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How to make a piano keyboard

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In part 4 of "How to Make a Pianoforte" W. H. Davies instructs the amateur piano maker "to provide {themself} with a set of 16in. keys to match the size of key-bottom; they may be bought at from 38s. to £3, according to quality". You could choose between more than ten keyboard makers just in London around the time he was writing, as well as purchase other components from many other kinds of specialists in work for piano makers. Today a new keyboard of this description won't be so readily available or affordable, and in America it's not likely you could even scavenge keys that would work from a discarded old one.

My keyboard is for a square piano and is more complicated than the one for Mr. Davies upright. The lengths are all different and the rails are at angles, the front and back ends of the keys are offset sideways, they aren't uniformly thick and besides there being fewer of them the keys as well as the action parts they set in motion are smaller. It works the same and has the same ordinary arrangement, though, with seven white and five black keys in each octave and no breaks in the back spacing so the steps are the same as for Davies' upright, and it even has the parts needed in part 5 of his instructions.

A keyboard closer to Davies' is described in "How to Make an Organ Keyboard" by "M. W." first published in Work Illustrated in 1884.
 
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Sanjay Limbore10 months ago
Need to know exact dimension of keys, could not make out as figure shows.
My project....

Soon to be a instructable!
keys01.jpgfinal01.jpg
eischool5 years ago
yes al are perfect to build own hand piano, now start to play that.

if you don't know then learn it from hereKeyboard Lessons to Learn
craigl5 years ago
An incredible display of both research and craftmanship. I've restored uprights, reed organs, and pipe organs to working condition but have never built one from scratch. My next project is to restore a square 1869 Steinway chamber grand and will need to take into consideration some of the things you did here. The square Steinway's hammer angles appear to be at different angles depending on its position along the keyboard, so I anticipate having a lot of fun with this one. You mentioned several times that your keyboard was destined to be used in a square pianoforte with an early type action. What model and period are you shooting for? A short keyboard combined with a light touch hints that this might be a model built for a small woman's hand to be played at home or in a small music chamber.
threesixesinarow (author)  craigl5 years ago
Thanks. The piano is the kind that's often disguised as a sewing stand, it's about the same size as Austrian ones but is a rear tuning square with "a double action, like Chickering's" and a plainer case and stand. It has a wooden frame and hitchpin plank, and the speaking length of the top note is 56mm. I was going to put together a slideshow when it's more presentable.

I don't think the touchweight measures less than you'd find at least on English or American squares before 1850 but the small, light parts make it respond quickly - the hammers themselves are a little lighter than these ones. It has a straight hammer rail but the hammer line is curved, which you can kind of see in step 16, and the hammers are drilled to match the angles of the strings but they're trimmed so they have a more trapezoidal section, which seem to be pretty common techniques to gain space and still have the right tone.
hydrnium.h25 years ago
What I want to know is how well the key board plays.Can you upload a video?
threesixesinarow (author)  hydrnium.h25 years ago
Sorry, I don't have a way to make a video and it's kind of mute right now, without strings and stuff. For what it is it plays fine, but it's not like a modern piano - the action is the old English kind you can see in the animation on this page. There are fewer parts and the feeling is different from the way they work together, and there's much less weight so the touch is very light. The biggest restriction in mine is from the small size of the keys, but they can't be any bigger.
Bartboy5 years ago
imagine a keyboard for a computer, that is a normal keyboard just stretched out!
threesixesinarow (author)  Bartboy5 years ago
I know they're not computers, but the first one is House's printing telegraph, from before 1860, the second was reportedly invented by Henry Bessemer about 1840 and called the pianotype, and the third one is Mergenthaler's linotype. The other way can be interesting, too, like the Archiphone or Tip Tip Tip Cheeepeeeee.
housetel.JPG1840pianotype.png1886linotype.png
sharky055 years ago
really interesting tutorial. Thanks for this. i'll have a go building one over the weekend then... :D
Wow, agreeing with Purocuyu, that also confirms for me that I will never build a piano. Too hard for me. Nice job, I like your way of Instructables, I hope to see more from you! +5/5 stars.
Basta5 years ago
Wow! I've been wanting to make a keyed instrument some day, but didn't really have all the logistics down for the actual keyboard assembly. Thanks for the great guide!
codester5 years ago
Someone's gonna work at Steinway someday................
jediplt5 years ago
wow, nice work!
Jawatech5 years ago
WOW Great job man!
John Smith5 years ago
dang.
gordokury5 years ago
grate job!
AndresSs5 years ago
ouuups i will to buy a piano better. Great JOB
Purocuyu5 years ago
Wow, this just confirms that I will never build a piano. the photos were cool nonetheless
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