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Hand made pianos ? #2842031
04/24/19 06:39 PM
04/24/19 06:39 PM
Joined: Mar 2008
Posts: 729
San Mateo, CA
Kurtmen Offline OP
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This is a fairly common question. I have my own opinion about it, I would like to hear your. So I created this link HERE


San Mateo Piano
Kawai Piano Dealer San Francisco Bay Area
www.sanmateopiano.com
Piano & Music Gifts & Accessories (570)
Piano accessories and music gift items
Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: Kurtmen] #2842036
04/24/19 07:01 PM
04/24/19 07:01 PM
Joined: Sep 2018
Posts: 411
Chernobieff Piano Offline
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Frankly, I thought the article was based on incorrect facts and is very misleading. Marketing ploy? C'mon that's ridiculous.

My Mammoth VCG proves you wrong, David Rubenstein's 12' grand proves you wrong, amongst many other custom builders who may have a hard time getting noticed for their extremely hard work and ingenuity. My piano took 2 years to build from drawing board to completion.
-chris


Maker of Fine Piano Soundboards
Chernobieff Piano Restorations
Lenoir City, Tennessee
www.chernobieffpiano.com
grandpianoman@protonmail.com
Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: Kurtmen] #2842038
04/24/19 07:04 PM
04/24/19 07:04 PM
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Michael P Walsh Offline
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Handmade? Does anyone really care and how would you define handmade? Obviously pianos have to be made with division of labour (apart from a few very specialised fortepiano makers) otherwise the cost would become extraordinary high. I know of many guitar makers (single person operations) who use quite a number of machine tools but their instruments are still referred to as being handmade. Where do you draw the line? Are you allowed to use a chisel or do only your fingernails count? It's a minefield and I doubt there's a right answer.

Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: Chernobieff Piano] #2842041
04/24/19 07:43 PM
04/24/19 07:43 PM
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Posts: 729
San Mateo, CA
Kurtmen Offline OP
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Quote
e: Hand made pianos ?"
Chernobieff Piano
Frankly, I thought the article was based on incorrect facts and is very misleading. Marketing ploy? C'mon that's ridiculous.

My Mammoth VCG proves you wrong, David Rubenstein's 12' grand proves you wrong, amongst many other custom builders who may have a hard time getting noticed for their extremely hard work and ingenuity. My piano took 2 years to build from drawing board to completion.


I disagree, I tried the Mammoth in Burlingame, CA about Ten years ago (I hope is the same piano, if not I apologize). I don't think it was a good instrument. Most of us at the time agreed that it was not great and not practical at all.
Also I think you missed the point. I am referring to what consumers hear while looking for a piano.
But I would like to read about what are the incorrect facts?

Last edited by Kurtmen; 04/24/19 07:43 PM.

San Mateo Piano
Kawai Piano Dealer San Francisco Bay Area
www.sanmateopiano.com
Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: Kurtmen] #2842075
04/24/19 09:23 PM
04/24/19 09:23 PM
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Posts: 411
Chernobieff Piano Offline
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Not the same piano.
Mine is a 7' tall Vertical piano with a customized double escapement action.
-chris


Maker of Fine Piano Soundboards
Chernobieff Piano Restorations
Lenoir City, Tennessee
www.chernobieffpiano.com
grandpianoman@protonmail.com
Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: Kurtmen] #2842091
04/24/19 10:00 PM
04/24/19 10:00 PM
Joined: Feb 2017
Posts: 2,097
New Hampshire
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P W Grey Offline
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All factories use a combination of machine, CNC, and hand work. It is not one or the other...but both...and then to what degree?

.02

Pwg


Peter W. Grey, RPT
New Hampshire Seacoast
www.seacoastpianodoctor.com
pianodoctor57@gmail.com
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK0T7_I_nV8
Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: Michael P Walsh] #2842102
04/24/19 10:54 PM
04/24/19 10:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Michael P Walsh
Handmade? Does anyone really care and how would you define handmade? Obviously pianos have to be made with division of labour (apart from a few very specialised fortepiano makers) otherwise the cost would become extraordinary high. I know of many guitar makers (single person operations) who use quite a number of machine tools but their instruments are still referred to as being handmade. Where do you draw the line? Are you allowed to use a chisel or do only your fingernails count? It's a minefield and I doubt there's a right answer.


I don't think you can compare piano manufacture to guitar manufacture. Pianos have far more parts than guitars. Whole subassemblies in a piano are made by companies who specialize in that work, such as Renner and their actions.

Guitars are relatively simple instruments that can be made start to finish by one man, but the costs are high when it is done that way.

