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The Wet Sand Casting versus "V-Pro" Casting for Piano Harps has once again stirred up a lot of passion regarding approaches to plate casting.

At a high level, there seem to be two primary schools of thought:
  • Wet Sand Casting produces a better plate in terms of tone.
  • Wet Sand Casting and V-Pro produce equivalent plates, but v-pro offers advantages for mass production.


No-Bake uses chemical binders instead of the wet binders associated with traditional wet sand casting. V-pro also does not use wet binders, and, consequently, some of the rationales for no-bake are the same as v-pro (btw, I've seen "no-bake," "no bake," and "nobake" in my reading).

One prominent maker has been using the No-Bake casting method for several years now in a modernized foundry, but, in spite of the passion associated with the other two methods, this change hasn't seemed to have stirred up much interest.

Anyway, I'm curious what people's thoughts and impressions of no-bake are, and relative to the other methodologies.

Better, worse, or the same as wet sand and/or v-pro?


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One prominent maker has been using the No-Bake casting method for several years now in a modernized foundry, but, in spite of the passion associated with the other two methods, this change hasn't seemed to have stirred up much interest.
If Yamaha were the company using the no-bake method, it would have stirred up much controversy by now.


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The other thread is mainly about Yamaha, Kawai and Steinways.What about European and other pianos, do we know what processes are being used in making the plates? Bake, boil, vacume or sand?


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Don't forget the CNC water jet cut welded steel plate that Dave Rubenstein uses. People only use cast iron because it's cheap-n-easy (if you have a foundry). Don't forget it is very old tech and was "good enough" at the time. See http://www.pianosrubenstein.com/r371.html

Personally, I'd like to see a CNC machined Invar plate. Not that it would make any difference, but it would be cool to have a plate that is dimensionally stable with temperature changes.

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Originally Posted by Sweelinck
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One prominent maker has been using the No-Bake casting method for several years now in a modernized foundry, but, in spite of the passion associated with the other two methods, this change hasn't seemed to have stirred up much interest.
If Yamaha were the company using the no-bake method, it would have stirred up much controversy by now.

Yes, the fact that it's an indisputable high end maker who's adopted the new technique changes the calculus at bit, doesn't it?

It will definitely change the FUD factor. Instead of being able to say "all 'top tier' pianos have wet sand cast plates," they'll have to say "no 'top tier' pianos have v-pro plates."

That said, I have to admit that I don't know if they're using no-bake for all their pianos, or just some or certain models.


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Originally Posted by tre corda
The other thread is mainly about Yamaha, Kawai and Steinways.What about European and other pianos, do we know what processes are being used in making the plates? Bake, boil, vacume or sand?

If I'm not mistaken, Bechstein and Petrof are the largest European producers, but I don't know where they get their plates. Each probably produces enough that they could justify having their own foundries. Even Steinway outsourced their plates, and effectively still does except that they bought the supplier (O. S. Kelly), so it's vertically integrated now.

I believe Grotrian-Steinweg also use O. S. Kelly plates, so perhaps no-bake is available to them (I don't know).

I think most other European makers produce fairly small numbers, so it might be difficult to justify v-pro from a cost perspective. If I'm not mistaken, the BVK certificate allows for the plate to be imported, which would be somewhat indicative of companies not producing their own, but this is largely conjecture on my part.


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Originally Posted by pyropaul
Don't forget the CNC water jet cut welded steel plate that Dave Rubenstein uses. People only use cast iron because it's cheap-n-easy (if you have a foundry). Don't forget it is very old tech and was "good enough" at the time. See http://www.pianosrubenstein.com/r371.html

Personally, I'd like to see a CNC machined Invar plate. Not that it would make any difference, but it would be cool to have a plate that is dimensionally stable with temperature changes.


There's all sorts of interesting ways plate making and design could go. Invar is intriguing.

I think there's no question that steel fabrication is easier and more accessible to small boutique makers like Rubenstein than casting iron is (I love those massive legs on his pianos, btw).

I mentioned it in the other thread, but Del has commented that steel works perfectly fine (iirc). And that iron is used largely out of tradition.


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Why is everyone so obsessed with plates these days? But not strings, hammers, soundboards, rims....?

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Originally Posted by Sonepica
Why is everyone so obsessed with plates these days? But not strings, hammers, soundboards, rims....?

grin ha

Don't worry ... before you know it there'll be another hybrid wire thread, or a cold-pressed vs. hot-pressed hammers thread, or a who-can-really-make-a-soundboard thread. Rims...? Maybe a should-the-rim-resonate-or-not thread. ??? Rims don't seem to be too polarizing.

But, part of the point of this thread is that although people get all hot and bothered about v-pro vs. wet sand cast plates, no one is obsessed with no-bake. Seems to be a yawn-fest. **shrug**


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Well since we cannot travel to the October fest (beer is not my thing but...), a yawn fest is still safer than a soundboard one.
😃 I have a feeling "no bake" is going to "take off yet"

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You haven't mentioned the post war aluminum plates

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Originally Posted by Retsacnal
Originally Posted by Sonepica
Why is everyone so obsessed with plates these days? But not strings, hammers, soundboards, rims....?

grin ha

Don't worry ... before you know it there'll be another hybrid wire thread, or a cold-pressed vs. hot-pressed hammers thread, or a who-can-really-make-a-soundboard thread. Rims...? Maybe a should-the-rim-resonate-or-not thread. ??? Rims don't seem to be too polarizing.

