Kimball Harpsichords

Hi all. A few years ago I purchased a dual manual harpsichord, about 8’ long. I paid $609 for it. I need to replace the strings and voice the plectra and finally have some time to do it. My questions is… when did Kimball make harpsichords?? I’ve been researching for a long time and cannot find any indication that they ever made harpsichords. Yet the harpsichord clearly has a Kimball logo an serial#. Can anyone point me in the right direction to find more info on this harpsichord?

Any feedback is much appreciated!

I’ve never heard of Kimball producing a harpsichord. Some photos might help, especially photos of the Kimball logo and serial number. It is possible, by the way, to purchase decals of logos of virtually all piano companies. Piano technicians who’ve been around know not to trust a high end brand decal to establish the real origin of a piano.

Pardon the dust but I had it stored in my basement until I had a chance to finish the basement and work on it. I’ve finished my basement so now I can place the harpsichord on its permanent place and work on it. It has been through a few moves so I’ve dinged here and there, which I am going to fix.

Anyway, it is definitely a professional made harpsichord, it is very heavy and has 3 pedals. Right now it is resting on piano rollers but once I put it back on its legs, I’ll send more pictures. For now here are pictures of the front of the harpsichord.

Not being American, I had hardly ever heard of Kimball. But looking them up it seems they have expanded into a huge global conglomerate and they even owned Bosendorfer for a while until it was sold back in 2002, which I found very surprising. It seems to be a company with a model of acquiring many other companies, so this instrument is probably nothing to do with Kimball manufacturing and just branded by them. As far as I can see there is not a single reference to Kimball harpsichord anywhere on the billions [~50 billion according to Google currently!!] pages of internet. Does not sound like a commercial success.

This instrument is of course in no way related to historical harpsichord building, but you may get some enjoyment out of it restored.

A photo of the jacks will probably give away the maker, as they tend to be very idiosyncratic in this type of instrument.


Well, I’ve seen that plastic Kimball logo on many cheap pianos, and also the orange mahogany veneer. In the last decades of the 20th century Kimball was furiously designing poor quality pianos, never settling on a long-term standard design. The Kimball Troubleshooting Manual is an embarrassingly thorough text on repairing poorly made pianos. The corporate ownership of Kimball (Jasper American) was intent on manufacture and sale of office furniture, and acquired Kimball for their international connections, and the piano division was left to sink or swim. Given their desperate experiments, a Kimball harpsichord may have been attempted.

Although Kimball did make some great pianos and organs I am not disputing their quality went downhill up to the point they stop making keyboard instruments altogether. With all that said, not really looking to dispute the quality of the instrument or Kimball pianos, but rather to solve the puzzle of this harpsichord. I can’t possible have the only one in the world and even if this harpsichord was a “last ditch” attempt for Kimball to stay relevant, I am sure they would have made more than one and there should be some sort of record. Bought this harpsichord about 6 years ago for $600 from an elderly couple in TX.

And yes, this is clearly a revival harpsichord so I’d think it would have been manufactured somewhere in the 1950s-1970s but just a wild guess. I know its sound will sound as many revival harpsichords do (metallic) but I’m more after making this instrument playable and preserving it, especially now knowing I may have the only one anyone has even ever heard of.

Here are the pictures of the jacks as requested by a previous reply. This is one set (I.e, for one key). There are a total of 4 jack rails. Looking at the pictures, from left to right, that jack goes first then the black one (not a jack but a sort of damper), and so on.

I apologize if I come across as rather blunt but no need to spend time bashing the quality of the instrument or the manufacturer. I am only interested in finding out the origins of this harpsichord and eventually come up with a string schedule.

And if I do have the only one in the world, I now want to preserve it even more.

Generally, successful piano manufacturers are conservative in research and development, seeking to carefully improve well designed models with a long track record. Flailing creativity seems to be a trait of failing companies such as Kimball and Baldwin. Baldwin built an electric harpsichord, and built enough of them that they still show up for sale now and then, and here we have evidence that Kimball tried making at least one harpsichord. Jon Light was the Kimball Technical Training Director in the 1990s, and he is apparently still alive in Salt Lake City. Someone with search capabilities may be able to contact him.

Well you are not going to find a published string schedule obviously, but you don’t need one. Just a micrometer and measure all the existing strings. No?

Looks like no overwound strings in the bass?

Measure the scale. I am sure you will want modern high tensile wire, such as Roslau, not historical iron.

I do not recognize the plastic jacks. But looks like they have delrin quills not leather, so easy to replace and voice. Or am I wrong?

If some jacks are damaged or badly warped, there are many people who can now make replicas with 3D printing. A google search turns up many sources.

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Much as I detest facebook, it has some utility. There is a group for revival harpsichords specifically. There may be many learned people there you could ask.

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Having a separate “jack” for all the dampers is intriguing. I’m sitting here thinking about whether it would be easier to regulate such a system than the historical practice of putting a damper on each jack. Probably not, but they must have had some reason for introducing this additional complexity. Maybe separating the two 8’ registers a little increases the tonal contrast between them.

I would have thought it must be so that you can disengage the 8-foot
dampers, as on the piano.

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Challis used damper jacks. It allowed him to have two jacks, one from each keyboard, plucking one set of 8’ strings. If the plucking jacks had dampers, one would have damped when the other played. And there may have been other reasons. On a single manual Challis the damper jacks can be regulated without concern for the height of the plectra relative to the damper, and vice versa.

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Mr Salzer: Do you have any photos from above? Of the soundboard, bridges and strings?

The strings look new in the photo, so I dont see why you need to redo them. The large amount of string wound around the tuning pins indicates someone who was not au fait with the usual practice.


Dear J Salzer

Yes, a Kimball harpsichord must indeed be a rare beast.

Your distinctive plastic jacks with overlong top screw appear to be identical to those used by Jones-Clayton.

Check my page on the jacks collected by Wolfgang Zuckermann from makers around the world for his 1969 book The Modern Harpsichord:



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Guilty as charged! When I bought the harpsichord 6 years ago, the strings were in need of replacing, most had rust. As a pianist I always loved harpsichords but knew little about them, so I did some reading and I thought re-stringing the harpsichord wouldn’t be so difficult. I was wrong! While not difficult it is definitely tedious work.

I was the culprit that wound those strings, hence I want to re-string it. At least do a better job. Some strings are missing and still need to be replaced.

What’s a good place to source wire? The place I bought those strings from shutdown years ago.

I’ll take some pictures from above this weekend when I have it back on its legs and have cleaned all the dust from it.

It does seem to be rare and a beast it is! It is pretty heavy. The jacks do look very similar to the jones Clayton ones maybe something worth looking into.

You mean as a sustain? Nobody has ever done that except Schutze to my knowledge, and he had yo invent really complicated jacks to make it work, sort of.

If not, what do you mean?