I own a classical guitar made by Manuel Velazquez. It is a work of art. He signed his name to it because he built all of it with his own hands. At one point, he tried to make just the tops for his guitars and set up a little factory to produce the rest of the guitars, but the quality was not there, so he stopped building in that way. He devoted his entire life to the craft of making handmade classical guitars.

Here is a short documentary about his work:



I recommend the book The Nature and Art of Worksmanship by David Pye. https://www.amazon.com/Nature-Art-Workmanship-David-Pye/dp/0713689315

Pye talks about the workmanship of risk and the workmanship of certainty. Sometimes you want one and sometimes you want the other. I suppose a craftsman could laboriously carve each part of a piano action but what would be the point? I assume that precision cutting is most important in that part of the piano, that is the workmanship of certainty. Perhaps in the casework, there are elaborate carvings that would be executed with a chisel, something that illustrates the workmanship of risk.

I used to build furniture in a professional cabinetmaker's shop, well, I tried to learn enough to make a go of it, but every furniture maker I talked to told me not to go into the business. They were all starving to death. I have seen both the workmanship of risk and the workmanship of certainty, firsthand.

Last edited by LarryK; 04/24/19 11:01 PM.

Yamaha P-515, Pianoteq Standard 6
Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: LarryK] #2842108
04/24/19 11:13 PM
04/24/19 11:13 PM
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Hawai'i Island
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Originally Posted by LarryK
Originally Posted by Michael P Walsh
Handmade? Does anyone really care and how would you define handmade? Obviously pianos have to be made with division of labour (apart from a few very specialised fortepiano makers) otherwise the cost would become extraordinary high. I know of many guitar makers (single person operations) who use quite a number of machine tools but their instruments are still referred to as being handmade. Where do you draw the line? Are you allowed to use a chisel or do only your fingernails count? It's a minefield and I doubt there's a right answer.


I don't think you can compare piano manufacture to guitar manufacture. Pianos have far more parts than guitars. Whole subassemblies in a piano are made by companies who specialize in that work, such as Renner and their actions.

Guitars are relatively simple instruments that can be made start to finish by one man, but the costs are high when it is done that way.

I own a classical guitar made by Manuel Velazquez. It is a work of art. He signed his name to it because he built all of it with his own hands. At one point, he tried to make just the tops for his guitars and set up a little factory to produce the rest of the guitars, but the quality was not there, so he stopped building in that way. He devoted his entire life to the craft of making handmade classical guitars.

Here is a short documentary about his work:



I recommend the book The Nature and Art of Worksmanship by David Pye. https://www.amazon.com/Nature-Art-Workmanship-David-Pye/dp/0713689315

Pye talks about the workmanship of risk and the workmanship of certainty. Sometimes you want one and sometimes you want the other. I suppose a craftsman could laboriously carve each part of a piano action but what would be the point? I assume that precision cutting is most important in that part of the piano, that is the workmanship of certainty. Perhaps in the casework, there are elaborate carvings that would be executed with a chisel, something that illustrates the workmanship of risk.

I used to build furniture in a professional cabinetmaker's shop, well, I tried to learn enough to make a go of it, but every furniture maker I talked to told me not to go into the business. They were all starving to death. I have seen both the workmanship of risk and the workmanship of certainty, firsthand.


Thanks for that. What a great way of looking at it.

Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: Kurtmen] #2842138
04/25/19 02:45 AM
04/25/19 02:45 AM
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LarryK. I know all about Velazquez and Lacote, Panormo, Torres, Hauser and many others. I've built copies of them all. I'm also familiar with the David Pye book and the concept of the workmanship of certainty.
Of course the point I was making is the concept and definition of handmade. It's become somewhat blurred. Modern guitar makers. Many are now using machine tools that now decrease the workmanship of risk.
It's still a very small group but I'm seeing more use of cnc as the set up costs are now more affordable for your average craftsman. Those makers still insist that their instruments are handmade. They may well be correct. I don't get involved in such definitions, as I alluded to in my first post - it's a minefield.
Pianos (and harpsichords) were always going to be more suited to workshops employing a number of people and division of labour. However that was also somewhat true of many 18th and 19th century guitar makers - Preston, Lacote, Panormo, Ramirez all had other craftsmen working for their operations. The difference was one of scale.

Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: Kurtmen] #2842151
04/25/19 03:30 AM
04/25/19 03:30 AM
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Kuwait
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I found the article superficial and ill informed.


