Sunday, 23 September 2018

Safety First

Cat toys, talcum powder and rum.
Recipe for success.

Massive shout out to our friend Ineke, who brought us a gift package from Belgium. We used to be able to buy safety goggles from Nakumatt, but they're having supply issues at the moment and no longer stock them. Tried a few other places, but no joy. 

Thanks to Ineke, we're all stocked up on safety goggles, dust masks and talcum powder.

We get through so much talcum powder whilst stringing.

You have to make sure your hands are really well washed and completely dry whilst stringing. Sweat and water causes the wire to rust really quickly. We wear a glove on the left hand to help protect our fingers when coiling the wire around the pins, but it helps to have one bare hand free to do other things with more precision. Hence all the talc.

Honestly, so much talc.

Floor looks like a snowstorm. 

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Guest Stringers Part III

We welcomed our third and final set of guest stringers yesterday for F3, F3# and G3.

First up was Edward, Marion's neighbour, who has patiently put up with the twanging sound of strings these past couple of weeks.

You might recognise our second guest from the Indiegogo campaign. This is Paco, one of Rwanda's most accomplished pianists and piano tutors.

And Paco put on a second string for our friend Fabio Tedde, who really wanted to be a part of the project but isn't in Rwanda at the moment. Fabio was here last Christmas to play for Autisme Rwanda.

Now that all of our guest stringers have had a chance to take part, we're going to finish up the main stringing, hopefully by the end of next week.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Rwanda Motorcycle Company

Dés and Marion spent the morning at Rwanda Motorcycle Company. They were invited by Chris, the Director of Manufacturing, to come and see the bikes they manufacture. All of the bikes are imported in plywood crates and he asked whether it would be useful for our pianos. It's not quite right for pianos, but still useful for Désiré's other projects.

The warehouse is vast. It's based out in the Free Trade Zone, which is a massive industrial area. It's built in the midst of beautiful, green wetlands, but the rental prices are pretty steep. It was the first time we'd been out there and it was interesting to have a nose around

They mainly build three types of bike. This one is a runaround:

This one is a swanky touring bike:

And this one as a workhorse for carrying loads through the villages:

It was really good to talk to Chris about manufacturing in Rwanda. Both pianos and motorcycles face similar challenges with regard to import costs and sourcing materials. We've also joined Kigali Entrepreneurs Forum, which is where we met Chris in the first place. 

After the visit, Marion popped to Frulep to do some shopping and found this stunning Harley Davidson sitting in the car park. Quite a sight in Kigali, and attracting a lot of attention from moto drivers.


Sunday, 16 September 2018

DuncanAfrica Society

Slight divergence from pianos for a post, though the stringing is going well.

We recently received a message via WhatsApp asking whether we could mend a guitar, as someone's instrument had been damaged in transit.

We couldn't, but we endeavoured to find someone who could, which is when we made contact with the DuncanAfrica Society. They are an organisation based in Mpigi, not far from Entebbe, which produces African-made guitars. Their story is really inspiring.

Back in July, Marion had a go at restringing her first guitar. More used to working with thick piano wire, it was tricky to stop the beckets popping out, but she eventually managed to get her step-father's F. Hashimoto twelve-string up to pitch with the help of the GuitarTuna app.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Friday, 7 September 2018

Guest Stringers Part II

We welcomed our second set of guest stringers yesterday and completed two sections of the treble, each section being made up of eighteen tuning pins, six notes of the same guage wire. We've completed sizes 6.5-16, starting on 15 today.

This is our friend Chris from Kenya. She's an engineer and has been a great sounding board for discussions on alternative materials and action parts. 

Lauren is an incredibly talented violinist and a staunch member of WAG, the animal rescue shelter here. We'll make another post about that at some point as all of the Kigali Keys cats are rescue cats and WAG do excellent work. We'll put Lauren's contact at the bottom of this page if you would like violin lessons in Kigali. 

Our last guest of the day was the lovely Alex Karabona, who has been involved with this project from the start and attempted to cast our first string frame before we enlisted the help of Chillington. He also makes our custom-made tuning hammer bits which help us to tune pianos without shaving the pins.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Guest Stringers Part I

We thought stringing the piano would be a great opportunity to invite friends and local musicians to get involved with the project. Over the past two days we've welcomed our first guest stringers...

Bonani from Kigali Music School was our first stringer - B5. When we first met Bonani, he was the manager of Kigali Music School. Unfortunately, they've run out of funding and had to close, but Bonani is opening his own music school in Nyamirambo. We'll post more about that soon, but if anyone would like to offer support or instruments we can put you in contact. He also offers piano lessons - check the bottom of our Tuning and Repair section.

Ilse was next up - C6. She was extremely kind in letting children from Autisme Rwanda use her piano last Christmas for a music therapy session with Fabio Tedde.

Our third guest was André, lead guitarist of one of Kigali's best live bands, Viva Beat. They play Pacha Club in Kimironko every Saturday and will have you up dancing all night. We're really honoured that he took time out to come and string C6# for us. Beautiful people!

Monday, 3 September 2018

On with the Show

It's been a busy few days. We've managed to work out the string sizes for each section. According to Pianos Inside Out, we start stringing each section left to right, starting with treble.

The first string went on 1st September.

Then we had to take a little break because a couple of the hitch pins were tilted upwards, which meant the strings slid off when tightened. Following Chillington's advice, we hit them with a hammer a couple of times - problems solved.


Today, the first section of six notes was completed and it's time to change up a gauge. We're inviting a few friends and local musicians to come and put a string on. More about that soon.

Saturday, 1 September 2018


The leather is on. Looking smart.

Not the easiest thing to measure as it's all very curvy. 

The easiest thing to do was to cover the frame ridge with masking tape then use a pencil to take a rubbing of the shape. The masking tape then peels off and can be stuck to the leather and cut out. As luck would have it, we have a small metal ruler which is exactly the same width as the ridge, so that was handy as a guide. 

 Et voila!