Quite a rant from Our Bill concerning jacks!
For myself, I've been contemplating jacks, examing every jack I could
get my hands on and trying every possible variation in dimension
since I made my first jacks in 1953. I've tried sanding, planing
and scraping. I've tried long tongues, _very_ short tongues, long
feet, short feet, thick jacks, thin jacks, bristle springs, nylon
springs, wire springs and chicken-quill springs. I've varied the
upslope of the plectrum and I've tried everything I could think of
for plectra. And when I have had more orders than I can make in a
reasonable time (on my own in my one-man shop) I shamelessly buy
jacks from jackmakers (masters or otherwise!) whose products are
accurately and reliably made.
But (let's face it) the bottom line is to produce a jack that
_always_ works reliably, is reasonably quiet in operation and is easy
to regulate. If the professional and critical player is satisfied,
then the goal has been achieved.
All else is just icing on the cake.
Many times I have railed against plastic jacks, most notably for
their short lives. But they can always be replaced with real jacks,
hopefully, that is - I have encountered tiny narrow plastic jacks in
very narrow registers with insufficient room for standard jacks, but
such are a minority.
Bill seems not to appreciate Kirckman jacks very much. Be that as it
may, but they were a major achievement when they were made. They were
all extremely accurately made using jigs and fixtures, and the tongue
-slots were cut with a rotary tool to a high degree of accuracy.
Indeed, English jacks of the Shudi/ Kirckman period may well be the
first manufactured items to be truly interchangeable. The geometry
might not be ideal, but it fulfils every need in that they always
work, and work well and silently. But he may well be right: Kirckman
and Shudi jacks, along with those of such makers as Culliford, may
well have come from the same workshop. Likewise ,I have often
wondered about the similarities between keyboards of the same period.
Of course, the answer may be far more mundane: journeymen moved from
shop to shop carrying their methods and techniques with them. But I
guess we'll never know!
Harpsichord and Spinet Maker,