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Originally Posted by Del
Originally Posted by Bill Bremmer RPT
This made me think that it could be good pinblock material but when I read what you said about splitting, I wondered again. Still, I wonder about what Roy says, about what happens when bamboo is highly processed and compressed. Something like what happens when coal is turned into a diamond when there is enough heat and pressure applied.

I don't think this is a catastrophic issue. Lots of wood species are also prone to cracking and/or splitting. With experience we have learned to live with this. And devise methods that work to overcome the problem. But somebody is going to have to do the hard work of finding efficient (i.e., economical) solutions.

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I am just dreaming, of course but what fuels that dream is the foundation: the fiber. What happens to it when it is processed sufficiently? Is the cutting board so rigid and durable mostly because of the heat and pressure or is the adhesive that is mixed in also a factor and does the combination of the two provide for the ultimate properties?

Don’t know. I rather suspect that, as the common wood species we have grown to depend on become more expensive and as their quality goes down, some innovative companies (not in the piano industry) will start to work on this.

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If an ultimately useful material is the result of a combination of materials, then that is what needs to be looked at. What is the adhesive? Is it expensive? Is it toxic? Can the starch that is removed from the raw material actually be part of the adhesive? In other words, take it out, process it and put it back in some way that really binds those fibers together in a way that will not result in the kinds of failures that were described.

Some examples of combination materials are carbon added to iron to make steel. Synthetic fibers combined with natural to create a product which is superior to either. Steel reinforcement of concrete. Adhesives and pressure applied to wood particles that otherwise would be waste materials to make a strong, rigid and durable product.

One of the problems with high density particle board is the very heavy weight of the material. Some of these piano lids, while they remain nice and flat, are so heavy that it takes a fairly strong person to lift them. Yes, there are now hydraulic hinges that help but they add a lot of cost to a modestly priced piano.

What if bamboo were processed in the same way as wood particles? In other words, forget about the linear fiber. Chop it up, glue it together under high pressure and then what would it be like?

Again, I don’t know. You have brought up one of my favorite materials to hate, however: MDF (or medium density fiberboard). It’s called “medium” only because it is moderately less dense than HDF. In making these products, the weight of the fiber is not the issue; it is the weight of the adhesive. While an MDF panel is inherently flat and the material is reasonably stable (as long as liquid water is kept away) it is heavy. So heavy that the lids of even small grands can be difficult for some people to lift. This seems counter-productive to me—why make a product some percentage of your potential market cannot comfortably use?

Grand lids seem to be a logical place to start. Some species of bamboo are quite light. I should think that the material could be processed into laminated panels that should be stable. A suitable hardwood strip could be set in where the screws need to hold. And normal humans might be able to lift the damn things.

I’m not trying to be negative about this, I’m just pointing out some of the issues that are preventing pianomakers from running headlong into accepting it.

I mentioned the possibility of using one of the lighter species of bamboo as a core material for laminated soundboard panel construction. I think it could work. It will take some development but I don’t see any insurmountable problems. Now, can you imagine trying to sell a piano equipped with such a soundboard panel?

At least as much effort will have to be put into marketing as in the actual development of these materials.

ddf





It is no wonder that your services are in demand Mr. Fandrich.
Here is to hoping that marketers and manufacturers will listen to you and others sooner than later.


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Thanks for the information, Del. I had wondered is it were not indeed the adhesive itself that made MDF and HDF so heavy. If a grand lid could be made of the same material as that cutting board I have, it would remain as flat as the MDF and HDF types but would be as light as a piece of common plywood.

You mentioned affixing a piece of hardwood to edges that have to accept screws (like where hinges are attached) so there would be no splitting and the tiny screws they always use would not strip out but this whole idea is about using a sustainable source of raw material that grows like weeds. If the bamboo does not support fixtures, then could some synthetic material be used for edges?

The hinges that attach the lid to the spine side of the rim have also been a problem. I have seen them easily rip out of a well known and otherwise good quality Japanese made piano. We have to repair them with CA glue. It seems to me that edges that have to hold screws such as this could also be chemically treated so that they could hold up to screws. This might not work for action rails but certainly for lid hinges and other places where fasteners have to work such as leg and lyre lag bolts.

I honestly don't think the consumer would have that much of a problem knowing that bamboo had been used in large parts of a piano structure. As someone mentioned, the word itself could use a makeover. These days, people adapt to new ideas and innovations much more quickly than they used to. It would be up to marketing people in how it can be presented to make it appealing. "Sustainable" materials makes for a great buzz word these days. If it is sustainable, the Millennials are buying it.


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I'm not quite the purist you are, Bill.

I've been dealing with piano manufacturers for some years now. I've been fighting the battle to get them to accept simple laminated "all-spruce" soundboards for years. I've become something of a pragmatist.

