Ernie Miller Harpsichord builder extraordinaire By Spike Carlsen WHEN MOST WOODWORKERS
tackle a project, they cut, fit and glue a few dozen pieces of wood together over the course of a week or two. Not Ernie Miller. Each of his projects requires up to 500 pieces of wood and 1,200 hours of painstaking work. How does one approach an enterprise of such daunting proportions? “I look at it as building twenty smaller projects that all wind up getting 22 www.AmericanWoodworker.com
An Artisan’s Life Story
assembled into one big project,” he explains, nonchalantly. Despite his casualness, Ernie has mastered instrument making, one of woodworking's most demanding pursuits. The harpsichords he builds are as wondrous to see as An instrument such as this double manual (two keyboard) harpsichord can take Ernie up to six months to create. The they are to hear. woods he uses range from Sitka spruce to ebony; accents “Most woodworkers have patience and pay include bone, faux painting and gold leaf. attention to detail,” says Ernie. “I think what sets me apart A life dedicated to music Ernie has been building harpsichords is that I have extreme patience and I for nearly a quarter of a century, but pay extreme attention to detail.” Repeating the same task 183 times— he’s been involved in the world of music much longer. He became interas Ernie does when he’s building a ested in piano technology as a teen. double manual harpsichord—makes In college, he earned a music degree, extreme focus a necessity.
A P R I L / M AY 2 0 0 9
EDITOR: TIM JOHNSON • PHOTOGRAPHY: ERNIE MILLER
A Great American Woodworker