makes a not too bad note.

So far, the working model needs sturdier levers to support beating on the keys (I think I have a reason the harpsichord and clavichord won out over this thing, oh my aching arthritic fingers!) Wider tangents to avoid a miss on the strings. Slightly narrower guide rail channels so the tangents cant tilt so much. Build up the flat key higher to be able to play it decently and finally, make the playing keys a tad longer to take advantage of leverage.

All that in 10 mins of messing with the test bed.

Now to present my paper on this Chekker at the Arts and Science competition.

The Chekker

Posted by Aleyn     Category: keyboards

I just uploaded my paper on the Chekker or Exchequer. This was the first step away from the organistrum into the family we know today as the string keyboards. I’m rather pleased with how the paper has turned out, especially as it was written in a feverish 6 days under a deadline.

If you want to check it out, it is on the instrument research page.

Back at it

Posted by Aleyn     Category: keyboards, tools

Sorry folks, but I had to take the summer off mostly due to the work needed to tear down and rebuild our home’s carport/deck. Now that is done, the rainy season is back and the carport is waterproof (good thing, I keep some of my machines under there.) I can get back to what I love.

In the past wee bit, I was challenged to write a paper on the Exchequer I will be building, but only had a week to do it. Done in 6 days. Just some revisions to do before I will post it here on the site. 24 pages over all. I’m quite pleased with it, hope you are. Revisions to it will come of the next few months, especially after I build the instrument.

At the lute construction course I took this summer, they insisted you did not want to live as a luthier without a thicknessing sander. My daughter turned the drawings into a set of plans and we built it. Today I tried it for the first time. In 2 hours I thicknessed a lyre sound board (maple) and three ribs for an Arnault of Zwolle 15th century lute. With out this would have taken me a couple of days. It still leaves a lot of work to do, but does speed up production work. I will still be doing instruments by hand for competition and by request, just so you know.

What a great toy! Now to sort out dust removal for it. What a mess that thing makes. Fine dust everywhere.

Work of late

Posted by Aleyn     Category: keyboards

I have begun on yet another of my unusual projects. I am building an Exchequer. Sorry SCA folks, but no, I’m not making the better treasurer. :) An Exchequer, or Chekker as it is more often called, is a very early keyboard instrument. In Europe for keyboards theory is that (ignoring the Greek organ branch) first keyboard was the Organistrum, next the keyed Monochord (I’m also working on one of those) then the Chekker. It is likely that shortly after that the Keyed Monochord increased the number of strings from the original one and become the Clavichord and the Chekker quite likely gained jacks and moved off into the harpsichord family. But for now it has metal tangents like the Keyed Monochord.

Research seems to indicate that it had many strings, each leading away from the keyboard 90′ with only one note per string. It is likely it was a square shape owing to the name Exchequer which in this case referred to either the Chessboard or the tools of the Treasurer/Exchequer the abacus and the counting table which all bore the name Exchequer. OR even a combination of the lot. As yet, no one really knows.

So, I have drafted up a set of plans for it, based on my research and after a couple weeks of correction have launched on the project. Today I have the soundboard gluing up in the shop. It wont be needed for a while yet, but the water in a glue passes into the wood and this can create issues with warping etc that time to dry out again will take away. So, I do this first.

I will get some pictures up as the project progresses.

This one is rather the inverse of the organistrum project. In that one, very little to nothing was written about it, but we had some few images. With the Chekker we have a fair few write ups about it, but not one image. Yes, I do like difficult projects. I am pretty sure about my conclusions though and believe when I’m done, the instrument should sound pretty nice.
I’m still working here and there on the Lyres I have in the works, but the hard wood soundboards are hell on my back so I have to pace myself on the them.