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Piano string ends
Piano strings

Piano wire is a specialized type of wire made for use in piano and other musical instrument strings, as well as many other purposes. It is made from tempered high-carbon steel, also known as spring steel. Music wire is another name for piano wire: it is used for the cores of strings, which may be wound with other materials. Music wire is used for a variety of stringed instruments that use steel strings, such as guitars.

Contents

Manufacture and use

General-purpose, high-carbon steel, drawn music wire (such as ASTM A228) is manufactured in both inch and metric music wire gauges (m.w.g.) in diameters as small as 0.006 inch up to 0.192 inch (0.15 to 4.8 mm). A small number of companies produce the tough, high tensile polished wire intended for limited music instrument markets, which is manufactured from steel of a specific composition by cold drawing. Musical instrument strings, modern electric guitars in particular, are among the most demanding of all its applications. Placed under high tension, they are subject to repeated blows, repeated bending, are stretched and slackened during tuning and, in piano service, are still expected to last for decades. The wire must also be extremely consistent in size: variations greater than 0.0003 inch (8 μm) will produce audible falseness in modern instruments.

Music wire is sold by weight and packaged in tight coils. It springs back to a gentle curve but can be straightened using a series of opposed rollers. It requires careful handling for safety and appearance, since it can be marred by perspiration, and it requires special cutters, as the hardened steel will otherwise quickly dull the cutter.

Other applications

Piano wire is also used in the fabrication of springs, fishing lures, special effects in the movie industry and for cutting soap. It is also commonly used in hobby applications such as model railroading and both control line and radio-controlled aircraft.

History

The oldest record of wire being made for musical instruments is from Augsburg in 1351;[1] this probably antedates the harpsichord and may have been wire for a psaltery. Earlier wire, used in harpsichords, was of brass or ductile iron.

Starting around 1800, the piano began to be built ever more ambitiously, with sturdier (eventually, iron) framing and greater string tension. This led to innovations in making tougher piano wire. In 1834, the Webster & Horsfal firm of Birmingham brought out a form of piano wire made from cast steel; according to Dolge it was "so superior to the iron wire that the English firm soon had a monopology."[2] But a better steel wire was soon created in 1840 by the Viennese firm of Martin Miller,[3] and a period of innovation and intense competition ensued, with rival brands of piano wire being tested against one another at international competitions, leading ultimately to the modern form of piano wire.[4]

The technological developments also benefited from demands of consistency from other special wire products like telegraph and barbed wire. Innovative piano makers kept pace with these advances by augmenting metal framing in their instruments and increasing tension of their strings.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Dolge (1911, 124)
  2. ^ Dolge (1911, 124)
  3. ^ Dolge (1911, 124)
  4. ^ Dolge (1911, 125-126)

References

  • Dolge, Alfred (1911) Pianos and Their Makers: A Comprehensive History of the Development of the Piano from the Monochord to the Concert Grand Player Piano. Covina Publishing Company.

External links

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