This weekend our house is transforming into a recital hall! We are pleased to be hosting a Christmas piano recital for Tiffany Bailey’s piano students tomorrow evening. I always love hearing other talent perform on my piano, so this is going to be especially enjoyable. The piano is a Steinway model A3 from 1922. I recently installed new Ronsen Weikert felt hammers on the instrument.
To prepare, Justin DeJong helped me move the normal furniture into the garage. We glided the piano over from the northwest corner to the southwest corner where it could be seen from two wings of the new recital hall. This “gliding” was accomplished with my shop-made three-wheeled piano transporter.
Shop-made piano transporter
Terri McGuire has been adding her touches with Christmas decor. It’s good to have a master of event planning on the job!
The recital hall will look a bit different with 30 chairs and people! More pictures to come of tomorrow’s event.
The reconditioned bottom board is re-installed. Pedals are buffed and new bushing cloth is installed for squeak free performance. Trapwork is reconditioned for fault free operation.
Keys have been rebushed and reinstalled on the reconditioned keyframe. This effort will help to provide the excellent touch response we seek to provide the pianist.
The action brackets have been cleaned and painted for a fresh appearance. New treble dampers have been installed and regulated for uniform lift. At this point, The action rails and damper levers have been cleaned by blasting with corn cob grit. The wippen rail has not yet been re-installed. The old hammers have been removed, making damper work straight forward. This process emulates the original process order utilized in the factory 98 years ago.
New Renner hammers have been custom bored for installation.
After completing work on the bottom board and keyframe, I’m preparing the piano for restringing.
Original condition of the low treble strings
Original Condition of bass strings and tuning pins
Preparation for Restringing
In preparation for restringing: old strings and tuning pins have been removed, new understring cloth has been installed, tuning pin bushings have been removed, the plate has been cleaned, and plate bolts have been tightened.
Additional work to be performed before restringing
An Adam Schaaf player piano recently arrived in my shop for a complete rebuild. I’ll be doing the piano work, and the player work will go to a player expert. I’m pleased that my client has recognized the need for good piano work to precede good player work. With good piano work, the player mechanism can perform at its best.
Work began with restoration of the keyframe, bottom board, and pedal trap work.
When boring piano hammers, keeping chips away from the jig surface is a constant need. I was tired of clearing the debris with a hand-held air nozzle. $36 in parts from Amazon helped me to create a nice solution. The heart of the solution is a 12V DC solenoid that is controlled by a magnetic switch. The magnetic switch closes when the drill press quill descends. Like a lot of shop improvements, I didn’t get payback in the first use, but the drilling process is much more efficient when using this new fixture.
While installing pedals on a 90 year old upright piano, I had the opportunity to upgrade materials, and have a little fun at the lathe. The old pivot system employed a hardwood dowel bushing in a cast iron bracket. The system was likely a good one for the first 30 years, but with wear, it became floppy and noisy, and broken. I chose to fabricate new bushings to be used in the old brackets using UHMW (ultra high molecular weight polyethylene) rod. UHMW is ideal for this application, since it is self-lubricating. For someone who doesn’t do a lot of lathe work, it presented a bit of a creative challenge, and I’m pleased with the result. I’m sure it will be serviceable for many years, and earns a lifetime guarantee.
The soundboard was tapered (diaphramized in Steinway terminology). First contour lines were routed into the board, and then the board was sanded to the contour lines on the stroke sander.
Profile of countour lines tapers the board from 0.26″ to 0.33″
The video shows use of the stroke sander to achieve the taper by sanding to the contour lines.
Ribs were shaped to a radius of 60 feet, then glued to the soundboard using cauls and compressed air clamping pressure. The photo below shows the last rib in the cauls. Typically I clamped 3 or 4 at a time.
After the ribs were glued, a radius was planed onto the ribs. This is a craftsman touch. Few will ever crawl under the piano to inspect this detail.
I love pianos: as a musician, as a technician, and as a craftsman.
The joy of my profession is to bring out the best in every piano I encounter.
Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives. --William Foster