Rebuild of Stieff 28334

Stieff 28334: A log of the rebuilding effort

March 19th, 2015

The rebuild of Stieff (Serial number 28334) commenced in my shop in March of 2015. The piano was originally manufactured by the Charles Stieff Company of Baltimore in 1911. The rebuild project will be complete: including stringing, pinblock, soundboard and action.





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.





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.

 

 

 

 





Stieff Rebuild – Week 25

September 13th, 2015

I expect to have more time for the rebuild in November, after I finish the rebuild of a fine, old Emerson upright. Customers come first! In the meantime, with the sub-contracted finishing, work does continue! Below, I’m doing the solo work of loading the plate (200+ pounds of iron) into my trailer. It’s going to Heritage restorations for re-guilding.

The plate of Steiff 23334 - on it way to refinishing.

The return trip brought home the case of the piano. The case has received a factory new (or better) hand rubbed lacquer finish. A work of art! The picture below doesn’t quite do it justice, but you’ll get the idea!

The case of 6-3 Stieff 28334 grand piano after refinishing in hand rubbed lacquer





Stieff Rebuild – Week 21

August 2nd, 2015

I am grateful for my customers, and they are taking my time! The Stieff Rebuild is not moving along, but the soundboard has arrived. The custom made soundboard was built by  Erwin’s Piano Restorations. I asked the Erwins to make three identical boards, as I have two more Stieff pianos of the same model. With this level of commitment, progress will continue!

2015-07-21 10.19.48

The Sitka Spruce soundboard panels are beautiful, and one is just stunning with impressive flare in the grain.





Stieff Rebuild – Week 16

June 28th, 2015

The piano was prepared for its trip to the refinishing shop. It’s there now. I anticipate its return late in August. New Wessel Nickel and Gross leg plates were installed. This makes the piano more predictable for movers, and certainly safer for everyone. One of the original leg plates was broken.


Some photos of interest:


The router jig that I used with a straight cutting bit to cut out the recess for the new leg plate. WNG sells a nice template and bit system using a top guided router bit. Not wanting to invest, I worked a little harder.




Leg plate and case plate installed. The old hardware is displayed alongside the new. Stieff used an unusual cast iron plate that twists on. On the right, note that one of those castings had broken some time in the past. The new plate diameter is a quarter inch smaller than the old. After this photo was taken, I filled the gap with epoxy.



Installed.



Cleaned up the inner rim, paring away old soundboard residue




Stieff Rebuild – Week 15 – Tear Down

June 17th, 2015

Week 15? Yes. I made no progress on the project for the past 10 weeks. Oh my. Interruptions were a lot of customer work, a week at Renner Academy, and reconditioning of a Yamaha P22 for resale.

But on with the story:

I had the time this week to do the major tear down of the piano in preparation for case refinishing, soundboard replacement, and pin block replacement.

Here are photos of interest:

Nice bass strings. It’s a shame they have to go for the sake of the project.

 

Mapping old soundboard crown prior to releasing string tension.

 

Completely unstrung.

 

Plate levitation.

 

Steiff used plate height adjustement screws at each plate bolt, instead of dowels. I’ll be using Mason & Hamlin plate bolts which allow for height adjustment during assembly without removing the plate.

 

Recording the position of bridges relative to the case, per techniques described by Nick Gravagne

 

Cutting out the pinblock with help from a 16″ Makita circular saw. Looking carefully, you’ll see a shoe plate attached to the saw, controlling the position of the cut.

 

The pinblock cut was finished with a hand saw, and the last bit of glue joint was broken out. Subsequently the 2 mm of material remaining on the stretcher was carefully removed by moistenting, heating with an iron and peeled off with a chisel.

 

Preparing for soundboard removal. Glue joint was weakened with vinegar. It popped right out with a little dancing on its bottom. Check out the massive rim on this piano!

 

The point of no return!





Stieff Rebuild – Week 5

April 8th, 2015


It was a vacation week! Terri and I enjoyed a few days in sunny California, and since we were near Modesto, we paid a visit to the shop of Dale Erwin. Dale was a gracious host, who shared his knowledge and enthusiasm for rebuilding and belly work. It’s great to have him as a collaborator. Dale will be supplying the soundboard panel for the Stieff. I plan to do the ribbing. Here’s Dale with a soundboard he made for a Steinway D: Dale Erwin with a soundboard he built

While we were on vacation, FedEx was not. A package of handmade tools was waiting for me on my return:

A collection of hand made tools from Dana Mazzaglia

A collection of hand made tools from Dana Mazzaglia

Click to expand this photo


These tools were made by Dana Mazzaglia. All are used in piano belly work. You go to the head of the class if you can name each and its function.

Despite the vacation, I did squeeze in some time to do work on the key-side resurfacing jig. It’s quite the jig. If these photos do not reveal the ultimate plan … hang on. All secrets of my conniving mind will be revealed. But basically the jig will allow re-dimensioning the width of the white keys to a uniform width with a uniform spacing. A significant step forward in obsessiveness (which I think is justified: the keyboard is the interface for the musician, and these details build success).