We must reduce the demands on Earths resources in every way we can. If I were Emperor of Earth I could solve the problem with the stroke of a pen. Fortunately, I'm not the Emperor of Earth. So, it will take a little longer. And, yes, I understand that we may not have much time left.

I gauge success in small steps. I rejoice in the acceptance of a laminated "all-spruce" soundboard by even a small segment of the industry. I would also rejoice in the acceptance of a lightweight bamboo-core grand piano lid that used a relatively small hardwood strip along the split between the main lid and the front lid if that was required to accommodate the screws used in conventional piano construction.

I would rejoice in the acceptance of a thin bamboo core used in a laminated soundboard construction with spruce faces.

Change and progress rarely come overnight. At least not in the piano industry. It usually comes much more incrementally.

Lest anyone be discouraged by what I say, don't be -- every effort to sway public opinion is helpful. Indeed, essential. In some industries progress is led by innovative companies that compete for new customers through innovation and progress. Not so, in the piano industry. Here, it seems, progress must be forced, kicking and screaming, on the companies from the bottom up. Only when the customers -- i.e, the dealers -- demand progress and innovation that we see it. So, keep on demanding....

ddf


Delwin D Fandrich
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In some industries progress is led by innovative companies that compete for new customers through innovation and progress. Not so, in the piano industry. Here, it seems, progress must be forced, kicking and screaming, on the companies from the bottom up. Only when the customers -- i.e, the dealers -- demand progress and innovation that we see it. So, keep on demanding....


Is progress and change most likely to come from China, because of the buoyant piano industry there, and the sheer volume of production? In traditional piano-making parts of the world, where the industry is in decline and profits tight, I can see that companies would be very risk-averse.

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The Chinese seem to have come a very long way in a very short period of time. 30 years ago, a Chinese piano was unheard of in this country. If someone had brought one over, it was inevitably junk. Now, they have grown so fast that they are literally busting their buttons.

As I understand it, Chinese piano manufacturing was so poor that when they wanted to improve it, they imported engineers from North American and Europe for the knowledge and expertise that they had. This involved traditional spruce and hardwoods of which China had little if any. They have to import those materials. They have oodles of bamboo. It is what Panda Bears eat, after all.

China and Southeast Asia have already long been using and processing bamboo. The number of Chinese students in Engineering School here at the University of Wisconsin is staggering. Many of them manage to stay here and get rich. They own large houses and have the Shigerus and Steinway B's over and above any other segment of the population. If that is true here, it must be elsewhere as well.

It only stands to reason that bamboo research and development would occur in Asia rather than in North America although when viewing a map of where bamboo grows, the Gulf Coast states region is one of the places. Mexico, Central America and South America are others. Haiti also has an ideal environment. Clearly, China, Vietnam and Indonesia are the places with entrepreneurial capability and spirit.


Bill Bremmer RPT
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When a manufacturer is faced with using a new material or process in their factory, the first question that comes up is: Why? Why should we make this change? What will it do for us?

The answer had better be one or more of the following:

1) It will significantly improve the quality of our product(s) and not significantly increase our costs...ultimately increasing profits...

2) It will significantly reduce our production costs with no impact on quality, thereby increasing profits...

3) It will become a major sales advantage over our competitors, being a superior method/material...translating into greater market share...

4) The materials we are currently using are soon to be virtually non-existent or prohibitively expensive which will affect our competitors too and we need to be on the cutting edge of change/improvement or we will be out of business...




The second question that comes up is: Can we sell it?...How will it be perceived in the marketplace?...What will our competitor's do to us in the market?

If the answer to this one carries much element of risk, you can be sure that it is NOT going to be implemented.


Presently, I don't see bamboo fitting the bill, so to speak (please forgive the pun Bill...it was intentional 😎).

However, I do agree that these manufacturers, and others, should be experimenting with this stuff, playing with, chemically pulling it apart and putting it back together again. Who knows, an entirely new material might be developed using bamboo as the basis (or base) which WOULD in fact be highly useful in this industry (and others). Then they could give a whole new name that sounds a bit more sophisticated and satisfy everybody!

Just a few stray thoughts on the matter.

Pwg


Last edited by P W Grey; 12/20/17 07:20 PM.

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I appreciate your comments, Peter but I do believe that bamboo can ultimately satisfy all 4 of your points which were very good ones. The primary reason why I think that by the time bamboo is actually used in pianos, public perception of change will will have evolved significantly.

We have had to learn to adapt quickly to change. Every few years, what was new a few years ago and to which we had to adapt is now obsolete and now we have to adapt again. Next Fall, youngsters born in the year 2000 will be going to college. How students are taught and the tools they use are totally different from what we had 20-30-40 years ago and beyond.

