From Bullet Trains to Cellos
The Japanese sheet metal processing company, Yamashita Kogyosho, employs highly skilled craftsmen to hammer aluminum sheets with a technique called Uchidashi Bankin to create precisely curved surfaces.
Using their exceptional hammering skills and relying on both their experience and intuition, they carefully control the strength and location of each blow to shape the nose sections for Shinkansen bullet trains. As it would be too costly to replace these skilled craftsmen with machines, these train noses are still made by hand.
In 2008, to publicize this intricate and skilled hammering technique, Yamashita Kogyosho created violins and cellos from aluminum. President of the company, Tatsuto Yamashita said:
I wanted to prove that a hammer could be used to fashion the delicate curves of a cello . . . My dream is that the instrument will one day be played by world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
The aluminum cello and violin weigh approximately twice as much as their wooden counterparts, making the violins in particular, difficult to play. As exhibited in Tokyo in 2009, the violins are being made out of magnesium to reduce their weight, but we have not seen magnesium cellos – yet.
Yamashita Kogyosho chose to model their cellos after the oldest known surviving cello, Andrea Amati’s “The King,” in its modern, cut-down form.
The Sound of the Yamashita Kogyosho Aluminum Cello
The following are a mix of formal and informal videos of cellists playing the Yamashita Kogyosho aluminum cello.