About the kits


David Bolton wrote:

"How are Bolton Kits different? They are (with some exceptions) innards-only kits: broadly speaking, you make the case and I supply the bits that go into it, plus the drawing and instructions which you need to make the case. The advantage is lower price and shipping cost. The simpler kits have been designed for ease of construction and require only elementary woodworking ability - e.g. sawing square, putting in nails and screws straight. Any extra skill needed is mentioned on the page of the kit concerned."

Which instrument should I choose?

Again, these are David's words. Please be aware that I can only supply the plans for the kits, not the components that David mentions: also, I regret that I am unable to answer any technical enquiries.

"After the price, the first thing to consider is the sort of music you intend to play. With the wide compass of spinet and harpsichord, virtually any early music is playable: on the harpsichord you may occasionally need to use a spare black note as a low G or F. The big advantage of the harpsichord is the possibility of playing on either of the eight foot stops or on both together, given two or three volume levels and three tone colours. A buff stop can be fitted to the harpsichord and the design for this is supplied free on request.

The spinet has a particularly good sound, thanks to the 13-inch "scale". Although nearly as long as the harpsichord, the spinet is easier to get into a room since no wall-space has to be allowed for the player. Furthermore, a cut-down version (5'2 x 2'6") with compass aa-f3 is available at no extra cost. A buff stop on the spinet is possible, though difficult to fit, and costs extra. Please enquire.

The virginals have only a 4 octave compass, so the amount of Bach, Scarlatti and contemporaries you can play on these is limited. But there are big advantages to make up for this: low price, shorter building time and small size. If you live in a very tiny room you can even keep the virginal on end like a cupboard and lay it on other furniture to play – it can be picked up single handed. But you must have a clear space to build it in.

The English virginal has the keyboard on the left and the sound is more harpsichord-like. It is very effective in works of the English virginalists and as a continuo instrument.

The Flemish virginal has the keyboard on the right, giving it the characteristic rich, plummy sound of the Flemish "muselaar". Like its original, the Flemish virginal has a short octave in the bass, that is, the keyboard appears to end at E. But since the low F# and G# are not needed in virginal music, there are enough keys to go down to C like this: – "E" plays C, "F#" plays D, and "G#" plays E. So a scale of C major needs some interesting fingering! Composers occasionally exploited this feature, writing tenths which would be unstretchable by most hands on a normal keyboard. Often Ruckers virginals had extra keys added later, as music became more elaborate, so the kit is available in extended form with a normal 4 octave range at small extra cost."