Had a lovely day today. We had a visit from Alexandra, a journalist visiting Rwanda from the States. She's looking at all sorts of businesses in Rwanda and wanted to check out our progress. We took her to Désiré's workshop first, then on to Chillington (video above) who forge our string frames.
Here's Désiré showing how he makes our piano keys. It takes around three weeks for him to make the full set of 88.
Here's the new frame which was forged by Chillington. We had a bit of a giggle recently. We posted the original picture of Sam holding up the frame to a piano forum, where a couple of people started posting that they didn't believe it was made in Rwanda and it must have been a frame we'd taken out of another piano. Talk about conspiracy theory gone wild. I can assure everyone, it's 100% real, and 100% Rwandan.
Can you guess who this is, peeking round the door to Dés's office? It's our original Lirika. One day. One day you will play again...
We had a wonderful tour of Chillington with Mohammad, who has been part of this since the start. It would be impossible for us to build pianos in Rwanda if it wasn't for them. They cast the string frames, which would be too heavy and expensive to import.
First, they make a pattern from the original Lirika frame. This is made from wood. They keep every pattern for every client in their warehouse, ready to make more parts to order.
We found out that casting metal requires a huge amount of sand. So much sand that they wash it, dry it and reuse it after each casting. It's a safety thing, because sand can withstand a huge amount of heat.
The patterns are used to make moulds - ready to have liquid iron poured into them.
Some of their products (not our piano frames) require heat treatment, then dunking in cold water to harden them. This is mostly used on large lumps of metal for stone-crushing machines. Chillington originally started out making industrial-sized coffee grinders.
It really was a wonderful day, touring the birthplace of our pianos. Helps us to feel more patient about the problems we're having finding strings. Chillington have offered to give us a hand looking.
Didn't quite manage to outrun the rain on the way home. Everyone travels by public motorbike here, so we had to seek shelter at a local petrol station and wait it out. Water to sooth the fire of the foundry.