Bass String Factory

Delacour’s bass string making factory was founded in 1984 and immediately set new standards for bass strings in England.  Frustrated with the poor quality and unscientific design of bass strings available from existing makers, John Delacour began first to design his own bass scales and provide the string-makers with detailed requirements.  In 1984 the first Macintosh computer was launched and using this he made all the drawings for a new string-making machine, produced programmes for the calculation of scales and much more besides.  That original machine is still going strong and to it has been added a second machine of a different design.

Steinway whipping

Every set of strings is fully calculated to obtain the best possible bass tone from a given instrument and though we keep records of hundreds of scales designed by use, covering a great range of makers from the most well-known to the rarest, we strive constantly to make further improvements and a scale for each new order received is calculated on the computer.

Bass string making cannot be done purely by numbers and long experience is needed to know what sort of scale will be suitable for a certain piano; for example the style of scale used for a 5’ Blüthner grand will be quite unsuitable for a 5’ Steck grand, and vice versa. Certain scales were designed over 100 years ago and, though many of these are good, others were designed according to false principles, with too high tension or perhaps to produce a tone that is less acceptable today than it may have been then, and which can be improved upon.  All these variables are taken into account when we design and make a new set of strings for a piano and we aim to produce strings that not only sound as well as possible but are also good-looking.

Since we are not merely string-makers but have long experience of every aspect of the piano and have done much research and experimentation into the acoustics and design of the piano over the past 30 years, the bass strings we make for our customers are of a quality equal to the very best.

The Wire

For the core of almost all strings we use Röslau polished steel wire, but for certain instruments made before the general adoption of patented steel wire (say before 1860) and designed for lower tensions we can use one of the steel wire grades (0, 1 or 2) supplied by Stephen Paulello. This wire is also made in Germany. Although the quality of Röslau wire during the 30 years we have used it has had its ups and downs, for several years now we have had no cause for complaint and the wire is consistently of excellent quality in all gauges

The copper covering wire is “Degen”. This is a soft copper wire, as used by most makers, as opposed to the ‘half-hard’ wire traditionally used by some English string makers. For historic instruments it is sometimes possible to use other covering material but unfortunately this is extremely expensive and often the original quality of covering wire is no longer obtainable.

The Tenacity of the Steel Wire

An important consideration in the making of replacement strings is the relative tenacity, or tensile strength, of today’s music wire compared with the tenacity of the wire used for many of the better makes of piano towards the end of the 19th century and well into the 20th. In those days the excellent wire of Moritz Poehlmann was produced, using cast steel from the execrable firm of Krupp, in ever-increasing tensile strengths to the point where it far exceeded the strength of today’s wire. Certain piano makers, particularly in Germany, followed this increase in tenacity by designing scales that took the wire in some parts of the scale as far as they dared to, supposedly in the belief that the higher the tension the better the sound. The result is that when these strings eventually do break owing to the high tension, the replacements need to be made lighter, or using a thicker core wire, if they are not to break immediately on fitting. By no means all German and American makers followed this trend, and none of the English makers, who had long experience in scale design and were less amenable to superstition. The Schiedmayers were the worst offenders in this regard but Blüthner and Bösendorfer, among the better known makes, also need to be partially rescaled. Certain modern Korean and Chinese makers design scales that produce excessive tension and the result is that string breakage is common. The strings on pianos with scales that were properly designed up to 140 years ago will rarely break unless the tuner makes a serious mistake.