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Fandrich Vertical Action™ Celebrates its 25th year!
The Fandrich Vertical Action™ was developed over a period of seven years by its inventor Darrell Fandrich, with assistance in the last several of those years from piano technician Chris Trivelas. The prototype action was installed in a 1909 Steinway K52, which was first exhibited at the 1989 California State Piano Technician Guild Convention in Fresno, California. The first US patent issued in 1990, and subsequent patents issued in Canada, Mexico, England, Japan, Korea, China, and Germany. Then the search for a manufacturer to use the action began.
We (Darrell and Heather) quickly discovered that we had both tradition and a mid-90's industry-wide sales slump working against finding an established manufacturer to use the action. Darrell's brother Del and his wife Barbara, along with Ed Richards, decided to start the Fandrich Piano Company, with Del designing and building the Fandrich Model U-122 48" upright using the Fandrich Vertical Action™. They chose Hoquiam, Washington as their business location, and went into production in 1992. The prototype Fandrich piano was introduced at the 1992 NAMM Show in Anaheim (the annual musical instruments trade show). This is the piano reviewed in Larry Fine's 1994 edition of The Piano Book.
The Fandrich piano was well received, and the company immediately began receiving orders, including a sale, sight unseen, to George Harrison, formerly of the Beatles. Unfortunately the startup of a piano manufacturing company was a gargantuan task, and the piano was very expensive to build. Del and Barbara gave it all they had, sold all 97 pianos built, and had orders waiting, but decided to go out of production in 1994. We are very grateful to them for taking the risk of introducing a new piano action and doing a great job of promoting it.
We opened Fandrich & Sons Pianos in Seattle in 1993 to sell Fandrich pianos. After the Fandrich Piano Company closed in 1994 we started buying new upright pianos manufactured by the Pearl River Piano Company, retrofitting the Fandrich Vertical Action™, and selling them under our Fandrich & Sons name. For several years we also offered the action in Wilhelm Steinberg upright pianos from Germany.
In 2000 we moved our business to our home in the woods 50 miles north of Seattle. Thanks to the internet we now have pianos in 27 states and 6 foreign countries.
Also in 2000 we started installing the action in Klima Pianos. This 50" upright built in the Czech Republic was a lovely instrument with a trademark cobalt blue cast iron plate. Unfortunately the company was small and not able to survive, so we transferred to the Bohemia Company, also of the Czech Republic, who built the same model. Bohemia agreed to install Fandrich Vertical Action™s manufactured and assembled at Renner. This worked very well until the euro began to rise significantly against the dollar. Then Bechstein bought Bohemia and changed the scale slightly, with the unfortunate result that our already manufactured actions no longer fit. Bechstein also raised Bohemia prices to the point that they were no longer competitive in the US market.
As of 2012, we are again using the 51" (130 cm) Pearl River upright. Since we last used this piano, it has been redesigned by German piano designer Lothar Thomma (who redesigned Bechstein pianos in the 1980's, and is the scale designer for Steingraeber & Söhne pianos in Germany, among others). Thus we are now again able to offer a fine piano with a FVA™ at a very reasonable price.
The experience of building nearly 300 actions by hand has provided us with a valuable education about just what Darrell created. The resulting refinement features significantly improved performance, parts design and installation, and regulation procedures. (Check our Tools page for regulation procedures and tools for FVA maintenance)
After having solved the one aspect of the action performance with which Darrell hadn't been fully satisfied, Fandrich & Sons filed an improvement patent application in July of 2013 for the Fandrich Vertical Action™. The improvement involves using the actual "knuckle" of the grand piano. The result is that playing the FVA™ is now virtually indistinguishable from a fine grand.
The reaction to this improved action, now offered in our Fandrich & Sons Model 130V 51" upright, has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Those who are familiar with the original version notice a definite improvement, and it continues to amaze those who play it for the first time.