Independent Instrument Makers
The making of new instruments is an adventure many would try to avoid. It requires either access to a large quantity of machinery and even larger experience in manufacturing and design; or an infinite portion of patience, research, determination and desire for experimentation.
Unfortunately the current state of Toy Piano Factories is not very reliable. The few places that still make instruments in larger quantities are always running out of inventory and can spend months, if not years, without having any instruments to sell.
The other issue with higher volume instrument making is that it doesn't allow for modifications of any kind, and the instruments aren't always made with user's needs in mind. Instruments that were before only made for children to play are now used in Concert Halls, so this new demand needs to be met with innovation and collaboration.
But then we meet the few and the brave; the instrument collectors; the restoration fellows; and those who invest their own money and countless hours to build something from scratch.
“I have wanted to build a large scale toy piano since I saw a Dulcitone at the Musée d'automates et de boîtes à musique in Switzerland. I have been working on it in a shed I have at the back of my house...".
Tim Lewin and his glass instrument
One great example of a brilliant mind working on homemade instruments is Tim Lewin, a 27 years old man with Autism from North Wales. He is very technically minded and loves exploring the fundamentals of how objects produce sounds. He is a busker and as a hobby he builds instruments at a shed he has at home.
Daniel Inamorato: When did you decide to build a toy piano?
Tim Lewin: "I have always wanted to build a large scale toy piano since I saw a Dulcitone at the Musée d'automates et de boîtes à musique in Switzerland. I am working on it at a shed I have at my mother's house,
and it has costed me a lot of money so far to get this project together.
The inspiration for my toy piano also came from my JB Cramer Portable Piano, that I use to busk on the park". (video-info bellow)
DI: What is different and unique about your toy piano?
TL: "Many toy pianos do not have good sound quality, so there is room for us to innovate and bring toy pianos to a more professional level. I am trying to build an instrument with a new unique sound, with more projection and reverberation, with sustain pedal, 58 keys - each with their own damper; so in many ways very similar to traditional pianos".
DI: What will you do with this instrument after it is ready?
TL: "My plan with this instrument is to go busking on the streets and bring happiness and joy to the town" --Conway in North Wales-- "and perform at Art galleries in the region".
DI: How many hours of work have you put into this instrument so far?
TL: "More than 200 hours for sure".
Bellow you can watch Tim busking at his local park using his rare JB Cramer Portable Piano, bought in North Ireland. The PDF is for the information he wrote on the history of this type of instrument.