LONDON-L ArchivesArchiver > LONDON > 1998-04 > 0893865760
From: "Len Knott" <>
Subject: Re: Pianoforte Maker
Date: Wed, 29 Apr 98 17:02:40 +0100 (BST)
> I have come across Pianoforte Maker as the profession of one of the ancestors
> (in the 1881 census). I wonder what this means? Did one man make whole pianos?
> or does it mean that he was one of a team doing so in a "factory environment?
> Is this a common occupation in the 1880s? How can I find more?
In the late 1930's, early 1940's I was the 'eyes' of a blind piano tuner and on days when I was not at school I would often accompany him to the Piano Factory.
The factory was a long, rectangular, single storey building with a storeroom at one end where timber was kept, and also the cast iron frames (like harps) for the strings.
The workshop had benches arranged on the two long sides near to the windows, the middle of the room had racks for work in progress and pianos in various stages of construction. Built against the wall dividing the store from the workshop was a forge, and the crucibles for melting lead used to counter-balance the keys. Working at the benches were the craftsmen of various callings.
The Pianoforte Makers made the 'Actions', strung the 'Frames', felted the 'Hammers' etc. etc. The Cabinet Makers made the 'Cases'. All were fastened together with hot strong 'Scotch Glue' heated in double boilers at the forge.
The Cases were polished by the French Polishers to a deep gloss that had to be seen to be believed. My companion, The Piano Tuner, tuned the pianos before final assembly, each one taking at least an two hours before he was satisfied, finishing off with short renderings of well-known classical pieces.
I can still smell the varnish, glue, methylated spirit, wood shavings, hear the merry banter of the men chivvying me to bring them pots of fresh hot glue, snatches of Chopin; being scolded for not holding a hammer correctly, or not making the tea strong enough. The 'Shop Foreman's name was Mr 'Bob' Shilling. The Blind Piano Tuner was Conrad Burkes. We were all fulfilled in our own ways.
I was fortunate to be both a witness and a participant in what was in fact the end of an era in so many ways. Safety Regulations etc. are most unlikely ever to permit a modern child to see, or allow a modern worker to take part in such a Manufactory.
A ROOTSWEB SPONSER....................LONDON-L
New Forest in the South of England......Weather- Raining again