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Variations of the Knight K10

Updated: Aug 17, 2021

The Knight Piano Company was one of Britain's most recognised manufacturers of fine, high-quality pianos, which are famous for being extremely well-made, with only top-quality materials used in their construction. The K10 is from the 'K' range and is the most famous of Knight's pianos. It is generally considered to be one of the “best" upright pianos ever produced in the UK.

Note: All of the following information also applies to the Knight K6.

The frame of the Knight K10 was built on the girder principle, which reportedly has twice the strength of frames fitted to the average piano. This extra strength also allowed Knight to dispense the brace bar in the treble section, which claimed to have eliminated the "bad notes", that normally occur on each side of the brace.

The frame is anchored to a four-post quarter-sawn hardwood back, with the soundboard secured between it and the iron frame. This exceptionally sturdy method ensures superior tuning stability and strength.

The strings in the K10 are designed to cross over at a much greater angle than can usually be achieved in an upright piano, allowing the Knight K10 to match the tone and volume of much larger instruments.

Reconditioned Knight K10s remain to be one of our most popular models of piano and demand for them has only continued to increase; along with other reconditioned Knight models such as the K6 and the K15.


Variations of the K10

An important thing to remember is that not all Knight K10 pianos are the same, with a handful of variations. The age of the piano is also a very important consideration. When the differences between the variants are not extreme, they can be so subtle that it becomes very confusing for prospective buyers.

This problem is exacerbated by the fact that many Knight pianos advertised on selling sites are incorrectly labeled as the wrong variant, with some even being a completely different model all together. We often see the Knight 'York' (Knight's budget model which looks very similar) being wrongly advertised as a K10. The Knight York is still a very good piano, but you would be sorely disappointed if you purchased one believing it to be a K10. K6 pianos (the K10’s ‘little brother’) are often advertised as K10 pianos too. It’s not just limited to advertisements by the piano layperson either, as even listings from piano retailers often contain errors.

In this article, we hope to illustrate the differences to help you make an informed purchasing decision.


The K10

This is what is generally considered as the ‘early K10’.

Early Knight pianos (from the late-1930s to the 1950s) are far less refined than later generations, containing inferior materials and designs. It took the company time to build on the original designs, to enhance the quality of manufacture and supply better and better pianos, so earlier pianos do not represent the best of the company's production.

The frame in earlier Knight pianos is far less substantial than those found in the models we discuss below. Although it is a full-perimeter frame of Knight design, it contains less bracing and thus offers less stability. The construction of the actions in the early Knight pianos was subcontracted (because Knight didn't yet have the ability to make their own) and are of a lesser quality than the actions Knight later produced themselves. The actions in the early pianos are also suspended on wooden action standards, with no support in the center. This can cause instability in the action, because the structure is less able to resist climatic changes, and can compromise the action's regulation.

As the Knight Company grew, their factory became increasingly more modern, their methods of construction were continuously improved, and as the company became more established as a premium piano brand, the door to better materials was opened through stronger relationships with trusted suppliers.

The 'early' K10 is housed in a thick cabinet with striking and blunt architecture. When the desired aesthetics for home furnishings shifted, Knight redesigned their pianos to better suit contemporary decor (see Slimline and Exotic) and the original design of the 'K' range was mostly phased out.

The "classic" look of the K10 was briefly revived for a short period of time, when Knight produced a limited number of K10 pianos (photographed) which contained all of the enhancements of the later models but was cosmetically styled on the previous version.

We happily stock the 'faux classics' whenever a pristine example becomes available to us.

We do not stock any Knight piano with a serial number between 1001 and 23800.


The K10 Slimline and the K10 Exotic

Taking over from the previous K10, the Slimline (photographed) and the Exotic quickly became the most desirable variants.

They weren't just popular in the UK either, in fact they were developed at the request of Knight's customers in several overseas countries. Knight took inspiration from Scandinavian furniture to create the elegant and urbane cases of the Slimline and Exotic, both designed to conform with more modern and contemporary home furnishings.

The Slimline and Exotics are so similar in appearance that they are often confused as two of the same. Not until they are put side by side do the differences become apparent.

Photographed are two K10 pianos in our workshop, prior to reconditioning.

On the left is a K10 Slimline in mahogany, with a K10 Exotic in golden teak on the right.

The Exotic is slightly wider and rounded on the side profile, whereas the Slimline follows a straight line down with a columned cheek. The Slimline and Exotic are both as good as each other as they are the same piano, just clad in slightly different cabinets.

The Slimline and Exotic were both made available in a wide variety of different, hand-selected veneers, such as American mahogany, Brazilian walnut, French walnut, Burmese teak, Brazilian rosewood and many more. Knight ensured the most attractive casework through rigorous quality control and the matching and cutting of these exotic veneers by skilled craftsmen. Knight gradually perfected the cabinets through their method of using high-quality selected veneers on shaped and banded core stock. Modern, synthetic glues were used throughout and represented an enormous improvement on the old animal glues, which are subject to deterioration.

The Knight Slimline and Exotics are excellent pianos and are both variants which we are very proud to offer. Owing to their capacity of satisfying demanding pianists, through a high level of performance, our reconditioned Knights remain very popular and sought after pianos.


The School K10

The School K10 was made especially for educational institutions (primarily schools and colleges) and it was constructed to the specifications laid out by the former London County Council. Despite the School K10's Knight pedigree, they fall extremely short of their Slimline and Exotic counterparts.

School models were required to be based on a substantial post-braced back (which Knight did as standard on all of their models from the 'K' range anyway), with solid oak case components and zinc-plated music wire.

Zinc plated music wire was chosen for school pianos because of its corrosion inhibitive properties, but this wire was tonally inferior to the polished music wire that was used in the Slimline and Exotic K10 pianos. This wire can also be very brittle, so much so that it is commonly referred to in the trade as "chicken wire". Solid oak case components are also not conducive to tonal quality because of the acoustically deadening properties of the material, so manufacturers of school pianos were forced to use very hard felt for their hammers to try and circumvent this. The result was instruments which had lots of volume but with a strident tone that is commonly described as "harsh" or "overbearing".

Although it is testament to Knight that they were able to construct pianos to those specifications, when so many other piano manufacturers could not, the School variants certainly do not represent the best of the company's production. If Knight were to continue supplying schools and colleges around the country then they had no choice but to produce pianos to the requirements which were stipulated by the education authority, but if Knight were the decision makers then they certainly would have done things differently. Thankfully, they had complete autonomy over their domestic models and the differences show. When the requirement to construct the school pianos from oak was removed, the model became available in different veneers, such as mahogany. However, the School variants are still easy to identify by their full length, fixed (not hinged) music desks, brass guard plates around the pedals and large rubber-tyred castors. If the piano has any of those things, it is undeniably of educational origin and should be avoided. Some retailers try to conceal the piano's history by removing or modifying these heavy duty 'extras' before resale, especially on pianos that have been painted.

We do not stock the School variant at Sykes & Sons. Not only are they tonally inferior to the Slimline and Exotic models, they are often severely neglected and abused in the school environment.


We hope that this article provides some clarification and removes some of the confusion.

Sykes & Sons stock only three variants of the K10 and we always clearly state exactly which variation it is that we are offering. As a rule, we do not stock any Knight piano with a serial number between 1001 and 23800, or made after 1990.

As Knights are one of our specialties, knowing the brand extremely well and through being so experienced with them, we know exactly what to look out for to ensure that we are only offering the best possible quality of Knight.


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