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Yamashita Kogyosho Aluminum Cello

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 replace these skilled craftsmen with machines, these train noses are still made by hand.

In 2008, in order 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.

Click here to learn more about Shinkansen 3D sheet metal forming by craftsman at Yamashita Kogyosho.

Shiny King

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.

 

Yamashita Kogyosho

The company Yamashita Kogyosho in Kudamatsu City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan, has been hammering out aerodynamic designs for the face of the Shinkansen bullet trains since 1963.

Yamashita Kogyosho, is recognised as the pioneer of Shinkansen face production by "Uchidashi," and is a Special Prize recipient of the Monodzukuri Nippon Grand Award. This hand-hammering craftsmanship has contributed greatly to the production of an elegant streamline “face” of the Shinkansen.

Crafting the face of the Shinkansen is artisan's work. Sheets of aluminum ranging from 1 to 6 millimeters in thickness are beaten by hand countless times to produce curved panels, which are then welded together to form the train's sleek exterior.

Given the large size and relatively low production numbers of these trains, as well as the need for flexibility to make sudden changes, this form of manufacturing is ill-suited to mass production.

Rather, attention to detail is paramount: Not only is it challenging enough to achieve the elegant, computer-designed shape, expert welding is crucial to avoiding pinholes or cracks that might compromise the safety of a train that may operate as fast as 320 kilometers per hour.

Simply developing the necessary skill to hammer out sheet metal requires approximately 10 years of practice, though training is never truly finished.


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