Current Work

Old technology meets new: Installing pedals on an upright piano

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.





Trimming Damper Heads

July 23rd, 2017

I wanted to trim 4 mm from Tokiwa damper heads for better geometry in a 1927 Leonard upright. Here’s the jig I built to get the job done.





Stieff Rebuild — June 2017

July 3rd, 2017

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.





Steinway A-3

March 27th, 2017

The cobbler’s children go without shoes. But this piano technician is breaking out of that paradigm. New to my living room is a Steinway and Sons Model A-3 built in New York in 1922. After I completed three days of work on it, the piano is very pleasing to play. At some time, it will be completely rebuilt; but for now, it is a very nice “daily driver”, to borrow from classic car enthusiast lingo. That time will not come until the high-end restoration of the 6’3″ Charles Stieff (1911) is complete.

 





Stieff Rebuild – February 2017

February 28th, 2017

An update on the Rebuild of Stieff 28334 has been a long time in coming.   I’ve been disappointed with my inability to focus energy on the project!   But progress has been made.

Cauls for gluing ribs to soundboard.  Note the concave or convex shape for top and bottom cauls.  These are sixty foot radiuses.

Prior to working with the actual ($$) new sound board, a sound board mockup was prepared using inexpensive quarter-inch plywood.   This step was taken to work out the bugs in the system before working with the new spruce board.

For the mockup, I used some clear fir as ribs that was available at no cost.  The picture below shows a jig with a 60 foot radius for shaping the topside of the ribs.

Below, the mockup progressed with the ribs fitted to the frame.

The mockup continued by gluing “ribs” to “sound board”.  A few issues were noticed, and I was glad that I did this mockup, so I could proceed with confidence.  The cauls use mill hose pressurized at 30 psi.   I’m doing four at a time, and progressively moving cauls to a new position as glue dries.

Below is the completed “trial soundboard” which fit well when placed back in the frame.

 

 

 

 





Chickering Quarter Grand Keybed

October 16th, 2016

Work is now complete on the key set and key frame of the 1916 Chickering Quarter Grand. This work is foundational to a well performing piano action. It’s the “user interface”!

  • Keys rebushed
  • New key tops, replacing prior poorly installed keytops
  • Refinished sharps
  • New Wessell Nickel and Gross key pins
  • New Wessell Nickel and Gross capstans
  • Keyframe retrofitted with glide bolts




Grand Piano Regulation

April 23rd, 2016

This week I spent a day at a customer’s home in Ogden, regulating a Yamaha GH1 made in 1993. It was rewarding work for me, and drew immediate praise from the players in the home. The very talented 12 year old player smiled and said, “Oh! It’s so much easier to play now!” It’s a privilege to be able to do this work.

2016-04-20 11.20.12


You can learn more about grand piano regulation in this article.








Upright Hammer installation

April 19th, 2016

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Here, I’ve attached an acrylic sheet  on the action frame to simulate the strike point of the old hammers.  Once marked, this will serve as a guide for the installation of new hammers.   The guide also allows for simple measurement of bore angles.

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Original strike points marked

2016-04-22 17.33.14

Boring Hammers

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Bored Hammers

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Hammers installed

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Action installed at customer’s home

2016-04-27 10.04.27

1880s Conover





1916 Emerson Upright Rebuild

March 1st, 2016

I recently had the pleasure of rebuilding an Emerson upright piano from 1916.  This particular piano had been in one family for the past 100 years.   As is often the case, a treasured family piano still looks wonderful, so my work on the case was simply to clean,  polish and replace some missing knobs.   The musical instrument, inside, however got a rather complete make-over!  With age it really wasn’t sounding good or playing well.

001 Arrival at shop 8-11-15
002 Arrival at shop 8-11-15

Below, I’m doing some preliminary work prior to restringing.  The top section of the treble bridge, had many cracks which were causing poor tonality (false beats) in the sixth and seventh octaves.   Here  I’m preparing a new bridge cap which will provide the proper foundation for a “like new” sound.   (Take me back to 1916)
032 Bridge cap notching

The following photo shows the new bridge cap installed. The piano is now ready for restringing.
034 New bridge cap installed and pinned

Here, the treble sections of the piano are being restrung:
035 Restringing Treble

And restringing is complete!
036 Restringing complete

This photo shows the installation of new key bushings. Well fitted, low friction bushings are important for a good touch response when playing.
037 Installilng new key bushings

039 Rebushed keyset installed

Here I’m reconditioning the hammer catchers with new buckskin. Well, actually though the original material was buckskin, the new material is ecsaine, which replicates the good points of buckskin, while eliminating its imperfections. Restoring this part enables the quick repetition of notes.
040 Installing new catcher leather (ecsaine)

New dampers have been installed in the piano.
042 New dampers installed in restrung piano

New Renner hammers are being prepared for custom boring.
045 Preparing new hammers for installation

Now when we open up the case of the 1916 Emerson, we see a new piano. How does it sound? Well the customer says it’s wonderful! And I believe it’s very close to what it was in 1916.
047 Completed hammer install





Touchstone to 1956

November 14th, 2015

The Janssen Piano Company of New York made about 160,000 pianos from 1901 until 1964, when it sold to the Conn company. I service a number of Janssen console pianos from the 1950s that continue to be good instruments that are loved by their owners.

Today I tuned #134626 from 1956. As I began, I knew that I would like it. I liked it even more when I took the time to read the “Janssen Creed” inside the lid.

2015-11-14 09.13.00

Many pianos of quality are made today, but where do we see this type of statement? Sure, we might say “this was just marketing,” but I see it as a personal commitment to quality. Today we have ISO, CMM, Six-Sigma and scores of other process control and corporate accountability systems. And we’re making excellent pianos. But in 1956 we had personal commitment and worker accountability, and we made excellent pianos.