Copy of a ‘French’ model Ruckers harpsichord

Made in Edinburgh by Grant O’Brien in 1985


Stand of the 'French' double-manual harpsichord


Details about the stand

          Much of the furniture and room interiors in sixteenth and seventeenth century Antwerp were made of fumed and rushed oak and resembled the furniture and interior design of the Tudor and Jacobean styles in Britain.  The original of this stand is now painted to match the grisaille decoration of the 1620 Andreas Ruckers harpsichord in the Musikinstrumenten Museum in Berlin (Berlin Musikinstrumentenmuseum Catalogue Number 2230).  However it seems highly likely that the stand was originally not painted so that the wood used to make the stand was clearly in view.  The surface of the wood was not sanded to finish it - quite the opposite.  A bundle of rushes were bound together and the tough ends of the rushes were rubbed lengthways along the surface of the oak.  This process removed the softer part of the wood and left ridges of the harder grain standing proud above the surface of the rest of the wood.  This gave a pronounced 'texture' to the wooden surface and achieved exactly the opposite effect of planing or sanding which of course leaves a very smooth surface. This procedure was known as ‘rushing’. 


          The oak furniture of this period was also fumed using concentrated ammonia derived from processed horse urine.  The ammonia reacts with the tannic acid in the oak and darkens not only the surface of the wood but also to a considerable depth below the surface treated.  This process had the effect of darkening the wood uniformly in such a way that the relationship of the dark and light colours in the grain of the wood was retained.  Staining the wood with wood dye has the opposite effect since the dye is preferentially taken up by the soft light-coloured wood.  The harder, darker part of the wood takes up the dye only weakly.  This means that the grain and figure of the wood is obscured by staining since the two colours tend to end up almost the same, or indeed the relationship of the colours of the dark and light colours may even be interchanged.  Also staining only affects the uppermost surface of the wood without penetrating into the depth of the wood itself.  Any subsequent damage to dyed wood then becomes clearly visible.  The process of treating the oak with ammonia fumes is known as ‘fuming’ and oak treated in this way is known as ‘fumed oak’.


          After rushing and fuming the oak of the copy of the stand was oiled with boiled linseed oil to seal the surface and, after about a month’s time during which the linseed oil dried thoroughly, was then waxed and polished.


Return to the main page of this section


Home page