By the time the present day Millennials are ready to enter the piano buying market, the important properties of spruce and hard rock maple will mean virtually nothing to them. But what they will have heard a lot about is how these materials have become depleted.

It would be much like the use of ivory for keytops is viewed today. It is not necessary. Other materials have replaced it and are actually superior. Continued use of it is actually outlawed. I have witnessed the steady decline of people who place some kind of value or importance upon even restored pianos that still have the original ivory. Few, if any younger adults care about that.

As precious woods of any kind become increasingly rare, the attitude about using them because they are traditional will quickly wane. Furthermore, the notion that they are superior to what may then be available will also fade. Older piano factory executives will be replaced by young people who have different perspectives and attitudes.

I'll say it again that the word "sustainability" has become important in the minds of young people. They feel that all products and energy should come from sustainable sources. They don't want every last tree on earth chopped down. They want new ones planted and they want to preserve forests, not mow them down.

Therefore, I believe that the word "bamboo" could actually become an attractive one. There was a time when anything made of "plastic" was considered to be cheap and flimsy. But as synthetic products proliferated, it is in virtually everything we consume. I can see a time coming when the piano salesman actually says, "Our pianos are made entirely from sustainable sources" and that is what actually motivates the sale.

Governments can play a role in the development of bamboo products by offering incentives to business to do so. Heavily taxing and regulating the use of precious woods but providing funding for research and development and low or tax free incentives to use processed bamboo where it will work would go a long way in normalizing both business and consumer attitudes.

Just think about how J. Pierpont Morgan's father discouraged and even forbade his son to invest in electricity. He thought of its properties as something for carnival marvels but had no practical use, application or potential. Morgan had to wait for the old man to die before he could move on but move on, he certainly did.

Think of how people were resistant to compact fluorescent lights at first. They looked strange. The color of the light was different. They took a while to gain full brightness. They cost way more than the kind of lights we had been used to for decades. But when the price came down and people found out how much more durable and long lasting they were, plus government mandating the phasing out of incandescent, people quickly got used to and adapted to them. Now only a short time later, even those are becoming obsolete in favor of an even better technology, the LED light.

Technicians love to laugh, scoff, mock and denigrate Kimball pianos with their laminated soundboards. I am reminded of the line from the original 1931 film, Frankenstein when the doctor's helper says, "Look, it's still there!" Whatever else one may personally think about those products, it still has to be admitted that those soundboards retained their integrity over nearly any other design and material. They are still in use even though Kimball saw the writing on the wall and stopped manufacturing pianos 21 years ago.

Kimball is still a thriving company, by the way; sells its stock on the stock market and employs American workers in American factories making American made products. All other manufacturers of common American made pianos are now long out of business. Kimball realized that it was literally putting itself out of business with every unit it produced and sold. It was a one time deal for the large majority of families who bought one.

This coming year will be the 70th anniversary of when Kimball went back into production after the end of World War II. The majority of pianos it has built since then are still in use and being handed down from parent to child, to grandchild and great grandchild. Who needs a new piano? We already have one. It's not the best but it still makes music and we like it and don't want to get rid of it. Besides, we got it free and new pianos cost so much. That is the bottom line.

While it may always be true that the finest tone could only come from the finest, most select spruce, that material will inevitably become so rare that only the most costly concert quality instruments could be made from it. There may even be a finite period for that.

At some point, it will become a matter of necessity to develop bamboo and other non traditional materials if the acoustic piano is to survive as a product that the average household can afford to buy and keep. The alternative of continuing to build pianos from increasingly inferior wood will only mean pianos that self destruct in two or three decades. Piano buyers will not like or want that. They want quality tone, durability and an affordable price.

That is another aspect to be discovered about current and recently made Chinese pianos. They often look and sound good fresh out of the factory but everyone wonders how well they will hold up compared to a century of American piano manufacturing. If bamboo can be developed so that the products made from it have all of the desirable qualities, including decades long durability, then China will have the answer as to why it should look to bamboo as a piano building material.

I truly believe that bamboo will largely fill those needs. There will come a time when looking back on this discussion, it will seem silly how so many people were doubtful and resistant to the idea.


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Agreed!

Of course you noticed I used the word "presently".

Imagine: Pianos built from grass. How cool is that?

Pwg


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I read in The Times newspaper of London, England yesterday, that the Chinese are using bamboo, 'processed' by pandas, to make paper.
https://nextshark.com/chinese-company-sells-tissue-paper-made-panda-poop/

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Originally Posted by David Boyce
I read in The Times newspaper of London, England yesterday, that the Chinese are using bamboo, 'processed' by pandas, to make paper.
https://nextshark.com/chinese-company-sells-tissue-paper-made-panda-poop/


At least they're not turning the panda poo into something like civet coffee.

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