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The following article was published by Lewis Jones as 'Communication 1727' in the Quarterly Bulletin No. 101 of the FoMRHI (Fellowship of Makers and Researchers of Historical Instruments), issued in October 2000.
This is the first to be published of an extensive series of plans of instruments, ranging from the late Middle Ages to the mid eighteenth century, recently announced by the Renaissance Workshop Company, a manufacturing offshoot of the Early Music Shop. These are essentially the plans that accompany their kit instruments, sold with a copy of the appropriate Construction Manual, but without the kit. An accompanying List of Parts suggests that selected parts are available individually to makers who want them, as are sets of strings and finishing materials.
This example is based fairly closely on the triangular Italian octave spinet in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Some changes have been made, for example to free the ends of the mitred soundboard bridge which over sail the spine liner and register, and the curious sliding under-board of the original (1) is omitted without comment. Decorative features such as the mouldings seem to be reproduced fairly accurately.
The plan itself is excellent, presented on a single sheet of robust white paper (1280x610mm), and drawn by computer, rather than by hand. The lines are fine and clear. The curves are actually stepped, being composed of multiple straight lines, but one has to look very closely to realise this. A general plan view, drawn as though the soundboard and wrest plank were transparent, is accompanied by sections through the case, both parallel and perpendicular to the front of the keyboard. Two smaller sections show the action, drawn through both a natural and a sharp key. Curiously these include the only dimensions specified on the drawing itself: the height of the wrest pins above the wrest plank, and the depth of their holes in the plank. Details include the key levers themselves (weighted, as in the original, necessitated by their brevity), the jacks (drilled for a bristle spring, rather than the leaf springs of the original), the bridge (a suggested undercutting at the ends), the nameboard (with a proposed decorative scheme deriving from rather than precisely reproducing that of the original), the jack rail, and a simplified rose (to be made of two layers of parchment).
Since it is now available separately, I will consider the plan's value primarily to a maker working from scratch, independently of the kit parts. The Construction Manual is a nicely produced A5 booklet of twenty-four pages, the central opening of which presents twenty-seven good colour photographs of successive stages of the assembly of the kit form of the instrument. This is unashamedly the book of the kit rather than a set of instructions for building the instrument from raw materials, independently of the ready-made parts. Beginners will not find all they need to know here, but a competent woodworker, able to prepare the parts from the plan alone, will find much valuable information about the assembly of the instrument and setting it up to play. They would be helped if a list of other sources of information, such as the Victoria and Albert catalogue, and of materials could be included. Someone with no experience of making early keyboard instruments would do well to adapt to this design the techniques described by John Bames in Making a Spinet by Traditional Methods (Welwyn, 1985).
The plan does not specify materials, and the information about them in the manual relates to those provided with the RWC's kit of the instrument, in which mahogany, for example, is used for the case sides, and other such substitutions are made for most of the materials of the original (2).
The original instrument has a decorated outer case of coniferous wood, which is not included in the plan. So delicate an instrument would benefit from one, and it would be helpful if a small-scale drawing could be provided. The series is greatly to be welcomed, but this example does seem rather expensive in comparison with other plans of comparable size and complexity.
(1) This was apparently intended to distance the instrument from the front of the player's body. Was the instrument perhaps played standing at some time in its history, suspended about the player's neck, with the sliding board resting against the front of the body?
(2) In the absence of information about the original materials, I offer the following list, based only on; ocular inspection: baseboard, sliding underboard and, as far as can be seen, internal structural parts, fir or spruce; case walls and soundboard, cypress; bridges, maple or sycamore; wrest plank and register, service or pearwood; key levers, beech (quartered); natural covers, ivory; sharp key heads, ebony-veneered hardwood; nameboard, jack rail, upper case mouldings and soundboard well veneer, ebony; jacks perhaps pear; jack springs are now wire, but were formerly of quill; rose, parchment. I am grateful to James Yorke who kindly allowed me to examine the instrument closely in 1990.
Found in the Internet
The following opinions about us have been found by chance in the Internet. In most cases, people publish anonymously bad opinions instead of trying to solve the problems which can be out of our control (as shipping delays, etc.). If they do not let us know about the problem, we cannot do anything. Even when the problem is communicated and solved, the customer usually forget or cannot delete the bad opinion already spread in many places through the Internet. (Names and other data have been substituted by 'xxxxxxxx')
Jul 7, 2010
We hope you did receive the instruments and your opinion about us beyond doubt. Oct 2010.
Jun 28, 2010
We do not know who is this customer, but we have not received any returned material in the last five years. Neither a customer has said us in that time that wanted to return something. Sep 2010.
In March 2013 we found the same text above signed by V. Parsig apparently in September 2009 and what seems to be a translation: "Renaissance Workshop Company Ltd. - RENWKS - send a bad copy of a manual and no materials as shown on their web-site. We return the bad copy of a manual (and a drawing) and demand our money payed back. Nothing happened. They dont answer their mail: email@example.com. We have claimed via EU.". In this way we finally found that those opinions were written by Birgitte and Vøgg Parsig.
Birgitte bought a Tenor Viol Plan in April 2009 but when she received it, she claimed that the material to build the instrument were missing. We wrote eight email messages, explaining the difference between the pack of documentation that we call 'plan' and the pack of materials plus documentation that we call 'kit'. Vøgg Parsig answered explaining that they had not received what they expected, doubting on the license agreement and asking for a discount in the price when buying the complete kit. We answered again explaining that this is an standard and that we discount the paid price for the plan when buying the kit as stated in our website. That's all until now. We did not receive the documentation that they say to have sent. March 2013.
Nov 26, 2009
We have never received an order from Styles Galante. But there is an order from 'xxxxxxxx' that matches product and date. We spent about one week in order to charge his credit card because it was overdrawn. Three weeks later he wrote that the parcel hadn't arrived. We were in a fair and we couldn't do very much at that time and postponed the solution to the return. Nevertheless, we told him that according to the shipping rules to foreign countries, it could take up to eight weeks before we could put a claim. On December 1st, 2009 he wrote staying that the parcel had not arrived yet. And we answered that according to the tracking service of the currier, it was delivered on 11/11/09. XXXXXXXX didn't answered, even thought that we wrote twice again asking him about the delivery. Feb 2010.
Mar 11, 2002
Thank you Barbara. Oct 2008.