Little Falls 70/30 Brass Wire

I have heard from a fine instrument maker that Three Falls 70/30 brass wire is his wire of choice.
Given the closure of the Instrument Workshop, is there another source for Little Falls wire for harpsichord and clavichord stringing?

I believe Carey Beebe here in Australia can supply smaller quantities than the industrial minimum lengths you are required to purchase at Little Falls itself.

I also understand it to be very very good wire for harpsichords.

I’m assuming the type used on harpsichords is just annealed, i.e. no hardening…? Their web site lists various degrees of hardening, from “eighth hard” up to “extra spring”.

I have not used it personally but I hear good reports of it. I assume the softest is the best for harpsichords, the one simply listed as annealed. The harder grades I think are mostly intended for making springs.

My understanding is that you have to buy large industrial quantities, and that you cannot buy short spools. I believe the brass supplied by the now apparently defunct Instrument Workshop was spooled off Little Falls wire.

Because of the quantity requirement, there was an idea on the old HPSCHD-L for people to band together and put in a bulk order. That would work!

@Ed you should ask your friend what hardness he uses and how he went about purchasing it.

1 Like

I know that you are referencing the brass wire commissioned from the Little Falls company by Lutz Bungart, who created and was the proprietor of The Instrument Workshop for many years, but I’m going to flog this horse one more time. Little Falls makes its business to do custom wire and other metals products on behalf of those requesting the service. This means that lots of OTHER brass wire, having nothing to do with Lutz or IW can legitimately come under the name ‘Little Falls’ (NOT Three Falls). So best to refer to it as either ‘Lutz’s custom wire from Little Falls’ or 'Custom wire from the former Instrument Workshop. This ALSO will explain the confusion promulgated by Boris’s Post. What HE was reading-about was what Little Falls is willing and capable of doing for those hoping to order custom wire, NOT choices with the Lutz/IW wire. While we’re at it, it is also misleading about annealling. But I’ll post that cavil separately.

Boris, the wire used in harpsichords, like ALL wire, is at some point in the manufacturing process annealled, but the wire as sold and applied is subsequently hardened with each pass to a smaller diameter through the dies. In historical practice with brass, this means each smaller gauge is stronger per unit of cross-section area than the previous one, while with modern music brass each diameter is annealled at a different starting diameter to that all gauges end up with the same strength specs. If you tried to string a harpsichord with fully annealled wire it would be like trying to string it with hot taffy, or as a colleague once described it, ‘silly putty.’

1 Like

Anbro, see my reply to Boris. What you guys are reading about is what services/products Little Falls is willing to produce for customers who, as Lutz once did, approach them. In his case, Lutz will have given Little Falls a whole laundry list of characteristics and traits of manufacture that he wanted made specially for his purposes. I’ve beaten this issue in other fora, but to be clear, Little Falls is NOT a company selling wire they advertise as suitable for putting on harpsichords, but if you ask them to make a train load of wire that meets your informed desired specs for the purpose, they will be happy to make that for you.

So, we haven’t a Little Fall brass wire readily available. Situation with wires is worsening.

However, that “Lutz Bungart” wire could be available if a group of buyers (how many? depends on the minimum quantity) orders to Little Fall explicitly stating they want the wires produced to Lutz Bungart specs. At Little Fall will surely have that in their records so they know what Lutz ordered to them.
Hoping they did not sign a non-disclosure agreement or an agreement to not sell to others the same stuff.

That’s an interesting question. For modern brass, Lutz’s was the very best; even Stephen Birkett reported that to me after I shared some small samples with him to test. That said, for my own work I’m only interested at this point in using Stephen’s historical brass, though I have the same difficulties as everyone else getting timely response from him. It is like pulling teeth.

