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20 january 1824



"London, January 20, 1824.

Gentlemen ;

I beg, through the medium of your Journal, to introduce to the notice of the practical mechanic, an article, the manufacture of which is at present, in consequence of the want of a proper material, solely conducted in Berlin, and from whence England and most other parts of Europe are supplied, Iallude to iron (commonly called steel) wire, for musical instruments.

It may be considered a trivial affair; but when I state, that upon an average 3 cwt. is consumed by piano-forte makers per week, in London, this will plead an apology for my wish to see it made by Englishmen: at present, as before stated, we are supplied from Berlin, on the most disadvantageous terms, three months notice to the maker being required before advice of the goods can be obtained; and then the crafty German takes care so to forward it, that it is paid for before delivery.

We have in England hitherto failed in making it, entirely through the inferiority of our iron; for our wire-drawing is by far superior to theirs, as I have found to my cost, having frequently been obliged to pay in London one shilling per lb. for re-drawing the Berlin wire, in consequence of its inaccuracy.

The cost to the piano-forte maker in London, by the hundred weight, is about is. per lb. three-fourths of which are expended in labour, which might, by attention, go into the pocket of the English artisan; and under this impression I consider it a duty incumbent on every one, having the welfare of his countrymen at heart, to endeavour to place it there, in preference to that of the over-reaching foreigner.

The peculiarity of the Berlin wire consists in its extreme tenacity, arising from the exceedingly continuous nature of the fibres of the metal, which is occasioned by the superior mode of preparing it before it comes into the hands of the drawer; this circumstance has in England been quite unattended to.

I find I have proceeded to a length I had not contemplated; but should it be the occasion of an exertion of the talent required for the perfecting English 11 jn wire for musical purposes, these observations will have had the end proposed by

Your well wisher,
A Piano-forte Maker."

Mechanics' Magazine and Journal of Science, Arts, and Manufactures, Volume 1, 31 January, 1824, p. 359

2 february 1824

"Musical Wire No. 8, Union-place, New Kent Road, Feb. 2, 1824.

Gentlemen; I observe in last Saturday's Mechanic's Magazine *' A Piano-forte Maker," with true English feeling, expresses a wish to have musical wire made in England equal to the German wire.

If he will take the trouble to call on Mr. Lewis, No. 4, Nassau-street, Soho, or to write to my friend, Francis Deakin, Suffolk-street, Birmingham (the manufacturer), he will find he may be supplied with any quantity of steel wire, much superior to that imported from Germany.

Mr. Broadwood, I understand, speaks of the wire made by Mr. Deakin in unqualified terms.

I am, Gentlemen, Your most obedient Servant,


Mechanics' Magazine and Journal of Science, Arts, and Manufactures, Volume 1, 7 february, 1824, p. 380


17 february 1824


No. 3, Nassau street, Soho,
Feb. 17, 1824.

"Gentlemen ; In No. 25 of your very useful Magazine I observe a communication from a person signing himself "Truth," purporting to be an answer and refutation of the matter advanced in a letter addressed to you by Mr. Gunby, on the subject of English manufactured wire for musical purposes.

I I believe that Mr. Gtmby's communication was entirely unknown to, and without the authority of Mr. Deakin or Mr. Lewis; for the publication of a statement so deficient and incorrect would not have been per* mitted by either of those gentlemen..

The person signing himself "Truth," says,

"that he is no stranger to Mr. Deakin's wire; that it has been tried, and found much inferior to good Berlin wire;" he admits, or "has not much doubt that it will bear as great a strain in a straight line,"

but denies the possibility of stringing instruments in the ordinary way with it,

"as it snaps at once."

 Now, I will venture to affirm, that not one word of this is true; the wire made by Mr. Deakin for musical purposes is a tempered steel wire, which, at a given temper, is sufficiently flexible to coil round a pin in the ordinary way, in which state its cohesion is greater by 20 to 30 per cent than any Berlin "wire of equal size which I have ever used, or seen used.

I have now standing upon an instrument several strings of Mr. Deakin's wire, put on in the ordinary way (to replace others of the Berlin wire, which broke in tuning), end which will bear the tension of a whole tone above concert pitch.

The scale of this instrument is an equal ratio, and the length of C on the first ledger-line below is 24 inches, which is one inch longer than is usually given. With regard to the complicated fastening which your correspondent has mentioned, it is in principle and application very simple, and affords a facility ,and precision in tuning, of which the common wrest-pin is incapable.