Currently working towards "Twinkle twinkle little star"
Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: Michael P Walsh] #2842192
04/25/19 05:52 AM
04/25/19 05:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Michael P Walsh
LarryK. I know all about Velazquez and Lacote, Panormo, Torres, Hauser and many others. I've built copies of them all. I'm also familiar with the David Pye book and the concept of the workmanship of certainty.
Of course the point I was making is the concept and definition of handmade. It's become somewhat blurred. Modern guitar makers. Many are now using machine tools that now decrease the workmanship of risk.
It's still a very small group but I'm seeing more use of cnc as the set up costs are now more affordable for your average craftsman. Those makers still insist that their instruments are handmade. They may well be correct. I don't get involved in such definitions, as I alluded to in my first post - it's a minefield.
Pianos (and harpsichords) were always going to be more suited to workshops employing a number of people and division of labour. However that was also somewhat true of many 18th and 19th century guitar makers - Preston, Lacote, Panormo, Ramirez all had other craftsmen working for their operations. The difference was one of scale.

Originally Posted by Michael P Walsh
LarryK. I know all about Velazquez and Lacote, Panormo, Torres, Hauser and many others. I've built copies of them all. I'm also familiar with the David Pye book and the concept of the workmanship of certainty.
Of course the point I was making is the concept and definition of handmade. It's become somewhat blurred. Modern guitar makers. Many are now using machine tools that now decrease the workmanship of risk.
It's still a very small group but I'm seeing more use of cnc as the set up costs are now more affordable for your average craftsman. Those makers still insist that their instruments are handmade. They may well be correct. I don't get involved in such definitions, as I alluded to in my first post - it's a minefield.
Pianos (and harpsichords) were always going to be more suited to workshops employing a number of people and division of labour. However that was also somewhat true of many 18th and 19th century guitar makers - Preston, Lacote, Panormo, Ramirez all had other craftsmen working for their operations. The difference was one of scale.


Yes, it is a question of scale, which is to say a question of volume. When guitars are made by many people in a factory, it is my opinion that the quality ultimately goes down because the time and attention paid to voicing any one particular instrument is reduced. I would say that this applies to factory built pianos to some extent.

I would argue that the pianos built by Del Fandrich introduce a significant amount of the handmade element into a factory built piano. Yes, there was also some hand work in the factory piano. I haven’t played any Del Fandrich pianos but they seem to be well respected.

Yes, it’s all a slippery slope as to what constitutes handmade and what is machine made. Î don’t rule out an object as handmade if a luthier uses a saw. I know a luthier who spends long hours at the bench handcrafting classical guitars. He showed me his new fancy little German saw for re-sawing. I didn’t run out of the room in horror. That machine didn’t fundamentally change the way he built guitars. Now, if he showed me his robot assembly line, I might think differently,

Of course, luthiers have often had apprentices working with them in an attempt to raise their production volumes. The trouble is that apprentices often make a lot of mistakes and produce guitars of a lesser quality than the master. If an apprentice makes a guitar as good as the master, it is time for him to set up his own shop.

I don’t know if you’re talking about solid body guitars or hollow body acoustics. I would find it hard to call CNC machined solid body guitars handmade, but I suppose it would depend on the amount of hand work, finish work, and voicing that went into the guitar.

Anyway, if you’re a luthier, what are you doing hanging out in a piano forum? Haha!

Last edited by LarryK; 04/25/19 05:57 AM.

Yamaha P-515, Pianoteq Standard 6
Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: Kurtmen] #2842199
04/25/19 06:13 AM
04/25/19 06:13 AM
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I'm trying to play the piano, by hand. At my level of progress I may have to resort to CNC.
BTW the workshops I quoted had fully trained craftsman, not just apprentices.

Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: Kurtmen] #2842226
04/25/19 07:47 AM
04/25/19 07:47 AM
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Although I think the article is mostly correct, the problem is that the article is written and posted by a Kawai/Shigeru Kawai dealer and IMO is really about Kawai/Shigeru vs. Steinway although the article doesn't specifically mention those names.

I wish these articles would be more honest and say something like "In today's piano manufacturing, even those makers who call their pianos handmade use some computer controlled machinery so calling pianos "handmade" is a marketing ploy.We feel that for many of the steps in piano making computer controlled machinery, as used by Kawai, is superior to handmade and also results in greater consistency of the finished product. We feel that the claim from some makers that each of our pianos is unique and has its own voice is really just covering up inconsistency in production. "

Last edited by pianoloverus; 04/25/19 07:57 AM.
Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: Michael P Walsh] #2842239
04/25/19 08:28 AM
04/25/19 08:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Michael P Walsh
I'm trying to play the piano, by hand. At my level of progress I may have to resort to CNC.
BTW the workshops I quoted had fully trained craftsman, not just apprentices.


LOL, me too. I’d probably make more progress programming two robot arms, but that’s already been done with solenoid driven pianos. Even back in the piano roll days, they had a mechanism you could wheel up to any piano to play it.

