Friday, February 27, 2009

Finishing. The Final Steps

After I have sprayed lacquer on the piano case parts to a sufficient build, the parts must be left set for a minimum of one week while the lacquer hardens. Then the laborious job of leveling and rubbing out the finish begins. The initial sanding is done with an orbital sander with 400 grit paper. The the hand sanding begins, first with 320 grit paper, and then 400 grit paper. Care is always taken to avoid rubbing through the finish, which creates a light spot. The final rub is a cleaning and waxing rub, using 0000 steel wool and steel wool wax. The end result is a beautiful satin ebony finish.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Baldwin F Damper Installation Completed

Between spraying coats of lacquer on case parts today, I was able to complete the installation of the dampers on the Baldwin F. The dampers have been spaced as they were installed, but the final regulation will take place after I have completed the rub out of the lyre and have installed the lyre and pedals pedals onto the piano. It is really necessary to have the sustain pedal operating for final fine regulation. That will have to happen next week.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Piano Technicians Guild

The mission of the Piano Technicians Guild is to promote the highest possible standards of piano service by providing members with opportunities for professional development, by recognizing technical competence through examinations and by advancing the interests of its members. Last evening I hosted our local chapter of the PTG at my shop. This a great group of guys that are interested in providing excellence in their piano work in their respective communities.

A regular feature of our monthly meeting is the technical portion. This month it was my turn to do the technical. I chose the topic Grand damper installation, as that is a project I am presently working on. The out line posted below connects with the previous posts on Grand damper installation.

S. Central PA Chapter PTG
February 24, 2009
Grand Damper Felt Replacement

1) When do you replace damper felts?
a. Old felts are contaminated
b. Old felt are hard from age
c. New strings are installed in piano
2) Preparing for damper removal
a. Check existing operation
i. Lift timing
ii. Buzzes, rattles, etc.
b. Measure underlever height from keybed
c. Number dampers as you remove them
d. Place in rack for easy handling
3) Related repairs
a. Guide rail felt replacement
b. Underlevers/back action
i. Remove and clean
ii. Check pinning
iii. Check lead weights
iv. Check flange glue joints (old Steinways especially)
v. Replace?
c. Lyre, pedals and trapwork
4) Removing old felts
a. Options
i. Dry- be careful not to remove wood
ii. Wet- be careful not to damage finish
b. Measure and count
i. Type of felt- Mono, Bi, Tri wedge, Tri flat
ii. Length of felt front and rear- are not always the same
iii. Configuration of felt- tri-tri, tri-flat, flat-flat
5) Preparing heads for new felts
a. Clean any remaining glue residue
b. Polish wires- Noxon polish
c. Refinish heads
6) Installing new felts on heads
a. Use only quality felts
i. Horizontal grain
ii. Even and centered cuts
iii. Proper thickness
b. Cut to proper length
c. Backing felt?
d. Glue on heads before installation
e. Center and align
f. Glues- Hot hide or Titebond Molding & Trim
g. Recreate original “scale”
7) Installing dampers in piano- Illustrated in piano
a. Reinstall back action and upstop rail
b. Setting underlever height with height gauge
i. Single lever gauge
ii. Gang gauge
iii. Ballast
c. Spacing heads
i. Centered side to side
ii. Perpendicular to string plane
iii. Front to back
d. Even lift
i. Timing- engage at ½ key stroke
ii. Rotational travel
iii. Linear travel
e. Tools needed
i. Duck bill pliers
ii. Needle nose pliers
iii. Wire bender pliers
iv. Hart damper tool
8) Trouble shooting
a. Bleeding dampers
b. Fine tuning lift
c. Winking dampers
i. Rotational
ii. Front-back
d. Pedal adjustment
9) Finishing up
a. Reinstall soustenuto
i. Realign tabs if necessary
1. Height
2. Front/back
b. Reinstall action
i. Recheck
1. Timing
2. Damping/bleeding
10) Take a break and marvel at your fine craftsmanship

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Michigan Crew!

