Having just received a new piano I thought it would make an interesting blog post to explore some of the history behind its manufacturer (being the only other piano brand to be used in Steinway Hall other than their own). The piano in question is a 'Knight K6' upright. The story of Knight pianos is really the story of Alfred Knight M.B.E. He was one of the most colourful personalities in the music trade and was known all over the world as "Alfie". He first learned about piano making when he was only eight years old. He would go to school during the day and spend his evening hours in the factory and workshops of H. Hicks and Son in London's New Kent Road. When he left school he joined the firm full time and spent many years gaining valuable experience in the principles of piano construction.
The first Knight factory was opened in the 1930's in London but quickly relocated to a far larger premises (50,000 sq. ft.) factory in Loughton, Essex. At this factory a hundred men were employed to work on the construction of the Knight piano range, all of which were uprights. At this factory Knight would use the most up to date machinery in the pianos construction. One of their most prised possessions was a hydraulic press that was used to fix the felts to the hammers, it was a piece of machinery admired by many piano manufacturers throughout the world, including the Russians, Germans and Czechoslovakians.
Alfred Knight along with a consortium of other manufacturers did much to change the action of modern piano keys, something that had gone unchanged for 70 years previous. However, one of the greatest problems facing piano manufacturers was the affect different climates would have on the piano, something exaggerated greatly in the USA, where the climate ranges from the tropical to the Arctic. Knight pianos would use special techniques to overcome these climate issues, one of which would include a secret mixture used to impregnate the Rumanian spruce used for the soundboard (the same wood as that used in a Stradivarius violin). In addition to this, infra red heat treatment was also used on the tuning block and other essential parts of the piano to protect it from such climate issues.
More than two thousand Knight pianos were made in the United Kingdom every year and were shipped to over seventy countries. Business got so good for Mr Knight that he once claimed to be turning away over 100 orders a week due to being unable to meet demand. Notable owners of a Knight piano include the great Russian cellist Rostropovich, Yehudi Menuhin, and Julie Andrews, a Knight piano was also used in the recording of the Beatles 'A Hard Day's Night'.
To Alfred Knight music was something "you can do and appreciate for the whole of a lifetime. When parents give their children a musical education they are giving them the greatest gift possible. The playing of music is about the only thing left that can be done from age 9 to 90".
Clearly a man that valued music education and rightly so.
Thanks for reading.