Yes, I know, many shops, like Ramirez, had fully trained craftsman. That explains the mania over trying to find a Ramirez stamped with a certain two letters, such as PB or AM.

I don’t know of any concert artist playing on a Ramirez these days. The trend is towards louder guitars, such as Smallmans, which I dislike. Ramirez built longer scale guitars, 660mm, which are harder to play and have fallen out of favor. Concert artists work with luthiers to get an instrument that they like. That’s what Segovia did with Ramirez until he discovered Hauser.

I own a 900mm contra guitar, six strings, tuned the same as a classical guitar, but an octave lower. It’s a beast. It is pretty unique, as it is a double top and was a one off commission for a musician who wound up not being able to pay for it. It’s a cool instrument for ensembles and I hope to play it in a guitar orchestra. It’s a theorbo on steroids, much louder than a theorbo. There must be others in the world, as Hannabach sells 900mm string sets, off the shelf, but I have yet to find another one. Maybe in Germany.

I heard Raphaella Smits play a nice Lacote during a concert but that was hard to hear past the twentieth row. How do I know when I was in the third row? A woman back there told us during the concert.

Last edited by LarryK; 04/25/19 08:38 AM.

Yamaha P-515, Pianoteq Standard 6
Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: Kurtmen] #2842271
04/25/19 10:09 AM
04/25/19 10:09 AM
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Philadelphia/South Jersey
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Kurtmen,

Good to see you here again. I feel like it has been months since I have seen a post by you.

Automation has certainly changed the way each piano goes through manufacturing. For instance, parts of belly work that were once done with a chisel and a keen eye can now be done by machine. CNC routers can make a lid and cabinet parts easily. There are still manufacturers that do not use machinery in this way, but many do.

However, as laudable as it is that a particular maker sticks to traditional methods of manufacturing, this is not what makes piano into a better performing instrument. Understanding what is desired in a given instrument's touch and tone, deciding on what will be delivered in each instrument (in touch and tone) and consistently delivering that at the highest musical level makes a huge difference. Even in today's manufacturing methods, there is no substitute for handwork in this area.

I see this every day in my rebuilding facility and I have seen it at several manufacturing facilities that I have spent time in.

IMHO, your article is oversimplified. It only scratches the surface, but it might get a consumer thinking. That is obviously your goal.

Cheers,


Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
(215) 991-0834 direct line
rich@cunninghampiano.com
Subscribe to our YouTube channel for great content every week:
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Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: Kurtmen] #2842273
04/25/19 10:16 AM
04/25/19 10:16 AM
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Philadelphia/South Jersey
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Kurtmen,

One other thing. I cannot fit your website into my browser. It appears too wide on my screen and I cannot even read the name of your store on it.

I hope this is somehow my browser. Is this a problem for anyone else?


Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
(215) 991-0834 direct line
rich@cunninghampiano.com
Subscribe to our YouTube channel for great content every week:
https://www.youtube.com/user/CunninghamPiano
Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: Kurtmen] #2842323
04/25/19 12:57 PM
04/25/19 12:57 PM
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I didn't learn anything about hand build piano's from that article.

Rich to make the website fit. Hold control and scroll mouse wheel (or + - buttons).



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Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: Kurtmen] #2842344
04/25/19 02:40 PM
04/25/19 02:40 PM
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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.


"If it sounds good, it is good." - Duke Ellington
P E R F O R M A N C E over p r o v e n a n c e

Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: Kurtmen] #2842359
04/25/19 03:00 PM
04/25/19 03:00 PM
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Well, now that I’ve read the linked page...

Every once in a while people point out cringeworthy stuff on dealer websites. When frustration is clearly the motivation—and add in bad grammar—it makes me wish they’d just leave it up to the corporate marketing folks.


"If it sounds good, it is good." - Duke Ellington
P E R F O R M A N C E over p r o v e n a n c e

Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: P W Grey] #2842360
04/25/19 03:02 PM
04/25/19 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by P W Grey
All factories use a combination of machine, CNC, and hand work. It is not one or the other...but both...and then to what degree?

.02

Pwg

thumb


"If it sounds good, it is good." - Duke Ellington
P E R F O R M A N C E over p r o v e n a n c e

Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: Retsacnal] #2842391
04/25/19 04:25 PM
04/25/19 04:25 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. 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.


J & J
Yahama C3 PE
Casio Privia PX-330
Pianos - the reason God made trees!
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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Portland, Oregon, USA
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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.


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Kawai GL-10 baby grand
Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: Kurtmen] #2842738
04/26/19 06:18 PM
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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.


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Re: Hand made pianos ? [Re: RogerRL] #2842740
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.

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