Harpsichord Project Part 12 - The Music Desk

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Corporate Member
Hi all,

Still waiting for the Sitka Spruce delivery. Nice thing about harpsichord building – there’s so many different things to do that you never really get hung up waiting for materials. You just work on something else while you wait. Still, I’m getting anxious to build that soundboard. So, while the waiting continues, we may as well get the music desk out of the way. The music desk is the place that the player places the sheet music he/she is going to play. The construction is quite simple so this post will (should, might) be a short one. Let’s do it!

We’ll start with the base assembly which is the same length as the width of the harpsichord. A ½” rabbet is cut into the ends of the base. The sides of the instrument, which are ½” thick, will fit into these rabbets which allows the base to hang from the sides of the instrument. The rails and stiles of the base are assembled with biscuits. The first photo shows the parts of the base with the rabbets and biscuit slots already cut.

After a dry fitting to check for accuracy, the base is glued and clamped together.

While the base assembly dries, we’ll construct the actual music desk. The desk is made up of 1 ¼” wide x ½” thick slats which are joined with half-laps. Since there are so few of them, we’ll whittle the half-laps on the table saw without bothering to set up a dado set.

The next photo shows all the half-laps cut and ready to go.

I like to clamp two squares on the workbench and glue one side of the desk assembly at a time. This assures the squareness of the assembly. Here’s the first side glued and clamped between the two squares. When the glue has dried, I flip the desk and glue the other side.

Next step is to construct a ledge that the music will sit on. This ledge has a decorative molding cut into its front edge. Here is the glued up music desk and the ledge that will be glued to it.

Next, we’ll glue five half-round dowels to the back of the center stile. These dowels will permit the angle of the music desk to be adjustable.

A small prop is prepared and hinged to the back rail of the base assembly. The top end of this prop fits between a pair of dowels. The angle of the music desk is changed by placing the prop between whichever two dowels are appropriate.

The dowels are shaped with files and a sandpaper sleeve on a rotary tool. Here’s a closeup of the prop and dowel adjustment.

The next photo shows what I thought would be the finished music desk.

While this music desk would work well enough (after all, it doesn’t have a lot to do), I don’t like the single, vertical stile – too much empty space for my taste. So we’ll add a couple of horizontal rails to the desk. Here’s the desk with the new rails glued in.

The next photo shows the completed music desk assembly installed onto the instrument.

And that’s all there is to building a music desk. Some good news, at last – the Sitka Spruce has finally arrived since I started writing this post. Since we will be leaving for Buffalo, NY next week to visit the kids and grandkids, I think I’ll let the spruce acclimate to the shop’s climate until we return on January 1st. In the meantime, the only thing left to build is the bench which I will do, and post, before we leave.

Just in case I can’t post until January, Sandy & I wish you and yours a very merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year.

Till next time,

Part 1 - The Keyboard Part 2 -Keyboard con't. Part 3 - Keyboard con't. Part 4 - The Case (Bentside) Part 5 - Case Bottom Part 6 - Case Sides Part 7 - The Lower Braces Part 8 - Case Finished Part 9 - Building the Registers Part 10 - The Stand Part 11 - Jackrail & Moldings
Part 12 - The Music Desk
Part 13 - Building the Benchhttp://www.ncwoodworker.net/forums/f101/harpsichord-project-part-12-music-desk-18962/
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Recovering tool addict
Corporate Member
Great post Ernie. You have a very elegant way of describing things. Have a great trip and happy holidays.


Administrator , Forum Moderator
Merry Christmas to you and your family Ernie. I have thoroughly enjoyed this project series.

Trent Mason

New User
Trent Mason

Thanks so much for taking the time to describe each process of building a harpsichord. I hope you all have a great trip and a happy holiday. :icon_thum



Bryan S

Corporate Member
Ernie I am amazed at the craftsmanship and a bit overwhelmed at the complexity of this project. Have a safe trip.


Ernie, as I opened up the NCWW forum and noticed you had posted the next set, I got all excited to read and see what you had done now. As always great work and great play by play.


New User
Ahhh, I've been waiting for this. Thanks Ernie. And thanks again for taking the time to do this. Very interesting.

Be safe on your trip.

Tom Swortzel


New User
Nice work as usual, Ernie. I agree that the additional horizontal rails look better. Looking forward to the next installment.



New User
Joel Jordan
Hi Ernie - Wow! :eusa_clap What a beautiful project. I appreciate you taking the time to document the steps and for sharing this excellent work. :icon_thum


Corporate Member
Ernie, this is just awesome! Thanks again for documenting the process.

You should print out all of your posts and turn them into some kind of book that you give to each person, documenting the build of their harpsichord.


I'm just running out of superlatives to describe the quality of your work and this marvelous thread. I concur with your choice to balance the desk stand with the horizontal members -- looks much better!


New User
This has been an intresting series so far. Thanks for letting us follow along in the process. Have a safe trip and Merry Christmas.

Travis Porter

Corporate Member
Shop is still way too clean. I can't even walk in my house without falling over toys and your shop floor is clean enough to eat on. Want to come clean my shop (AND HOUSE)???


Corporate Member

Here's the truth. As a woodworker, I'm really a slob. After 1/2 hour of work there are tools all over the place and I can't find my table saw. As I really don't have any dust collection (except for my planer), I'm usually covered in sawdust and assorted grime.

When I'm done, I clean the shop and take photos to upload for the Harpsichord Project. Don't be fooled ..... pictures can be deceiving.

Ernie :BangHead:
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