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CPD: Cavendish Pianos

Last week we had the privilege of being invited to Cavendish Pianos in Yorkshire. Even though the road works had us going round in circles for a while, we are so glad we made the effort to make a visit and learn all about how Cavendish Pianos are made, from the owner Adam Cox. Continue reading to find out more!

Newly strung Cavendish Piano lying on its back in CPD:Cavendish Pianos
Newly strung Cavendish Piano lying on it's back

Cavendish Pianos is part of Yorkshire Pianos and is situated in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales; although it seems unlikely this is the backdrop to the last British made pianos in the country. At one point there were over 150 piano builders in London alone and yet now only Cavendish survives. Using a mix of old and new techniques Adam and his team craft around 20 Cavendish Pianos a year which are distinguished partly by their green frames.

We make our way in to the workshop where employees are working hard at current orders. In the corner someone is weighing off the keys for the correct touch weight, whilst in the middle of the workshop a piano has its frame lifted in and out so that it can be exactly matched to the case. Adam talks about how important it is to get this step correct in order to achieve the correct down bearing. The frame can go in and out numerous times until it is just right.

Frame being winched in and out for correct alignment in CPD: Cavendish Pianos
Frame being winched in and out for correct alignment

Adam also talks about the supplementary bass bridge, sometimes called a hockey stick, which at Cavendish they feel helps to mitigate the change in tone and colour between the steel treble strings and the bass copper wound strings. The supplementary bridge allows a more resonant part of the soundboard to be used which adds greater depth to the notes in this section.

Along with the bridges it is imperative that the soundboard is made of quality spruce. Although it is becoming harder and harder to source quality wood for soundboards, Adam endeavours to find it, sometimes waiting months for the right boards to be in stock. This soundboard needs to be held under tension for the next 100 years or so and Adam discusses how the boards are carefully selected and joined together by the lumber men, before being transported as one board to Cavendish.

These are then placed in a Go Bar Deck where the bridges are glued on and the crown (rounded "belly") of the soundboard is created. Unlike in modern piano building where bridges and crowns are created using mechanical presses, Adam feels that greater precision and tension possibilities can be created using the traditional Go Bar method. It also removes the necessity for very big and expensive machinery!

Example of a Go Bar Deck, Souce: in blog CPD: Cavendish Pianos
Example of a Go Bar Deck, Souce:

Adam makes particular links to Alistair Lawrence who is attributed to innovations in piano making in Otley up until 1989. Cavendish has done a lot of research in to British piano building and still uses methods such as the Go Bar Deck in their piano building today. Cavendish endeavours to use local suppliers where possible for example Leeds Wool. A full list of these suppliers can be seen on their website.

In total it takes over 20 000 parts and 100 different craftsmen to produce the final product that we see today. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Cavendish and would recommend taking a trip if you ever get the opportunity!

We hope you have enjoyed this short blog on CPD: Cavendish Pianos and that it has given you a small insight in to the making of pianos in Britain.


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