Thursday, 4 July 2013

Part 4 - Work starts on Semigrand No1

Tools at the ready!
Robin and I started to think of what we needed to do to get the Semigrand actually in production, first get the material.

Real grand pianos are made of wood and the bendy bit at the back of the piano is multi layered (good quality) plywood, which to get the bendy shape is steamed. This makes the wood flexible and so then is able to be bent around a grand-piano shaped former.

This is where we started and the first part of the unit, the back-box was constructed.
Semigrand No1
in its original matt black finish
Semigrand No2 at our first wedding fair
A major consideration was the weight of each piece, so we ended up with the piano being split into 8 parts, no one part to be too heavy. The keyboard I use mainly for my gigs is an old Technics P30 (not made any more, sadly) and the reason I originally chose it was that is was the lightest and most compact 88 note keyboard that had a weighted piano action feel.

It weighs 11.5 kg, which is quite manageable, so we kept our largest bit which is the backbox, under that weight. In fact the backbox only weighs weighs 10Kg. All 8 bits of the unit only weigh 45 kg when put together. This is essential as I wanted to be able to carry the piano shell to site, and assembled by one person, that person would probably be like me, the pianist! The next thing was to paint it, how do we do that? See the next instalment part 5.


Thursday, 27 June 2013

The Willson and Kempe Semigrand Story - Part 3

We start construction


Willson & Kempe Semigrand Grand Piano Shell

Now the real fun begins, a workshop is found which is in fact an unheated double garage loaned to us by a friendly neighbour, Robin dons his thermal underwear and sets to work!

The Semigrand in the Library at Wakehurst Place
The first problem is how to make the piano so that it comes apart in small enough pieces to load into a car and, along with a digital keyboard, can be taken to site, erected and played.

The decision is made to make a 'front box' and a 'back box'. The front box will house the digital keyboard, and the back box is the curvy bit that makes the unit look like a grand piano. We then put on three legs and a piano lid which can be raised to enhance the grand piano effect, and away we go!

The Semigrand can be played anywhere
even outdoors!

Another important issue is the weight of the unit. There are websites that show how people can take all the action and the metal string frame out of an old grand piano, and you then have a ready made piano shell to house a keyboard. This will present two problems to the gigging pianist, one is that even with the action and the metal frame that holds the strings on a real piano are taken out, the resulting shell is still really very heavy and will need at least two people to shift it. Also, the unit does not readily convert to a collapsible unit to carry to a gig in an ordinary car. How did we solve that? The story continues in part 4.
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Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Semigrand blog No 2 - The start of the action!

The Semigrand at Wakehurst Place

So the scene was set. Robin was tasked to see if could put together a piano shell that looked exactly like a grand piano but was able to be dismantled so that it could be fitted into an estate car, or even a large hatchback.

Now was the time to do some  research. Extensive viewing of the net revealed that there were some awful attempts to make a grand piano shell on the cheap. Some obvious users were the Elton John tribute artists who really needed a grand piano for their acts, but had made some ghastly attempts to make a grand piano shell. Some looked like they had been made of cardboard and others had a squared off shape at the back of the shell which gave the appearance of an eighteenth century harpsichord!

So one of the first problems was to make a convincing curve at the end of the grand piano shape. This curve actually defines, in my view, the essence of the grand piano. When making a real grand piano, the frame is actually made out of  many layered quality plywood, which is steamed and bent around a grand piano shaped former.
Peter at the Semigrand
Wedding Fair at Burgess Hill
Peter as a pianist and one that is interested in how pianos are put together, had collected a lot of pictures of pianos over the years and so Robin and I studied them in some detail. Peter even sent him down to the local piano supplier to look at how real grand pianos were made! Plans were now drawn up by Robin, and we'll see the start of the construction of the first Willson & Kempe Semigrand grand piano shell in the next blog!
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Tuesday, 25 June 2013

How we got to build the first Semigrand Collapsible Grand Piano

 The Semigrand Collapsible grand Piano Story!
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The First Semigrand Piano Shell
            Lets go back to  September 2012 Peter Willson was frustrated, a not unusual situation!

He wanted to perform gigs with Linda Francis - a fantastic singer who sounds like Karen Carpenter used to - because their dream was to do Cabaret with a grand piano, pianist and singer. The only problem was that although he had a grand piano at home, when they both went out gigging, he took his digital keyboard which sounded like a piano, but of course just looked like a keyboard because it sat on a device that looked just like an ironing board stand!
Peter had seen some years ago when on a business trip in Spain, a grand piano shell in a hotel, it looked just like a piano, but in fact had a space for a digital keyboard. Just the thing, but where could he get one?

Semigrand pianos are now available in white!
Time to search the net! One thing that was important to Peter was that it should be collapsible or foldable, in other words, he needed to take it to a gig in his car, erect it and put the keyboard in place.

The Semigrand Model No 2
Did such a thing exist? Yes it did, in Australia, the US and in Holland. But there was none readily available in the UK.  The Aussie one was good, but expensive and it needed shipping from the other side of the world, the US one again needed shipping and the one from Holland didn't have a lid that lifted up, Peter was stumped - until her talked to his friend Robin who said that he could build one for him! So started the story of the Willson & Kempe Semigrand. Blog No 2 continues the story...............

Meanwhile see to see how things have progressed!