But, part of the point of this thread is that although people get all hot and bothered about v-pro vs. wet sand cast plates, no one is obsessed with no-bake. Seems to be a yawn-fest. **shrug**

Not obsessed but interested. I haven't done any liquid catalyst no-bake castings but have used cold box (a form of no-bake) and conventional green sand casting. The cold box was much faster and easier to work with but, because the CO2 activator has to be able to permeate the sand, it wasn't possible to produce a nice very smooth mold as you can with conventional green sand casting and, as a result, the surface finish was much rougher when using the cold box. Surface finish aside though you can generally run a more intricate shape with the no-bake methods than you can with green sand.

None of this is likely to have any real relevance to how it will eventually sound when in a piano of course :-)

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One of the points about plates to consider is that grey iron and mild steel have almost exactly the same thermal coefficient of expansion as the strings. This means that for a given temp change, both elements will change dimension the same amount thus providing better tuning stability.

Aluminum moves at about twice the rate steel/iron do.


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Originally Posted by Ed McMorrow, RPT
One of the points about plates to consider is that grey iron and mild steel have almost exactly the same thermal coefficient of expansion as the strings. This means that for a given temp change, both elements will change dimension the same amount thus providing better tuning stability.

Aluminum moves at about twice the rate steel/iron do.

Soundboards have quite a different rate of expansion than strings/frame and so dominate the movement, plus the effect of humidity changes. If you want tuning stability all three elements have to work together to give no change versus temperature. Invar frame/strings would be interesting but would still be at the mercy of the wooden soundboard.

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Originally Posted by Ed McMorrow, RPT
One of the points about plates to consider is that grey iron and mild steel have almost exactly the same thermal coefficient of expansion as the strings. This means that for a given temp change, both elements will change dimension the same amount thus providing better tuning stability.

Aluminum moves at about twice the rate steel/iron do.

Very good point Ed. That presumably make the previous idea of an invar metal plate an extremely bad idea, unless the strings were similarly constructed.

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Originally Posted by pyropaul
Soundboards have quite a different rate of expansion than strings/frame and so dominate the movement, plus the effect of humidity changes. If you want tuning stability all three elements have to work together to give no change versus temperature. Invar frame/strings would be interesting but would still be at the mercy of the wooden soundboard.

The soundboard is only weakly coupled to the frame/strings system. It's really the physical properties of the frame and strings and the tensions on the strings that determines the frequencies at which the strings vibrate.

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Originally Posted by Sammy111
Originally Posted by pyropaul
Soundboards have quite a different rate of expansion than strings/frame and so dominate the movement, plus the effect of humidity changes. If you want tuning stability all three elements have to work together to give no change versus temperature. Invar frame/strings would be interesting but would still be at the mercy of the wooden soundboard.

The soundboard is only weakly coupled to the frame/strings system. It's really the physical properties of the frame and strings and the tensions on the strings that determines the frequencies at which the strings vibrate.

No, it's very strongly coupled by the bridge pins! If the soundboard moves, the bridge moves with it - the strings should not slip over those pins as the soundboard moves! If the bridge moves relative to the terminations on the frame (and it will as the soundboard has a vastly different coefficient of expansion) then this will change the tension of the strings more than the expansion/contraction of the frame/strings themselves. Of course, they're all moving due to temperature / humidity change plus the moves in the soundboard also affect the downbearing - so it's complicated. But I think it's an error to say the soundboard is weakly coupled when (as we saw in another thread) there's half a ton of downbearing on the bridge.

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Originally Posted by tre corda
Well since we cannot travel to the October fest (beer is not my thing but...), a yawn fest is still safer than a soundboard one.
😃 I have a feeling "no bake" is going to "take off yet"

The Octoberfest beats a yawn-fest any day of the week! grin


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Originally Posted by Steve Jackson
You haven't mentioned the post war aluminum plates


Well, I was focused on the main methods in use currently. But feel free to discuss aluminum frames!


To some of the other environmental comments about aluminum frames, I'm wondering about detrimental interaction between aluminum and steel strings. I'm not a metallurgist, but I know some metals react negatively when they come into contact. ???


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Originally Posted by gwing
Originally Posted by Retsacnal
Originally Posted by Sonepica
Why is everyone so obsessed with plates these days? But not strings, hammers, soundboards, rims....?

grin ha

Don't worry ... before you know it there'll be another hybrid wire thread, or a cold-pressed vs. hot-pressed hammers thread, or a who-can-really-make-a-soundboard thread. Rims...? Maybe a should-the-rim-resonate-or-not thread. ??? Rims don't seem to be too polarizing.

But, part of the point of this thread is that although people get all hot and bothered about v-pro vs. wet sand cast plates, no one is obsessed with no-bake. Seems to be a yawn-fest. **shrug**

Not obsessed but interested. I haven't done any liquid catalyst no-bake castings but have used cold box (a form of no-bake) and conventional green sand casting. The cold box was much faster and easier to work with but, because the CO2 activator has to be able to permeate the sand, it wasn't possible to produce a nice very smooth mold as you can with conventional green sand casting and, as a result, the surface finish was much rougher when using the cold box. Surface finish aside though you can generally run a more intricate shape with the no-bake methods than you can with green sand.

None of this is likely to have any real relevance to how it will eventually sound when in a piano of course :-)

Interesting stuff. We tend to think about iron -- or at least I do -- because we're focused on piano plates, but as I read about no-bake I realized that the various casting methods can be used for other metals too, and that there were multiple (3?) forms of no-bake, or closely related to no-bake.

(I've been in a lot of factories over the years, but never a foundry).


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