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Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: Retsacnal] #2842391
04/25/19 04:25 PM
04/25/19 04:25 PM
Joined: Oct 2009
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Southwest
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Originally Posted by Retsacnal
Whether a piano is made by elves in the Black Forrest or robots in Japan is really irrelevant. What matters, as Rich alluded to, is how it performs. And the performance criteria is up to to the buyer.


+1😁. Love it. Elves in the Black Forest!
I have one old handmade leather coat. My piano, vehicle, my clothes, shoes, boots and even my old saddle are all made by those fabulous cnc machines. But it’s all good.


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Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: Kurtmen] #2842400
04/25/19 04:47 PM
04/25/19 04:47 PM
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I know a woman who has a 75-year-old baby grand that was given to her about 50 years ago. I don't think it has seen a piano technician in at least 20 years. It was never a very good piano. Yet I've heard her state several times "older pianos are better than new ones because they were hand made."

I'm guessing that this type of person is the target audience for that article.

Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: Retsacnal] #2842426
04/25/19 06:48 PM
04/25/19 06:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Retsacnal
Whether a piano is made by elves in the Black Forrest or robots in Japan is really irrelevant. What matters, as Rich alluded to, is how it performs.
I think that's true only if one thinks that how the piano is made doesn't affect how it performs.

Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: pianoloverus] #2842431
04/25/19 07:00 PM
04/25/19 07:00 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Retsacnal
Whether a piano is made by elves in the Black Forrest or robots in Japan is really irrelevant. What matters, as Rich alluded to, is how it performs.
I think that's true only if one thinks that how the piano is made doesn't affect how it performs.


How it is made and what it is made of are important factors in how it performs.

So. I’ve been playing with the idea of buying a high quality German upright, such as a Seiler. I don’t have room for a grand and never will.

The range in the prices is truly staggering. An Indonesian made model has an MSRP of around $12k and German made one is around $50k!

What improvements in the German made models make it worth the price difference? Please don’t tell me to buy a used piano. I want one of the Seilers with the nifty magnet repetition action and that will be hard to find on the used market.


Yamaha P-515, Pianoteq Standard 6
Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: Kurtmen] #2842465
04/25/19 08:51 PM
04/25/19 08:51 PM
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A friend of mine who makes violins told me once that the only carving you see on a violin is the last cut of the knife. Maybe 99% of piano building is machine work, but the last work, the part you hear or play, may be in that 1% of other work. Of course, that 1% could be good, or it could be not so good.


Semipro Tech
Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: BDB] #2842473
04/25/19 09:39 PM
04/25/19 09:39 PM
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Originally Posted by BDB
A friend of mine who makes violins told me once that the only carving you see on a violin is the last cut of the knife. Maybe 99% of piano building is machine work, but the last work, the part you hear or play, may be in that 1% of other work. Of course, that 1% could be good, or it could be not so good.


I used to play the violin and I knew quite a few luthiers. I don't understand what you mean by that phrase "the only carving on a violin you see is the last cut of the knife." I mean, I sort of understand it, but I think you see all of the cuts, unless you're saying that the cutting is done by someone else. The luthiers that I knew in New York did all of the carving themselves unless they were producing cheap student violins which they had bought "in the white."

I had a piece of boxwood that I thought I would use to make something but I never became a good enough carver to use it, so, one day, I got tired of it seeing it at the bottom of my closet and I took it to a well respected New York luthier and said, here! I had dipped both ends of it in paint to keep it from cracking. Boxwood takes forever to grow and they were happy to take it. Years later, I happened to stop by to see the luthier and I asked him what had become of that boxwood. He said it had been carved into pegs and a tail piece for a Baroque violin at Lincoln Center.

Last edited by LarryK; 04/25/19 09:49 PM.

Yamaha P-515, Pianoteq Standard 6
Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: Kurtmen] #2842493
04/25/19 11:18 PM
04/25/19 11:18 PM
Joined: Feb 2002
Posts: 1,387
Orange County, CA
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As has been said by others, all pianos are somewhat hand-made. So anyone selling pianos can correctly state that it is hand-made. Every piano is made with a lot of machine work as well. No one is out there hand-carving action parts, etc. So piano makers rely on machinery in many aspects of the manufacturing.

