Virginal Drawings

I am casting about for some full scale drawings of spinet virginals. I am looking for A415 or similar (not quint). A Ruckers layout would be good. An included cross section would great.
I was a bit surprised that a web search did not turn much up. Hubbard does not sell plans last I checked, Zuckerman only made a modernized Italian (I built one from plans years ago and it was nice).
But I do not see much in the way of Flemish virginals. Thanks–Fritz

Well first off it is essential to have Grant O’Brien’s book on Ruckers:

[Didn’t Hubbard cease business a long time ago, despite fact that website is still up?]

There are lots of plans around. Let me find some for you. Are you planning to build, or just study?

Here are some:

Notice this one appears to be been done by Grant O’Brien:

Her’s Grant O’Brien’s spinet virginal plan:

You will need a stand:

As to pitch, A415 and A440 are modern concepts and not likely to be the pitch for these historical drawings. I am not an expert in this area - but Grant O’Brien may have much to say.

I would suspect that these Ruckers virginals would sit lower, perhaps around A390, but they may well be higher than A440.

If you must have A440 you would have to rescale, and you would probably lose a lot of the marvellous sonority of these instruments,

Thank you Andrew! It has indeed been a few years since I talked to Hendrik at Hubbard. I know when I email them they are a bit sluggish. They were not interested in providing plans a few years ago. I probably should send them an email as I occasionally need parts.
I will build this instrument, using the scaling and key-number on the plan (no extensions).
I bought Grant’s wonderful book along with others years ago.

I emailed Marc and had not heard from him–probably need to be patient. My question is “exactly what he is offering” which is not clear. I could not decide if these were full-scale plans (my preference) and if some cross sections are provided. I mainly want the top layout however.

Yes- I don’t suppose the “child” portion of said drawing would have any bearing on the main virginal? I am not sure why the spinett form is described as “rare” since I always thought the muselars were less common. I do find the latter “spongy” to the touch and will be building the spinett form.
At any rate this plan is high on my list
many thanks

I will indeed build a stand that I can “knock down”. Interestingly I was turning a large harpsichord leg on a lathe a number of years ago. The speed pulleys went awol, the part flew off the lathe and I ended up in the ER with 18 stiches.

I have generally used A415 (instead of 390) for the obvious modern reasons. I have built a few harpsichords that are “gear shifters” and set them to A415. I keep a pair of violins strung to meet this pitch–and several “medieval” recorders out there are at A415. So I guess I am stuck with this.
I would value your opinion but I would imagine that regardless of scale, with proper string density I can tweak the best sound for A415. Hubbard and Zuckermann sell nicely graduated strings in Cu, Brass and iron and I have generally found the best match after breaking a few.
Cheers, Frittz

The drawings Marc Vogel sells are not made by them. Instead, they are usually from the museums which give them the permission to sell copies (I assume, under the payment of a cumulative fee). This means you can find the same drawings sold by the museums directly, usually at a somewhat inferior price but with some uncertainity about how long your waiting will be, due to the personnel shortage in museums nowadays.

And of course Marc Vogel doesn’t hold a copy of every drawing ever made. A comprehensive - but old, 2000 - list is the Rob van Acht list: Musical instruments Technical Drawings Register - ICOM CIMCIM - ICOM CIMCIM. The list itself is here: Technical Drawings: All - ICOM CIMCIM - ICOM CIMCIM

Good news is drawings are usually (99% maybe?) at full scale. The very few made in a smaller scale (usually 1:2, i.e. half size) are duly signaled.

Some makers and restorers make their own drawings, for example Andrea Di Maio: DISEGNI
Or Chris Nobbs or others.

I am just confirming Andrew’s post that Hubbard does not exist any more. I have invested quite a bit of time contacting “them” because I could not believe that, as devoted as Hendrik was to the harpsichord, he would simply disappear. It may be a serious medical issue.

I have always wondered what happened to all his stock???

Thank you for the information-it is useful to know where these drawings come from. I will cast around a bit for some of the museums. I had some contacts years ago but probably these are long obsolete.

You may find that museums in general have pretty much stopped selling technical drawings, even if they made them. And try getting an email response from them! Times have sadly changed.

I assume you mean here in the US? Yep–pretty sad but true. I have not built keyboards in several years but I find the decline in plans, parts etc depressing. Market saturation? Lack of interest? I have a friend at Yale music dept. and will give him a call. Meanwhile Grant’s plan is attractive for a spinett type instrument.

I stand corrected on the relative number of muselars to spinetts by the way. In Grant’s book on page 35, Douwes clearly states the predominance of muselars. I wonder if that only applied to Dutch instruments? It seems as though the rapid-fire 16th notes of the English virginal music would be difficult to play on a muselar. As I mentioned these instruments seem a bit “spongy” and slow and one has a way of getting ahead of oneself on them, even with my modest abilities.


I spoke to my maker colleague about pitch and he says that many of the Ruckers virginals have a scaling the same as their harpsichords, not surprising in a way. Since the harpsichords are probably around A390 that may be the standard pitch for the common size large ones. But what that means is you can’t make it go to A440 or A415 by messing around with wire gauges. That won’t work, if you are using iron wire.

There may be many wrong assumptions here, but I cant imagine they were at modern ‘baroque’ or concert pitch.

Dear All

Grant O’Brien has much to say about the pitch of Ruckers instruments, calling ‘reference pitch’ R, and noting deviation from that in several different standard models by semitones, eg R+2 or R+4.

He further notes that Ruckers average scaling for iron is 355mm, and when compared to Taskin’s longer 364mm at about A409, likely corresponds to a pitch for R of A419, not so far from our convenient “Baroque pitch” of A415.



Thanks for the information.
I like to play with others and would typically aim to string at A415 in compliance with the instruments we play with, If an historic, exact sound is sought I would think that this pitch would not, of course, be acceptable. However when finally stringing an instrument the “best sound” is what I seek and that is of course somewhat subjective. Additionally I am constrained to those string gauges that the vendors offer—so I usually start with something like that of the original instrument if quoted, and then work around it (breaking a few strings perhaps) to seek a “good” sound. (I never have heard of a way to measure breaking strength in situ).
This is not the most historical approach of course.

One thing that seems to make matters difficult is avoiding the “spongy” feel esp, in the base. I guess a stiffer string works best here if available but that certainly contradicts the projection of sonority mentioned by O’Brien. I had ended up with a “dead sound” in lower notes on a virginal I built some time ago and never found a satisfactory solution.
The other issue that would comply with your comments is the plucking point, especially with muselars—assuming one wants to pluck at a peak–and not a node-this could lead to some contradictory stringing issues.
Thanks for your “heads up” on all of this