"That's my baby."
"She's a good ol' girl."
For some men, it's a truck or maybe a boat. The grill filled with steaks. A classic car.
Fred Schweitzer plays a note on the harpsichord recently at Christ Episcopal Church in Warren, where the instrument has been since 1980. Schweitzer built the instrument over a 13-month period, but the only place to put it in his home would have been in the dining room. The harpsichord was recently used for the church’s 175th anniversary celebration.
For Fred Schweitzer, it's a harpsichord.
A 1959 graduate of Case Institute of Technology, his resume includes an MBA. This tall man with white hair and beard is a retired metallurgist and is certified to do Navy nuclear and nondestructive testing. In February, he was recalled to do ultrasonic testing in Cleveland.
But this self-proclaimed Renaissance man is proud of that instrument.
"I've done lots of different things, and building a harpsichord is one of my crowning achievements," Schweitzer said recently as he sat on the bench, close to the ivory and ebony keys - purposefully done in reverse from a piano, as is historically correct.
The project began in the 1960s when his wife, Janet Schweitzer, was teaching English in Salem. One of her students, a particularly gifted boy named Noel Jones, was off to Kent State University to study music. While there, he decided to build a harpsichord.
"Noel had no carpentry experience, so he came to me and asked if I could help him build the harpsichord," Schweitzer said. "I learned very quickly it was beyond my capability."
So for about eight years, pieces and parts such as the soundboard waited in the Schweitzers' basement.
Around 1975, in the meantime having purchased a radial arm saw, Schweitzer returned to the project.
"I decided I was going to build this instrument," he said. "The most important thing I did was - Noel gave me this book written by the man who made the harpsichord kit."
Schweitzer, who is 70, produces a burgundy, hardback book titled "Three Centuries of Harpsichord Making" by Frank Hubbard.
"I was working for G.E., and I actually talked to Frank Hubbard in Boston," he remembered. "What he imparted was confidence that I could build this instrument."
Schweitzer explained that his harpsichord, which since 1980 has lived in the sanctuary of the Christ Episcopal Church in Warren, is fashioned after 17th-century Flemish design.
Each weekend, the owner of a local company loaned him up to 30 carpenter clamps because the entire instrument is glued. There are no screws in the case. On Monday mornings, he would would return the big clamps on his way to work.
"The key to a good harpsichord is that the case and soundboard are one," he said. "There are no vibrations coming from the case or any part of the case."
The 13-month process became a family affair. His brother would come over to help. His daughters, Gretchen and Holly, would help make the more than 300 strings.
"They turned the Yankee drill while I made the eyes," he said.
Also helping was a coworker, Mark Yontef, who worked at G.E. in Youngstown.
Schweitzer said his love of music trumps his love of woodworking, but a careful use of the latter was needed to build the keyboard instrument.
"When you say a kit, it sort of has an elementary feeling," he said, explaining that a competent cabinetmaker could build a harpsichord, but it would take a lot of both money and hours.
The kit included pieces of poplar in at the right thickness, uncut.
"I would practice every cut, because you only get one chance to make a cut. I would practice, then cross my fingers," he said.
He kept a diary of the building experience, which has since been lost, but the pictures remain. Some are of him with dark hair and beard, of his friend and brother helping out and of his wife testing the instrument.
Schweitzer's said his love of music was inspired mostly by his mother, but his father also played a part.
"He was German, and Germans sing," he said. And now, both of his daughters are sopranos. Schweitzer himself sings in the church choir and while at Case sang in the men's glee club. He's also played the trombone. His ear is good - he now uses a tuner but has in the past tuned his creation off the church organ.
Harpsichords are notorious for losing tune, and his knowledge and love of woodworking allowed Schweitzer to modify the instrument a bit to make it sturdier and to hold the tune longer.
Recently used for the church's 175th anniversary celebration, it went six months without being tuned, a process done by Schweitzer when it is needed.
However, Schweitzer does not play the harpsichord. The instrument has been and will be used for Tapestries of Ohio medieval dinner performances in December. If a B-flat is out of tune, Schweitzer actually has to be shown on the keyboard where it is.
He may not play it, but he loves listening to it and is very happy when it is used. He says it there is a wealth of harpsichord music out there, and he likes to hear pieces from Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier."
"It is a beautiful instrument to serve as a continual to an orchestra," he said. "It's there in the background. It weaves, joins pieces of a work."
He's especially proud of a visit from premier harpsichordist Igor Kipnis, who used it as a practice instrument. He said it's also been used many times by the Warren Philharmonic.
Schweitzer has a wealth of knowledge about the history of harpsichords, too much to share here, but he hopes that the one he built will help add to it. He's thankful for the people he has met because of it, those who have heard of it but have never seen one.
"That's probably what I enjoy most, is people get to touch and play a harpsichord," he said. "That's the legacy that I hope this instrument will continue to provide as it goes into history."
A pedal harpsichord awaits refurbishing in his basement. It will be placed under the current one to be played at the same time.
In the meantime, he carries his toolbox, ready for the two-hour task of tuning his baby for its next performance.