For me, the keys to the quality of the instrument are 3 fold:
1. Design
2. Materials
3. Workmanship / methods use to manufacture

It is possible to take a truly great design, build it out of the ideal materials, but build it badly. It is also possible for the finest craftspeople to build a piano of inferior design, and it will still be an inferior design - it will just be very well built.

A really great design that is tweaked for rapid, high volume production will be a solid, reliable piano - but pianists will not be anxious to play it.

So the manufacturing method has an impact, because if it is set up to be fast it provides for less time refining the piano by the best craftspeople. And here we are getting to the basis for what most people think of as "hand made." So here is a definition that I came up with some years ago:
"When the skills of the craftspeople have a greater impact on the final instrument than the type of tools they use."

Or, something like that. :-)


Don Mannino, MPA
Kawai America
Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: KawaiDon] #2842703
04/26/19 03:53 PM
04/26/19 03:53 PM
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Originally Posted by KawaiDon
As has been said by others, all pianos are somewhat hand-made. So anyone selling pianos can correctly state that it is hand-made. Every piano is made with a lot of machine work as well. No one is out there hand-carving action parts, etc. So piano makers rely on machinery in many aspects of the manufacturing.

For me, the keys to the quality of the instrument are 3 fold:
1. Design
2. Materials
3. Workmanship / methods use to manufacture

It is possible to take a truly great design, build it out of the ideal materials, but build it badly. It is also possible for the finest craftspeople to build a piano of inferior design, and it will still be an inferior design - it will just be very well built.

A really great design that is tweaked for rapid, high volume production will be a solid, reliable piano - but pianists will not be anxious to play it.

So the manufacturing method has an impact, because if it is set up to be fast it provides for less time refining the piano by the best craftspeople. And here we are getting to the basis for what most people think of as "hand made." So here is a definition that I came up with some years ago:
"When the skills of the craftspeople have a greater impact on the final instrument than the type of tools they use."

Or, something like that. :-)







This is true for many other business. I will print this out and put on my desk as a reminder.

Thx a lot Mr. KawaiDon

Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: KawaiDon] #2842714
04/26/19 05:06 PM
04/26/19 05:06 PM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 25,051
New York City
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Originally Posted by KawaiDon
As has been said by others, all pianos are somewhat hand-made. So anyone selling pianos can correctly state that it is hand-made. Every piano is made with a lot of machine work as well. No one is out there hand-carving action parts, etc. So piano makers rely on machinery in many aspects of the manufacturing.

For me, the keys to the quality of the instrument are 3 fold:
1. Design
2. Materials
3. Workmanship / methods use to manufacture

It is possible to take a truly great design, build it out of the ideal materials, but build it badly. It is also possible for the finest craftspeople to build a piano of inferior design, and it will still be an inferior design - it will just be very well built.

A really great design that is tweaked for rapid, high volume production will be a solid, reliable piano - but pianists will not be anxious to play it.

So the manufacturing method has an impact, because if it is set up to be fast it provides for less time refining the piano by the best craftspeople. And here we are getting to the basis for what most people think of as "hand made." So here is a definition that I came up with some years ago:
"When the skills of the craftspeople have a greater impact on the final instrument than the type of tools they use."
This seems like a very clear and good description of what makes a high quality piano.

For those like me who are not overly familiar with all the steps of piano manufacturing, what are some of the steps that are best done by hand with as much time as is necessary and by the best craftspeople?

Last edited by pianoloverus; 04/26/19 05:09 PM.
Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: LarryK] #2842728
04/26/19 05:48 PM
04/26/19 05:48 PM
Joined: Jan 2019
Posts: 50
Bay area, CA
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Originally Posted by LarryK

I used to play the violin and I knew quite a few luthiers. I don't understand what you mean by that phrase "the only carving on a violin you see is the last cut of the knife." I mean, I sort of understand it, but I think you see all of the cuts, unless you're saying that the cutting is done by someone else.

