Organological Research
Historical Music Wire
Stephen Birkett

Piano Design
Music Wire
Physical Systems
Animal Growth Modelling
Environmental Systems

Linear Algebra
Numerical Methods
Computational Mathematics
Musical Instruments

Marcia Hadjimarkos

Reproduction of physically accurate historical music wire - soft iron, brass, and steel - with the correct mechanical properties is a complicated and difficult undertaking. The best hope for success lies in the application of modern metallurgical analysis and production techniques to duplicate the raw material, which is no longer readily available, and cannot be easily made, and the use of this in historical wire drawing methods. Current research is focusing on applying these principles to soft iron wire.

The relationships between wire material and drawing parameters are being investigated, as well as how these influence the mechanical properties of the final product. The focus of this is on the how the material influences tone quality. Tensile strength and yield point critically effect this in applications. The final result of the project will be an effective and economically viable technique for producing high quality reproduction historical iron wire appropriate for any stringed keyboard instrument before about 1830, by which time steel wire began to be more commonly used on pianos.
Historical bench drawing of fine wire (0.2 to 1 mm diameter)

An article describing historical wire technology and details about the current iron wire project is available: SH Birkett & P Poletti (2004). Reproduction of authentic historical soft iron wire for musical instruments. Actes Rencontres Harmoniques Lausanne, April 2002 (in press).

Smelting operations
Casting pigs
Straining to rods
Rod production in a slitting mill
Bundling rods for fine wire drawers
Bench drawing of fine wire

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©2004 Stephen Birkett