The origin of the Léon Pinet Co. of Paris, France began with Jean Estève, an expert ironworker, in 1840. Estève, born circa 1807, established his company in the Marais, in Paris, where he fabricated parts for both pianos and harmoniums, specializing in making reeds for harmoniums. Harmoniums were very popular in France during the mid-19th century.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, a notable few composers were creating original works for the harmonium. These included Sigfrid Karg-Elert, of Germany, Cesar Frank, of Belgium, Dimitri Shostakovich, of Russia, William Bergsma, of the United States, and Antonín Dvořák, of Bohemia.
In 1850, Jean Estève was searching for an apprentice, and he hired Léon Pinet. And by 1880, Léon Pinet had married the granddaughter of Jean Estève, and also bought the business, which became Estève et Compagnie. Léon Pinet then developed and expanded this musical instrument supply business. By 1915, Léon Pinet’s wife took over the business, which was continued unchanged. Georges Pinet took control of the company in 1926, divested from the piano and harmonium supply business, and then concentrated on making general hardware, such as hinges and locks. After several relocations in France, and an addition of a second factory in Tunisia, the Pinet Co. is still in business today, under the same family ownership. This information was sourced from a January 2021 interview with Guillaume Bataille, a Pinet descendant, who is active in the current Pinet Company. Thanks to Fred Sturm, who brought this information to my attention.
I found the following book at a used bookstore in New York in 1983. I was restoring an old harmonium at the time, and had no idea how to proceed, so I purchased this book. It had more material and information on pianos, which I found interesting, then and now. It was translated from the original French edition, and published for the British market.
The image below is a hybrid photograph and drawing. The people, Horse and wagon, and some building details, were drawn in. Signs on the second floor tell much about the interesting piano and harmonium supply products that Pinet offered before WWI.
The 1914 Pinet price list showed an impressive array of goods and services for the French piano and harmonium industry that were available during the heyday of of the business. Pinet representatives were stationed in the Middle East, South America, and India.
“Pleyel” pattern tuning hammer, composed of three [tuning hammer] heads with ball [shaped joint], mounted on a rod, and a socket handle.
Universal Tuning Hammer Model “Institute for the Blind” consisting of a steel handle lined with ebony, 1 tapped rod, two straight tubes, long and short (nos. 418 and 419), two short ball shaped hammer heads, and two long ball shaped hammer heads.
Examples of other universal tuning hammers in lever form, from top: Marque Accorda, France; Weygandt, Stuttgart, Germany; Alfred Dolge, N.Y.; unmarked, extra long, for large square pianos. Not commonly found, Universal hammers were made during the transition from the use of ‘T’ shaped hammers towards levers for tuning purposes. The Accorda and the Weygandt both contain a screwdriver inside the handle.
I am including some catalogue images of French Pianomakers’ Tools because the c. 1914 Pinet price list did not contain images of their products. Images of Pinet tools and supplies would have been published in a separate catalogue. Although the resolution of this 1905 Lemainque Tool Catalogue image is not great, it was old enough to still show the bow drill. Later catalogues omitted that important piano tool.
Two aspects of the French bench planes really stand out for me. The first is the continued application of the double iron (fer et contre-fer) without a slot and connecting screw. The use of double iron without screw was a design that fell out of practice in England and America in the late 18th century. Pinet offered his Varlope without screw (743), and with screw and long slot (1156).
This Thomas Wales double plane iron shows the arrangement that has been standard for bevel down planes in England and North America for the last 200 years. A machine screw with cheese head under the cutting iron, goes up through the slot and into the brass bolster of the cap iron (England), or chip breaker (U.S.A.). The wooden bed of the plane body would be mortised out to provide clearance for the cheesehead screw.
The other unique aspect of so many French tools, was the use of Cormier wood, sometimes called “Service wood.” The Cormier tree grows almost exclusively in Southern Continental Europe. Cormier wood has very fine grain; freshly cut, it has a color towards orange, and as the cormier ages, it darkens to a warm brown tone. Cormier is a dense wood. Also, in France and Germany, many craft workers continue to use wooden bodied planes to this day, in contrast to England and North America, where metal planes have predominated since the late 19th century. Interestingly, the metal mitre planes and luthier planes originated in Continental Europe.
Feron et Cie took over the business of Lemainque & Andre. I am including their images here because the resolution is somewhat better, but they were the same drawings over many years, which was often the case. Notably, the bow drill was omitted by 1927.
722. Clamps for adjusting escapements [of pianos].
721 Rebate plane, with two irons, with steel sole for ivory. 723. Clamp for gluing felt hammerheads.
726. Smooth planes, flat sole. 727. small model.
724-725 [Mitre] plane for ivory with inlaid cormier wood sole. 728, 729, 730. Smooth planes round [radiused] and compass.
732. Drill bit pads in cormier wood. 734. Bit Brace, in cormier wood; neck in bronze.
752. Plane with toothing iron, and steel sole. 1154. Finishing plane.
757. Plane for dressing ivory strips [keytop blanks], with steel soles. 1069. American style scraper.
751. Scraper with steel sole. 1108. Small violin plane. 1220. Small plane for contrabass.
Pinet regulating tools were not always marked, but they often had turned octagonal handles of the type shown above. The octagonal part of the handles was not always symmetrical; in these cases, the facets might have been made freehand, without a machine or jig, probably cut with a plane while the handle was held in a vise. The wood used on these handles could be rosewood, walnut, oak, or a stained light wood, probably beech. Here are two long and thin let off tools, and another specialized tool, a converted small U gouge, with blade rounded and smoothed, probably used to ease damper wires in the guide rails on grand pianos:
The design of these old French tools was different than what was made in the U.S. or Japan, but was somewhat closer to some German examples. The tool in the center has bending slots in the same arrangement as the general action wire bender made in the U.S. for many years, but the shape is different.
- 1046 Damper wire bending tool.
- 1045 Keydip regulating block, in rosewood.
- 1049 Tool for keyboard leads.
- 1001 Key spacing regulating tool.
- 1047 Pair of adjusting tools for the mechanics.
- 1114 Tool to restore the horsehair of the bows.
Downloadable versions of Pinet regulating tools:
For regluing hammers that have become separated from their moulding. Another hammer clamp can be seen on the Miscellaneous page:
Pinet was the exclusive seller of Firminy piano strings, bars and cast plates. The town of Firminy in the Loire department was one of the largest centers for iron and steel production in France during the late 19th, early 20th centuries. A Firminy music wire gauge can be found on the String Gauges page.
Throughout the Western World, during the industrial revolution, factory owners would exaggerate the size and scope of their facilities in their published images. While Firminy was a major steel making town, the French steel industry in general was decentralized, spread out amongst many medium and small sized factories across France. The French steel industry lagged behind that of Germany, Britain, or the United States, in the late 19th, early 20th centuries.