Current Work

Repairing the bottom board of an upright piano

August 10th, 2019
The bottom board of the piano was completely split rendering pedals unusable:
 
This board split along a glue joint.  (the board was joined from three boards at the factory some hundred years ago)  The board probably would have survived, except:  sometime in its history, the muffler rail for the center pedal was removed.   The center pedal then would flop to the floor.   Some enterprising soul screwed the back of the pedal to the board.  Then a healthy force on the pedal caused the board to split.  Oops.
 
The board was re-glued  along the broken joint.  The glue joint was reinforced with biscuit joinery.   (Here’s an article on biscuit joinery: https://www.familyhandyman.com/woodworking/wood-joints/building-cabinets-with-biscuit-joints/ )
 
The board was sanded and sealed with shellac:
Pedals were polished, and trap work was refurbished and reinstalled:
To avoid the problem of the drooping middle pedal, I installed a spring so that it would operate (without breaking the board),  But the middle pedal is a do nothing pedal!
 
Note:  the screws in the two outside pedals hold them down to simplify the installation of the bottom board in the piano.   They will be removed after the board is installed.




Hammond Glider TrimOSaw Model G40B

April 20th, 2019

As luck would have it, I’m now the proud owner of a Hammond Glider TrimOSaw.   These saws were manufactured from 1928 until the 1960s.   They were made for printshops, where they cut lead and wood type blocks for handset type.  The particulars of creating and setting type of the era elude me, but the accuracy and features of this saw do not!  It is amazing and will find many uses working with small parts.

The saw is a small sliding table saw, with precise calibration and 7″ carbide saw blade with a 0.010 inch kerf.   As a printer’s saw, the micrometer cutoff gauge is calibrated in picas and points.  A pica is approximately 1/6 of an inch and a point is 1/12 of a pica.   The  micrometer gauge has detents at each point and one-half of a point.   Doing the math, a half point is 1/6/12/2 = 0.007 inch.  Each click on the micrometer gauge knob advances the cutoff stop 0.007 inches.    Doing some research on print measurements, I found that pica widths were not completely standardized.  I found that the pica layout on this machine resulted in 6.03 picas per inch.  For the metrically inclined, on this machine a pica is 4.21 mm, and a half point is 0.176 mm.

Naturally after getting the saw up and running, I wanted to have a look at the accuracy it can achieve.  My test was to trim a block to a width of 4 inches.   6.03*4 = 24.12 or 24 picas and 1.44  points.  I set the guage to 24 picas and turned the dial another 1.5 points.   The result was fantastic: a block that measured 4.002 inches.  I don’t know if you can get excited about that, but I can.

Pianos have lots of small wooden parts, and this saw will be at home in the shop.   My recent post about trimming knuckles showed the process on the Delta Unisaw.   I had in mind to do it on this saw, but I didn’t quite have it up and running when it was time to trim the knuckles.

I bought the saw from a printshop in Ogden a few weeks ago.   My intuition and a few internet clues suggest that the saw was made in the 1950s.   I replaced the old three phase motor with a new 1 HP single phase motor.  I was able to acquire a new blade for the saw, made to Hammond specifications, by The Blade Manufacturing Company of Columbus Ohio.  Also included in the purchase but not pictured here is the very nice work hold-down clamp which is designed to hold very small pieces with clamping pressure very near to the blade.

Here’s the owner’s manual borrowed from vintagemachinery.org: Hammond Glider Saw User’s Manual.   I love the drawings, knowing that they were all done by hand.   Another lost art.

 

 

 





Knuckle trimming

April 15th, 2019

Knuckle trimming! I was pleased with the way this worked. I’m replacing knuckles in a 1918 Knabe. The shanks at the knuckle slot are 11.0 mm +/- 0.1 mm wide. The Abel knuckles are 11.7 mm +/- 0.1 mm wide. I made this sweet little jig to trim the knuckles to a width of 11.0 mm. (modern shanks e.g. Renner measure 11.7 mm in width)

11.7 mm knuckles on the left.  11.0 mm knuckles on the right.

The trimming jig.  The screw at the bottom of the bore allows for micro adjustment.

 

Ready for trimming

The jig set in the stopped miter gauge.

0.7 mm shorter.

The trimming operation.

 Context:   11 mm knuckle below.  11.7 mm Renner parts above.




A new grand piano lid

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.





Repair Skills Workshop

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.





House transformation

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.

Stage right

Stage Left

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.





1905 Heine Recondition

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.





Adam Schaaf Upright Piano – Action rebuilding

November 19th, 2017
Adam Schaaf Piano bottom board is reinstalled

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.

New treble dampers installed on Schaaf upright piano

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 piano hammers custom bored for installation

New Renner hammers have been custom bored for installation.





Restringing the Adam Schaaf Player Piano

November 19th, 2017
Piano Restringing in process

1919 Adam Schaaf upright piano restringing in process

Adam Schaaf player piano - stringing complete

Stringing is complete, and treble pressure bar is re-installed. This photo is taken from the perspective of the stringer while the piano is on its back.





Adam Schaaf Player Piano – Preparation for Restringing

October 4th, 2017

After completing work on the bottom board and keyframe, I’m preparing the piano for restringing.

Original Condition

Adam Schaaf player piano original condition of the low treble strings

Original condition of the low treble strings

 

Adam Schaaf Player piano: Original Condition of bass strings and tuning pins

Original Condition of bass strings and tuning pins

Preparation for Restringing

In preparation for resstringing: old strings and tuning pins have been removed, new understring cloth has been installed, tuning pin bushings have been removed, and the plate has been cleaned.

In preparation for resstringing: old strings and tuning pins have been removed, new understring cloth has been installed, tuning pin bushings have been removed, and the plate has been cleaned.
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.