Samick began by using the Wm. Knabe name on some of the pianos formerly sold as the World Piano premium line of Samick instruments. The 5' 8" and 6' 4" grand models have been redesigned, however, and the new models are based on the original 19th- and early 20th-century Knabe scale designs and cabinet styles in use when the company was based in Baltimore. Features include sand-cast plates, lacquer semigloss wood finishes, Renner actions and hammers, and rims of maple and oak. The company has added 7' 6" and 9' 2" models for the American market. The verticals include unique cabinet designs with bird's-eye maple and mahogany inlays, rosewood key inserts, and tone escapement.
For several years, SMC completed assembly of Wm. Knabe grands in its Tennessee facility, with strung backs made in Indonesia or Korea. Now, most Wm. Knabe pianos are made in their entirety in Indonesia, but are still uncrated in the U.S., where they are inspected, tuned, regulated, and voiced before being shipped to dealers.
For more information, see Samick.
Warranty: 10 years, parts and labor, to original purchaser; lifetime on "surface tension soundboard" where applicable.
KOHLER & CAMPBELL — See Samick.
MASON & HAMLIN
Mason & Hamlin Piano Company
4111 North Freeway Blvd.
Sacramento, California 95834
Pianos made by: Mason & Hamlin Piano Co., Haverhill, Massachusetts and Sacramento, California
Mason & Hamlin was founded in 1854 by Henry Mason and Emmons Hamlin. Mason was a musician and businessman and Hamlin was an inventor working with reed organs. Within a few years, Mason & Hamlin was one of the largest makers of reed organs in the U.S. The company began making pianos in 1881 in Boston, and soon became, along with Chickering, among the most prestigious of the Boston piano makers. By 1910, Mason & Hamlin was considered Steinway's chief competitor. Over the next 85 years, Mason & Hamlin changed hands many times. (You can read the somewhat lengthy and interesting history in The Piano Book.) In 1996 the Burgett brothers, owners of PianoDisc, purchased Mason & Hamlin out of bankruptcy and set about reestablishing manufacturing at the factory in Haverhill, Massachusetts. At present, the company manufactures about 350 pianos per year at this factory.
Since acquiring the company, the Burgetts have brought back most of the piano models from the company's Boston era (1881–1932) that originally made the company famous. Some have been refinements of original designs, others have been completely new. First came the 5' 8" model A and 7' model BB, both of which had been manufactured by the previous owner and so needed less work to resurrect. Then, in fairly rapid succession, came the 6' 4" model AA, the 9' 4" model CC concert grand, and the 5' 4" model B. The development of the model AA was an especially interesting project: in the process, the engineering staff standardized certain features, refined manufacturing processes, and modernized jigs and machinery, improvements that afterward were applied to the company's other models. The 50" model 50 vertical piano has also been reintroduced and redesigned, with longer keys for a more grand-like touch, and improved pedal leverage. Internal parts for the verticals are made in Haverhill, then installed in an imported cabinet in the company's Sacramento factory, where it also installs PianoDisc systems.
All Mason & Hamlin grands have certain features in common, including a wide-tail design; a full-perimeter plate; an extremely thick and heavy maple rim; a solid spruce soundboard; a five-ply, quartersawn maple pinblock; and the patented Tension Resonator crown retention system. The Tension Resonator (illustrated in The Piano Book), invented by Richard Gertz in 1900, consists of a series of turnbuckles that connect various parts of the inner rim. In theory, this web of turnbuckles, nicknamed "the spider," locks the rim in place so that it cannot expand with stress and age, thereby preserving the soundboard crown (curvature). (The soundboard is glued to the inner rim and would collapse if the rim expanded.) While there is no modern-day experimental evidence to confirm or deny this theory, many technicians nevertheless believe in its validity because, unlike most older pianos, the soundboards of old Mason & Hamlins almost always have plenty of crown.