February 7th, 2019
I recently acquired (very inexpensively) a 6′ 4″ Knabe grand piano made in the 1950s. The instrument is in good rebuildable condition. The case is in horrible condition, having lived in a school for many years. I decided that to bring the piano back to its glory, that a major woodworking project was needed. I will be re-veneering the entire case to give the piano a like new look.
The lid of the piano was a special concern, since the edge profile was severely damaged. Ultimately, I decided that I would build a new lid for the piano. The photo series below tells the story.
This project stretched my skills as it took me into new turf! The nature of the project was one of continual refinement to the materials. As such each step increased the risk cost value! So at each step, my stress increased as did the potential for ruin! Lots of time and dollars here.
January 14th, 2019
I recently hosted a repair skills workshop at my shop on January 12, 2019. Twelve piano technicians, members of the Piano Technicians Guild, gathered here for coaching on the repair skills tested in the Registered Piano Technician exams. Many of the participants worked for the entire day. There was lots of knowledge sharing all around.
December 16th, 2018
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.
April 20th, 2018
I do love my job, especially when it’s clear that my objectives are met. My objectives? … enabling the joy of music for my customers.
This 1905 Heine upright came to my shop as a neglected and beat up piano, but with “good bones”. For this piano, we erased years of wear with cleaning, repairs, and reconditioning.
Today, when I saw the customer fighting the tears, expressing joy in the result, and telling family stories of the music and the piano … then I know my objectives were met.
Technically this is the work performed:
- New keytops installed (many ivories were damaged or missing)
- New key bushings installed (giving the pianist a feeling of firmness and security when playing)
- Cleaned, stained and polished sharps (preserving the authenticity and beauty of the original ebony)
- Installed new dampers (the originals were worn and hard, preventing them from performing their function)
- Reshaped shaped hammers (improving the tonal qualities of the piano)
- CA glue treatment of pinblock (restoring the torque the tuning pins need to do their job)
- Action repairs (just making everything work!)
- Regulation, tuning, and voicing (the icing on the cake. Now the touch is smooth and responsive. The voice of the piano has clarity and uniformity)
- Clean, polish, and touchup the case (the pictures tell the story)
- Refinish keybed rub-rail (lots of door jamb damage went away)
Is it everything I want in a piano? NO. Is it everything the customer needed? Clearly, YES.
October 4th, 2017
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
- Soundboard cracks will be shimmed
- Separated ribs will be re-glued to the soundboard
- New tuning pin bushings will be installed.
October 1st, 2017
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.
Keyframe before restoration
Keyframe after restoration
Bottom Board and Pedal Trapwork
Bottom board and trapwork before restoration
Bottom board and pedal trapwork after restoration
September 1st, 2017
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.
Here’s the parts list:
August 13th, 2017
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.