Casters, An Aside


Musical instrument design marries art and science. Musical instrument construction, however, requires more prosaic layout, joinery, and material supply. Finding appropriate wood and parts is one of the thorniest problems facing the modern builder. Each of myriad components, some of entirely non-musical consequence, can take substantial effort to locate or fabricate. Consider, for example, casters on nineteenth-century fortepianos. These instruments are heavy and clearly intended to be rolled rather than carried. Old casters are large enough to wheel across rough floors, they have a characteristic large offset so they pivot freely and permit the fortepiano to be steered, and they usually fit against a metal cup that reinforces the end of a wooden leg against splitting. Hardware suppliers sell casters today, but of the wrong size or the wrong shape; although they function well, their use is a visual compromise. Working with a New England foundry that specializes in an ancient, precision metal casting technique called the lost wax method, we make casters like those on period 6 1/2-octave fortepianos.

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