Shown below are a few photos of progress on the key side resurfacing jig:





Stieff Rebuild – Week 4

March 31st, 2015

Keyframe Work

Earlier, I completed woodwork and cleanup on the keyframe. This week, I installed new WNG keypins. I installed 88 keypins for the center rail, but just the 52 pins for the whites on the front rail. This will allow me to cut through the area of the sharps key pins when resurfacing the sides of the white keys. The front rail WNG pins are made with a small diameter insertion shaft which apparently matches current European standards, but requires bushing for classic American applications. This required re-boring the front rail holes for nylon bushings, and subsequently boring the nylon bushings for the insertion of the key pin. That obviously was quite a bit of extra work, but produced a really nice result.

Inserting nylon bushings in front rail with drill press arborPressing in key pins with drill press arborAdjustable angle table for drill press, used for pressing center rail pins at a 95 degree angle

Key bed pinning with Wessel, Nickel and Gross pins

Click to see a slideshow of 3 photos

The front rail got new key bushings. They were bushing close to tolerance, as that will be important when resurfacing the key sides.

Front rail bushed uniformly using Spurlock key bushing caulsAlong the way,some  of the fragile sharp key mortises were replaced with new wood inserts and mortised.

Key bushing

Click to see a slideshow of 2 photos

I prepared a phenolic blank for subsequent use in a jig for resurfacing the key sides. More details will follow. I established 52 equal spacing by subdividing the total width of the keyboard. This was facilitated by creating 64 spacings — something that is easier to divide than 52. Click the photo below for two more related to this preliminary setup for the key surfacing jig:

Phenolic blank is trued up with the routerTrammel points were made to aid in dividing the breadth of the keyboard evenly.Final division showing the width of 64 equal spaces scribed on the blank. (52 will be used)

Key side resurfacing jig in progress

Click to see a slideshow of 3 photos





Stieff Rebuild – Week 3

March 23rd, 2015

Key work
I had considered doing ivory repair on this piano, but in the end I decided that there were just too many cracks, chips, and mis-matches for me to be satisfied with the appearance. On the other hand, the ebony sharps are in near perfect condition. For those, I plan to strip, re-stain, and finish with a hard wax. This week I performed preparatory work for key top replacement. My basic procedure is described in this article.

Radial Arm Saw Upgrade

For the key work I will be establishing or re-establishing uniform spacing of key heads.  I’ve admired the work of others as they have addressed this detail.  I’ll be applying carefully sized veneer layers to the sides of the key heads to achieve this uniformity.  For the work, I’ll be creating a jig to use with the radial arm saw.  More details will be forthcoming.   But some serious time went into getting the radial arm saw station ready for this precision work.   The prior table for the saw was inadequate in several ways:

I created a new flat table using torsion box construction.   The table is 8 feet in total width, which will support a keyframe jig on either side of the blade.  The depth from front edge to the fence is now 530 mm,  which will support the full width of a keyframe.  

1952 Delta-Milwaukee Radial Arm Saw in its new table1952 Delta-Milwaukee Radial Arm Saw in its new tableRadial Arm Saw sitting on its new torsion box tableRadial Arm Saw sitting on its new torsion box table

Radial Arm Saw table rebuild

Click to see a slideshow of 4 photos

This finely engineered saw is both special and remarkable.   It was purchased new in 1952 by my Dad, Harvey McGuire. It was  used in his shop until his passing in 2001.   1952 was also the year of my birth, so this saw and I share quite a bit! Happy 63rd birthday, old saw!





Stieff Rebuild – Week Two

March 17th, 2015

I completed some more work related to the key frame, and the mind is spinning with plans for the next steps. As I move ahead, I invite my piano technician friends to comment on what you see and infer here. It is only by using the best of the best ideas that I can hope to achieve excellence with this project.

Key frame observations
I’ve had the action in and out of this piano many times in the past 10 years, but upon examining things for rebuild, I do see a few things in a different light. Of interest: the bottom of the front rail. It is flat. There is no raised edge at the front to allow for mating with the keybed. Instead, as the photos below show, there are three springs plus the end blocks which snug the keyframe down to the keybed. The system is still working well 104 years later. In the past, I’d adapted to the presence of these springs on removing and installing the action, but I had not appreciated their practical effect. Note that the center rail is notched at an angle (front to back slope), so that the center rail will slide up and over the springs on the way out.

Interesting keyframe bedding deviceInteresting keyframe bedding device

Keyframe bedding springs

Click to see a slideshow of 2 photos

While bare, the keyframe received new, slick WNG anodized aluminum glide bolts:

New WNG glide bolts

Glide bolts: old and new

Click to expand this photo

New back rail cloth was installed as per the original with an inner cloth creating a raised profile. I used fish glue to install. Also, new feet (at a new height) were installed for the new action frame. Hammer flange center pin height was determined using methodology of Wessel, Nickel and Gross.

New backrail cloth and action frame feet

Back rail

Click to expand this photo

New action frame sits upon the reconditioned key frame (approximately in position for now)

Action frame modelling on the key frame

Action frame modelling on the key frame

Click to expand this photo

While preparing to install new WNG keypins, I built a 6 foot table for the drill press this afternoon.

New drill press tableNew drill press table

Drill Press Table

Click to see a slideshow of 2 photos