The Stuart & Sons piano represents the state of the art development of the technical construction and visual design of the modern piano. Using a specially designed string agraffe on the bridges allows the string to run in a straight line rather than go through the traditional zigzag caused by offset bridge pins. The result when struck by the hammer is a more efficient string vibration with the string moving in a vertical plane until it stops. Research conducted by the CSIRO's Dr Bob Anderssen confirmed that the traditionally aligned bridge pins affected the string's vibration by moving from a vertical plane through to a more elliptical pattern, thereby reducing the efficiency of the string.
The museum's piano is the fourth to be produced by Newcastle based maker, Wayne Stuart. The use of Australian timbers in the construction is another significant departure from traditional piano case design. The highly figured golden Huon pine veneer and red Western Australian casuarina create a stunning visual statement very different from the more common black enamel finish used on other modern pianos. Timbers such as hoop pine and King William pine were also used in the piano's construction and the iron frame was cast at RC Wahn's foundry in Newcastle. This together with a range of a full eight octaves and four pedals rather than the usual three make the Stuart piano one of the major advances in piano design seen this century.
Australia has had a number of locally based piano makers from the 1830s to the present day. These have predominantly been from Victoria and New South Wales but also to a lesser extent from Tasmania and Queensland. The piano making industry in Australia has not been active for many years until now, making the Stuart & Sons pianos an important link with the traditions of the past.
Curator, music & musical instruments