Custom Instruments


Hendrik Broekman


Frank Hubbard and R. K. Lee

Hubbard Harpsichords, Inc. has always been first and foremost a maker of fine finished keyboard instruments – kits represent only a part of our activity.   During the fledgling years of the Hubbard workshop, Frank Hubbard's friends would sometimes drop by to observe the instruments under construction; some would stay on to dabble or build. (Image: R. K. Lee watches Frank Hubbard adjust a key;   Photo: Christopher Bannister)

  Gradually, as the workshop took on the aura of hobby heaven, the concept of the kit harpsichord was born.   The immediate result was an acoustically successful design that included a first-rate package of materials and instructions capable of meeting with success in unpredictable situations.   Such a thing could never have been devised if Frank Hubbard had not already been making first-quality harpsichords.


It wasn't too many years before the number of playing Hubbard kits exceeded the number of instruments finished in-shop.   Ironically, in the public mind it was these kits that became the face of Hubbard, not the series of particularly fine productions that continued quietly to issue forth from the Hubbard workshop in a series unbroken since Frank Hubbard and William Dowd set up their separate companies.   At the time of Frank Hubbard's death in 1976 it had already become clear to Diane Hubbard that the knowledge gained by making finished instruments is absolutely central to each of the company's other facets – the sine qua non.   Consequently, the production of custom instruments was carried on.   In 1979 I was invited by Diane to return to the firm as Technical Director.   Since 1982 all finished instruments have been issued from the shop under the name Hubbard & Broekman.


So, who was this upstart, Broekman?   While still a music student, I had started my training in harpsichord making in 1965 at the Cannon Guild under Eric Herz.   For the rest of the '60's, I continued to work for Eric as my time and studies allowed.   Back in New York for lessons and course work, I supported myself as a professional harpsichord tuner and technician.   In this endeavor I was able to put to good use much of what I had learned in Boston, for it was at Herz's shop that I learned the basic principles and desiderata governing harpsichord actions.   Eric insisted that actions be reliable and work – neither rocket science nor a gimmee but subtle work that demands care and consideration.   Finally, in 1969 I decided to take up harpsichord making full-time.   Eric, however, ran a ruthlessly efficient, bare-bones shop in which there was not much scope for me to become meaningfully involved in either design or instrument assembly.   I started at Hubbard in 1970 with the purpose of learning those aspects of the craft.

Frank Hubbard occupied the opposite end of the continuum from Eric.   By that time Frank had populated his shop with one professional cabinetmaker and an enthusiastic collection of neophyte makers and maker-wannabes, many of whom displayed various florid, (but mercifully temporary) symptoms of 'neat-thing' syndrome.   Our master had real problems using the simple declarative, "No".   He seemed to be of several minds regarding his place at the center of all the resulting fuss and kerfuffle, but showed genuine delight when he caught a whiff of fresh clarity in some acolyte's thinking.   It was the best of places, it was the worst of places.   In 1972, after two intense years I left and, newly married, opened my own shop in Lebanon, NH, later moving across the river to Norwich, VT.   These years, my time in the wilderness, were an opportunity to wrestle with the craft, gain insight and amass confidence.


Hendrik Broekman

For me, the custom instruments we produce continue to be a constant source of deep personal pride.   While I am responsible for all work that goes out the door of our small shop (kits, repairs, new construction, etc.) I can't do it all.   I am forced to choose what work needs my first-hand attention.   Although much gets delegated, this is least the case when it comes to our custom instruments. Even if, to begin with, I haven't built it from the ground up, I set up the action.   I came to the trade as a player and now, over forty years later, steeped in the maker's art, a player I remain.   Whatever else the case, no instrument leaves the shop without pleasing me.   If I can't sit down at an instrument and play with delight for an hour at the end of the day, it's not ready. (Above: Hendrik Broekman in the Framingham shop;  Photo: John Burke)


The descriptions contained in the offering sheets for our custom instruments (available as .pdf downloads from the links on the pages that follow) have been written both to outline the histories and contexts of each type as well as to answer the most usual practical queries.   If you have any further questions, I would be delighted to answer them.   Please feel free to contact me at


Offering Sheets (Descriptions, Specifications & Prices)
Available From Pages Below

Flemish single-manual harpsichords* of the 16th, 17th & 18th centuries
Flemish virginals* of the 16th & 17th centuries 'Mother & Child'
Flemish double-manual harpsichords of the 17th century à grand ravalement
Flemish double-manual harpsichord of the 18th century
French double-manual harpsichords* of the 17th & 18th centuries
English bentside spinet* of the 18th century
German double-manual harpsichords of the 18th century
German unfretted clavichord of the 18th century
Italian single-manual harpsichords of the 17th & 18th centuries

*Indicates SOME models are also available as kits.

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