With this fastening Mr. Deakin's wire will, when at that temper which affords the greatest possible power of cohesion, stand at concert pitch, when middle C is 16 inches long (being* 4 inches longer than the best Berlin wire will stand at); at this tension I have some now standing upon a new instrument, and there is still enough of cohesive reserve to raise the pitch another tone.

Your correspondent has made an allusion to what he terms a discovery of Lord Stanhope's, similar to that of Mr. Deakin's. But here again his assertion is incorrect; the wire used under the direction of Lord Stanhope was a common steel wire, not tempered, and very thick; I believe the smallest size was nearly one-sixteenth of an inch in diameter, and graduated .to nearly three-sixteenths in the bass; these wires were soldered to the fastenings.

I shall feel much obliged to your correspondent if he will favour me with a piece of the wire, which he says he "prepared in a particular manner," in return for which I shall be very happy to convince him of his erroneous opinion by ocular proof of what I have here stated, but cannot hold any further communication with anonymous signatures. I remain, Gentlemen,

Your obedient servant,
E. Davie S,
Piano-Forte Maker."

Mechanics' Magazine and Journal of Science, Arts, and Manufactures, Volume 1, 6 march, 1824, p. 442


20 april 1836


"Sir, Many, when they first commence learning to tune, are contented to begin simply with tuning, properly so called, instead .of what is technically called roughing-up.

This consists in taking the instrument rough from the stringer, and drawing it up until such lime as it stands at concert pilch. It may be urged that a person who possesses a delicate ear will learn sooner on the first plan, inconsequence of the ear not being vitiated by the discordant sounds that are the necessary attendants upon roughing up; but such a person would be quite at a loss when he bad to tune an instrument half a note, or even two half-notes (which is not uncommon) below concert pitch.

From his comparatively bungling manner of proceeding, he would be three times as long over his work as one that has learned by roughing-up. In short, it is like learning to write elegantly before pothooks and hangers are acquired.

All this arises principally from not knowing the part in which the nrain of the .strings causes the pitch to I'.iil, and to make the necessary allowance for it bydrawing up lhat part above pitch. If the bearings are comprised within the septave F - E, the pitch is found to full from the included B, all the way up the treble.

This is remedied by drawing that part up considerably above the pitch you are working upon, and, by the time you have finished the treble, it will have settled pretty well down to the perfect octave. Again, the first-named would probably make his pitch exact at starling, instead of allowing for the falling' of it afterwards. Of course, I only speak of an instrument that is very fiat.

In horizontal grand and square pianofortes, this strain is very considerable; in cabinets not so great.

The reason of this is, that in the latter the strain is in a perfectly vertical direction, and, consequently, they stand longer in tune; but in the two former it is all diagonal and, indeed, it has been jocularly said, that the square piano-forte is so called, because there is nothing square about it !

The task of roughing-up is materially facilitated by stretching the strings with a well-known instrument called a rubber, made of wood, and, in most instances, covered with leather; this is pressed downwards with considerable force upon the whole length of string.

It also has the advantage, where a string is false, i. e. not perfectly round, of causing it to become more pure in its tone.

Until of late years, piano-forte makers were sadly bothered for wire. The best that could be procured then was the Berlin, or German wire, as it was generally called.

But bad was that best; it was only iron wire, and neither, round, square, oval, nor any other shape. It was very scarce, and difficult to froqure in time of war; when Napoleon shut the foreign ports against us, tdtivit, 4t wes a.favour to get it at all at 10s.. 6d. or 12s. per lb., and there has been the unexampled price paid for it of 25s. per lb. at a public sale.

It was also very wasteful; ring after ring having to be thrown aside in consequence of brittleness. The proud boast was reserved for an Englishman (Wr. Webster, of Penns, near Birmingham) of overcoming these difficulties, and furnishing steel wire as near to perfection (He professes to send it out quite perfect, and will exchange any quantity from a quarter or" an ounce to a quarter oi a ton.) as any thing in this sublunary world.

There had been countless trials and experiments made to give to steel such a temper as would fit it for music-wire; but the patience of the English piano-forte makers had been nearly exhausted by their repeated disappointments, and it was some time before it came into general use.

Now, not only is nothing else used in England, but at Paris, Vienna, Hamburgh, and even Berlin itself, the German wire has been completely beaten out of the market.

This created a new era in piano-forte making; for I think I may safely assert, that piano-fortes have been considerably more improved within the last ten or twelve years than during the previous thirty or forty.

Independent of this, it has grown up more into a distinct trade per se; formerly their shops were supplied with artisans from the joiners and cabinet-makers now they are supplied with men regularly brought up to the business from their childhood.

Corto.  April 20, 1836." The Mechanics' Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal, and Gazette, Volume 25, 1836, p. 67-68

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