We were blessed this weekend to have Greg and his family make the trip from Michigan to PA. They arrived on Friday evening late. On Saturday afternoon we enjoyed a family visit to the Oaks Museum at Messiah College. On Sunday afternoon we traveled to our Cabin at Roxbury, and had a delightful evening and morning before they left to return home at 10 AM. It is lots of fun playing games with our grandchildren!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Finishing Baldwin F Case Parts

This week I have spent a lot of time in the finishing room. Thankfully, all the stripping is done, and now I am putting the new finish on the parts. I started by filling a lot of dings in the case. Since this is an ebony finish, I don't need to worry about matching the wood grain. So I used a polyester filler, similar to what an auto body shop uses to fill dents. After I have completed the repairs, I applied wood filler to pieces that had open grain veneers. Some parts had maple veneer, which has closed wood grain, but some parts have a mahogany veneer, whick is very open. After sealing the wood with schellac, I begin spraying black lacquer until I get the necessary build for rubbing (sanding) the finish level.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Installing Newly Felted Damper Heads

Installing the newly felted damper heads into the piano is another one of those tedious jobs in piano restoration. The damper needs to sit squarely on the string, must be centered over the string, and must lift evenly at the proper time in the keystroke. All this is accomplished by bending and adjusting a thin wire that connects the damper head and felt to the underlever system. When done correctly, the entire set of dampers will lift evenly without "winking", or twisting. Most importantly, they will provide good damping of the vibrating string. Poor alignment and sloppy installation of dampers is a promise of poorly damping strings. In fact, even when you do the installation very carefully, you usually still need to tweek a string or two that is bleeding. I plan to share a technical on this subject on Tuesday evening when I host our monthly PTG meeting at my shop.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Installing New Damper Felts

On a previous post I discussed removing the old felts. Now we are ready to install the new damper felts to the prepared damper heads. There are various sizes and thicknesses of felts available. The goal is to recreate the original dimensions of the felt to reduce the amount of time required in installing the newly felted heads into the piano. There are 4 types of felts- Single, Double, Trichord and Flat. Again I duplicate the original design of the piano by using a variety of styles of felts. The new felts are glued onto the heads with a glue that sets up quickly, and is easily reversed. The most comman are HOT Hide Glue, or Titebond Molding glue. Note- do NOT use Liquid (cold) Hide Glue. Care must be taken to align the felts squarely on the heads. When all the felts are glued on and left set overnight, they are ready to be installed into the piano.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Grand Kids Are Great

This weekend we had 3 of our grand children for a sleep over. The pictures tell the story!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Install New Damper Felts- Preparation

The first step in install new damper felts is removing the old felts. Usually the felts were originally glued to the damper heads with a water soluable glue. I have a fixture that allows the old felts to be placed over a trough in which is placed a combination of warm water and wall paper remover. The felts are allowed to soak for 10-15 minutes and they will actually begin to fall off the damper heads. Then it is a simple job to clean off the remaining glue reside from the damper head. One word of caution-dry the heads as quickly as possible. Extended soaking may loosen the finish on the heads. While the heads are drying, the wires are cleaned with Noxon Polish. After the heads have dried over night, a fresh coat of lacquer is add to the tops of the heads. The dampers are now ready for new felts.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Harp Project Begun

I have a five year old granddaughter that is facinated with the harp. So being the wood working loving grandfather that I am, I have begun making a lap harp, to be completed for her September birthday.I purchased plans from Musicmaker's Kits, who provide a variety of musical instrument kits/plans for the woodworker. Rather than tracing the patterns from the plans onto the wood with carbon paper, I chose to have the plans duplicated and then proceded to make wooden patterns that I can trace onto the wood. I have a good supply of rough cut walnut, some nearly 2" thick, which is perfect for the pillar and neck. I plan to deviate slightly from the plans by applying some piano rebuilding principles aand materials to harp making. Time will tell if I am successful.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Yuck! