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

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

New WNG glide bolts

Glide bolts: old and new

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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

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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

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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

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Stieff Rebuild – Week One

March 7th, 2015

New WNG parts for the action were ordered two years ago. The three photos in the sequence here compare new wippens to old. The new wippens will be installed with a tall heel, unlike what is pictured here.

Compare old and new wippensCompare old and new wippensOld wippen

A comparison of old and new wippens

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The Stieff was recently moved out to the shop, and first steps taken were to clean keys and key frame with bead blast.  In this effort I used corn cob grit media, “Grit-O’cob” from Anderson’s Cob Products.

Key frame after cleaning

Key frame after cleaning

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After cleaning, key pins were removed. New WNG key pins will be installed. The maple feet for the action support brackets were removed. Newly sized feet will be installed to place the action stack at the optimal height.

Key frame after cleaning

Key frame after cleaning

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Additional views of the old action are shown in the group below:

The knuckles are rock hard and noisyTake note of "W N & G" cast in the action stack support

Old action

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The Stieff has a massive rim!

The massive rim of the Stieff piano

View of the rim

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Interestingly, the soundboard and ribs sit above the inner rim. Though I had been under this piano many times in the past ten years, I had not noticed that. While talking about the project at WESTPAC, Dale Erwin mentioned that quirk to me. Apparently he has quite a piano technology database stored in his head.

The massive rim of the Stieff piano

Another view of the rim

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A new life for Stieff 28334

March 5th, 2015
Charles Stieff Grand Piano 6'2" (1911)

Charles Stieff Grand Piano 6’2″ (1911)

I purchased the Charles Stieff grand in 2005. It was this piano that triggered my current development as a piano technician. I’d had prior experience in the field, but with this piano, I decided I wanted to develop real rigor in piano rebuilding. The last 10 years have been quite a journey, and along the way I’ve built and refined many skills. But I have yet to do a complete rebuild of a grand piano. If you are a piano technician who knows me, you also may understand that my personal definition of “rebuild” has evolved as my knowledge and appreciation for the art has progressed.

For this piano, I’ve set the goal of performing a full rebuild with completion by April 1, 2016 (the 64th anniversary of my birth and the 105th anniversary of the original construction of this piano). The scope of the project includes:

  • All new Wessell Nickel and Gross action (the original action is Wessell Nickel and Gross also)
  • New hammers by Ronsen
  • Professional case refinishing (no I will not be doing this work)
  • Complete restringing including:
    • New pinblock (Bolduc)
    • Refinished plate
    • Scaling Refinement
  • New Sitka Spruce soundboard (panel by Dale Erwin)

I cannot arrive at the level of a top-tier rebuilder with this first significant effort, but at every step, I will be aiming for the top. I’m going to have a very nice piano in my living room next year!

If you are a piano technician or have an interest in piano technology, I invite you to follow along here, to collaborate with me. Thanks!

Pulling balance rail pins

February 25th, 2015

The right tool for the job isn’t always obvious.

– pin should come out straight
– no damage should be made to the original hole
– the process should be efficient

Today’s solution:
A slightly modified pop rivet gun removes balance rail key pins axially, thus avoiding damage of the original hole. The only modification to the tool was to bore out the tip of the tool to match the diameter of the key pin.

Adjustable Action Model – Grand Piano

January 6th, 2015

As I prepare to do a complete action replacement on my 1911 Steiff piano, I wanted to be as rigorous as possible with analysis of the old, as I prepare to make modest changes to action geometry.   To move in that direction, I built an adjustable action model which will allow me to document the old geometry outside of the piano, and to mock up the new geometry.

The action model shown allows for independent adjustment of each pertinent dimension.   The model was built following the design of Bruce Clark of Wessel, Nickel and Gross.   It was fun to build, even though I’ve been putting it off for two years, now (I took WNG’s action replacement class in 2012).

The only significant changes that I made to Mr. Clark’s design, was to use machine screws and threaded inserts for attachments.   He had specified sheet metal screws for attachments.  The threaded inserts should provide for a long lasting connector.
Adjustable Grand Piano Action Model