You may trim a brace 6 times in the same spot looking for a particular quality. The first 5 are cut away - you only see the last one.

So, a guitar, violin, etc., can be mostly made by machine - braces cut by a router tracing a pattern, for example. If you just glue them onto the soundboard and call it done, well, it's not much of a 'hand built' instrument, even though the brace placement and gluing operation is nearly certainly a hand task. But if a builder then goes in and tunes the brace by selectively carving it, then you calling it hand built perhaps has more meaning.


Shigaru Kawai SK-2, Kawai MP11SE
Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: Kurtmen] #2842732
04/26/19 05:59 PM
04/26/19 05:59 PM
Joined: Apr 2018
Posts: 83
Portland, Oregon, USA
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Portland, Oregon, USA
What about another angle...

I've always been a fan of fixing things up, but then trying to make them better than they were. For example, restoring a classic car but using newer and better parts than were available back then, or than were on that model of car (think thicker sway bars, better intakes, exhaust headers, etc). Even with a new car, aftermarket parts are often better than what they put on at the factory.

The value to this is being able to get an affordable car, but incrementally making it better as you have the budget. Over time, assuming you chose a well-designed model, your modified car may drive as well or better than a much more expensive one.

Perhaps this is why I'm a fan of the Japanese piano brands: they have good designs due to constant engineering improvements which high sales volume lets them afford, good quality control in their manufacturing, and they're relatively cheap. That's a solid base from which to do modifications with higher quality aftermarket parts, and wind up with the piano equivalent of a nicely modded Japanese tuner car, one that can outrun more expensive cars, and is tweaked just the way you like it.

Anyway, that is what was running through my head as I read this thread, for what it's worth.


Kawai MP11SE
Kawai GL-10 baby grand
Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: Kurtmen] #2842738
04/26/19 06:18 PM
04/26/19 06:18 PM
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Posts: 27,312
Oakland
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Final regulation and voicing, done by someone who really has a good idea of how it is done, can make a huge difference. It is what you will hear, not what has been done before, just as the final cut of the carving is what you see.


Semipro Tech
Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: RogerRL] #2842740
04/26/19 06:34 PM
04/26/19 06:34 PM
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Originally Posted by RogerRL
Originally Posted by LarryK

I used to play the violin and I knew quite a few luthiers. I don't understand what you mean by that phrase "the only carving on a violin you see is the last cut of the knife." I mean, I sort of understand it, but I think you see all of the cuts, unless you're saying that the cutting is done by someone else.

You may trim a brace 6 times in the same spot looking for a particular quality. The first 5 are cut away - you only see the last one.

So, a guitar, violin, etc., can be mostly made by machine - braces cut by a router tracing a pattern, for example. If you just glue them onto the soundboard and call it done, well, it's not much of a 'hand built' instrument, even though the brace placement and gluing operation is nearly certainly a hand task. But if a builder then goes in and tunes the brace by selectively carving it, then you calling it hand built perhaps has more meaning.


I agree that it is often how much time is spent refining the materials which can make the difference in whether something could be considered handmade or not. This is how Manuel Velazquez describes how he works on his tops:

"First I bring the wood down to 3MM. Then I take more wood from some places than others because of how I judge the density of the top. Wood, especially spruce, is harder in some places than others, and you have to compensate with the thickness. I have a wonderful caliper, like a cello maker would use, but I'm not satisfied with that. I go with my fingers, and the wood talks to me. I start to take a little bit with the scraper and sanding. All my tops are not even; in some places they are thicker. That's the Torres school.
I always put a small light inside the guitar and it shows me where the top is thinner and where it has more thickness. The back I don't care too much about. For me, the soundboard is the most important thing."

from: https://www.guitarsint.com/guitar_maker/Manuel_Velazquez

In a factory situation, where certain production targets have to be met, I don't think they would take the same care in thicknessing the tops.

Last edited by LarryK; 04/26/19 06:38 PM.

Yamaha P-515, Pianoteq Standard 6
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