This page contains plates or diagrams of early tools, some used for pianos, some for musical instruments, and others for more general applications. These basic cabinet makers tools are included as well, because many were used in the piano industry.
Here are plates from Giacomo Ferdinand Sievers’: “Il Pianoforte: Guide Pratica per Costruttori, Accordatori, Dilettanti e Professori di Pianoforte.” Published by Ghio, 1868, in Naples. In 1833, Sievers began his career as a pianomaker in St. Petersburg, Russia, then he moved his factory to Naples, Italy during the 1860s. Many of the procedures and tools described in this book were a good generation or two old by the time of its writing. Anachronistic as this book was, Sievers provided a detailed description of piano making as it was practiced in the early 19th century. It was a period when the piano was undergoing dynamic change as every year passed. While modern pianos are a combination of hand work and machine work, Sievers was describing piano making at a time when the Industrial Revolution had somewhat less of an influence on the building process, and pre-industrial hand work took a larger portion of that process. This 1800 to 1850 time frame represents what we now recognize as the later fortepiano period. Famous fortepiano makers from that time would include Anton Walter (1752-1825), Conrad Graf (1782-1851), and Johann Baptist Streicher (1796-1871). With the publication of “Il Pianoforte…”, Sievers provided some rare insight into the making of these early instruments, which have been actively reproduced in the last 45 years. These are plates and illustrations which illustrate the hand tools and equipment which were used in Siever’s piano manufactory:
24. fillister plane; 22. rebate plane; 21. 18th century iron mitre with proud sole and tote at nose; 18. coffin smooth plane; 17. large smoother, German/Austrian type with horn on nose; 14 and 15. 2 plane irons with cap irons (chipbreakers), 23. radiused plane; 13. jointer plane; 16. jack plane; 19. Dutch gerf plane; 20. toothing plane; 25. nosing plane; 26. plow plane; 28. convex plane; 12. cabinet workbench with vises. 27. compass plane.
The following is an English translation of Siever’s seasoning process provided by Edward Swenson in “The Tools of Early Piano Building,” from the December 1989 Piano Technician’s Journal:
An hermetically sealed boiler with a bolt-down lid containing approximately 20 buckets of water, and perfectly walled in by an oven of bricks, would be the major expense of this apparatus. A box of strong fir, four meters long, 85 centimeters high and 65 centimeters wide, with a tight lid forms the second part. This box placed obliquely with one of its ends toward the boiler, receives the steam by means of an iron pipe–while the other end, placed at about 30 centimeters from the ground on fixed supports is furnished at its lowest point with a hole which allows an exit for the water condensed from the steam.
The pieces of wood, cut to the desired dimensions, are stacked like knives upon the little bridges in the box, with many little wood spacers inserted to prevent the pieces from touching. The cover is closed tightly and the apparatus is ready. The boiler must be maintained for 48 hours. Every three hours one adds the necessary water introducing it by means of a funnel fixed for this purpose in another pipe in the cover. The wood may be quite green, for the steam purges it of all the noxious substances which exit as a tincture as black as ink. Before removing the wood from the box, it is necessary to let it cool for six hours. When removed the pieces are swollen and wet; placed in a dry and airy location they dry out rapidly, become light (in weight) and pale in color, but they remain stable and neither crack nor warp. They become more easy to work and take glue most excellently.
Various action diagrams:
Montal: “l’Art d’accorder soi-même son piano…” Claude Montal (28 July 1800 – 7 March 1865). This 1836 book was the first comprehensive treatise on tuning and general piano work. Montal was a tuner, and later, maker of pianos.
Claude Montal’s Plate of piano tools.
From left to right: Metal tuning hammer oblong socket; Square socket; Wood-handled tuning hammer, removable tubes—for oblong and square pins; Interspersed, three types of mutes, for silencing certain strings during tuning; Flat-nosed pliers; Music-wire gauge; Piano-wire cutters; Hand vise Tuning lever, gooseneck, with stringing hook; Components for two universal style tuning hammers; Two tuning forks (diapason) and case (#34 used to draw between the tines to sound the pitch), and looping/braiding machine. Illustrations in the bottom right show loops and braids being made for the single strings, and then in the lower one the string being wound on the pin, which does not have a string becket and hole (as in modern tuning pins)
Diderot: Encyclopédie Volume 5. “Lutherie.” (1767) Denis Diderot collaborated with Alembert over several years to make this compendium. Here are some plates from “Lutherie.”
Roubo: L’Art du Menuisier. André Jacob Roubo (1739–1791) an accomplished cabinet maker, wrote this book between 1769 and 1774. The following are selected plates from that book. L’Art du Menuisier vol.3 can be seen here with higher resolution.