History of Knabe
Knabe’s rich history began more than 200 years ago when Wilhelm (William) Knabe was born in Kreuzburg, Germany in 1803. Knabe learned the art of cabinet and piano making through apprenticeships, dedication and hard work. After immigrating to the United States and settling in Baltimore, Maryland, William formed his own business of buying, selling and repairing used pianos from inside his home. Knabe partnered with Henry Gaehle to form the piano company Knabe & Gaehle, the genesis of Knabe’s storied history. Knabe & Gaehle built high-quality grands, uprights, and squares at a small factory in Baltimore and managed to compete with other larger, more established American manufacturers. The company was left in the stable hands of sons William and Ernest upon the death of William Knabe in 1864. With the outbreak of the Civil War and the resulting decline of the Southern market, the company managed to keep afloat by expanding their markets into the growing American west. In the later decades of the 19th century, Knabe grew to be one of the most respected pianos and very popular among consumers and professionals alike.
Success of Knabe
Knabe pianos are handmade, limited production pianos created in the finest tradition of over 300 years of piano crafting. Production pianos have their place in the world of music. They are tonally consistent and durable, but they lack the “soul” of a handcrafted instrument. Each handmade Knabe has its own personality. When you play a Knabe, you will sense the difference. The rich and wondrous tonal quality of the Knabe has often been described as the nearest approach to the human singing voice. Listen to the tone of today’s Knabe – no piano in the world has a voice quite like it.
Many of the early upright and grand piano designs, originally created by Wm. Knabe & Co.and seemingly lost to antiquity, have been recovered by SMC, and many of those wonderful early design concepts have been incorporated into the Knabe pianos of today. Original Knabe concepts such as the solid spruce soundboard shape and dimension, bridge placement, and overall structural design add to capturing the critical essence of the Knabe piano along with the original Baltimore scale on many Knabe models. Only woods, metals, glues or natural fabrics best for each particular purpose are ever permitted in the Knabe.
The craftsmanship that makes the Knabe the World’s Best Piano is not the acquisition of one generation, but a pedigree of skills that have run through more than three hundred years. Not merely by the masters of this great industry, but in the families of employees where sons have succeeded fathers at the head of some particular branch of the art, and who in great part have suggested improvements where possible. Making a great grand piano starts with the determination to not compromise in any aspect of the design, materials and craftsmanship. Through the years since its inception, the piano has been technically refined to the point of near perfection. There are time honored design features and specific materials that are known to produce the finest musical results.Some components are ideally made of spruce while others require maple or hornbeam. Crafting a fine piano like the Knabe must be done by the hands of skilled and experienced craftsmen.
From the carefully hand-laid, tapered solid Canadian spruce soundboard, to the carefully selected oak and maple that is hand bent into the finest and strongest rim in the piano industry, to the final touches of the master technicians that regulate the premium German action and hammers, every step in the creation of this marvelous instrument is the work of master craftsmen.
Each Knabe rim, once bent, is braced with laminated spruce bottom beams and secured with hardwood dowels. The beams terminate at the “belly rail” into a cast tone collector. This structure is designed to hold every part of your Knabe grand piano in place for over a century of use and 40 tons of pressure exerted by the strings. Knabe tone is no accident. It is the result of superior low-tension scale design created to the uncompromising standard of leading artists. Its reputation for tone and flawless beauty of encasement is the result of undeviating adherence to the conviction that in piano making there is no detail that does not deserve the closest attention and care. This policy is accepted as a trust by craftsmen who consider it a privilege to add their skill to the creation of pianos worthy of the Knabe prestige.
Only woods, metals, glues or natural fabrics best for each particular purpose are ever permitted in the Knabe. For example, the only wood used for Knabe pin planks is winter-cut, quarter-sawn, northern hard rock maple for added strength and holding power. For other woods, we search the globe…17 areas in all…for the rarest varieties to provide the specific grain and texture required for each application. Run your hand around the rim of today’s Knabe grand. Then try the same on other grands. The sweep of your hand tells you that the Knabe is much larger in proportion to its length. This greater area of sound amplification is equalized on either side of the treble bridge. Coupled with the soundboard taper and the Low Tension Scale the result is a fuller, richer, balanced tone with more dynamic range.