The person who would have an understanding about the status of the arrangements between Lutz and Little Falls would be Stephen Bacon, who was a many-decades close friend of Lutz’s and who was the first buyer of the business, though only briefly, immediately after Lutz died. He runs the Bellwood Violin Shop in Ashland, OR. As it is, those people who most recently purchased IW are hopeless, and clueless, and refuse to sell the wire inventory off as a lot, insisting on selling the business as a whole, even though, at least so far as I am concerned, that brass wire Lutz commissioned from Little Falls is pretty much the only IW inventory worth bothering with.


That, and the variety of Delrin/Celcon plectrum thicknesses they used to sell. It was so great to have thin plectra for the 4’ register, especially the high treble, which meant you wouldn’t have to relentlessly carve down a chunky 0.020" plectrum for that region. Ah well…

right, but really scraping delrin down a bit is not so bad, I buy mine from Vogel and thin down strips of about a half inch width with a sharp scraper. I would add the tapered brass bridge pins to the IW-list and except for the price I liked the 0.6mm black delrin (if its not celcon) for rear guide material of keyboards. As for the wire I find myself in the exact same position as Owen. Currently I have a clavichord from around 1780 which I really would like to string with Stephens material… Fortunately I still have parts of such a train-load of LFA wire that I bought in the late 80es with Willard Martin, Philipp Tyre and Keith Hill (and maybe even others), but I am running out of some sizes so I draw the next thicker sizes down, -actually kind of fun but takes time… Shall I try to convince Vogel to obtain a trainload so they can sell pharmaceutic amounts for pharmaceutic prices to all of us?

I often complain about the dominance of META exchanges on this forum, but I must register a complaint. I got an email that looked like a private email from Boris, and wrote him privately under the assumption that this is what it was, only to see it posted here on the forum. Does this mean that all emails from fellow members here present the risk that my replies will be posted publicly here?

I don’t know what a META exchange is. Can you explain?

Also, Private Messages using the PM mechanism are completely private, and even the search bots are unable to read them. As to what happened with the mail you referred to I am unable to say. You would have to ask Boris.

Both the Discourse software and I take email privacy seriously, and basically this can only happen from some misunderstanding of usage somewhere or other.

Although the emails have gone out, you are able to delete your post from the web interface so that it no longer remains if you feel this is necessary.

As to complaints, please just PM the admin account - no need for them to go in a topic. I’ll always at least try to sort things out. You do of course need to use the Discourse web interface, the primary interface, to use the PM function.

@owendaly Thank you for your useful and clarifying posts about this.

Owen, as you are very knowledgeable in this area, can you give an indication of the specifications in the laundry list? Apart from specifying the metallurgical alloy (does LF do custom alloys?), and diameters and lengths required, what other properties would one specify to have the wire made? Final drawn hardness perhaps? I have very little idea.

Vogel seem to be happy with their European yellow brass suppliers Stolberg and I think Freiberger. I don’t imagine they would prefer to deal with the US instead or as well (shipping, taxes, non local, etc). And they may not be interested in so-called modern brass. You could always ask!

I received a notification from Jackrail that Owen had replied to my post, but nothing in the notification suggested it was a private reply to me alone.

Vogel is an excellent resource, but their shipping to this side of the world is ruinous.

They used to offer Deutsche Post as a shipping option, which was economical if a bit slow, but now it’s only DHL, which means massive brokerage fees.

In all sincerity I’d start a harpsichord wire supply company by buying industrial quantities (if I could find out what one is meant to specify for brass wire) but since I in Australia people would have to pay high shipping costs. Economically infeasible I suspect.

I have used brass from ZHI, Lutz Bungart and Stephen Birkett – on the same two instruments, one Italian and the other Flemish. I prefer Stephen’s, but it does demand a different schedule from the other two. I believe that ZHI brass was also sourced from Little Falls and found only a small difference between that and Lutz brass – perhaps even imaginary, because my comparison was between 20 year old ZHI that had been well played in and brand new Lutz.

Those in the USA who are looking for the Lutz brass would probably be satisfied by the ZHI brass. In Europe, I suspect that the equivalent is Vogel, though I have no experience of it.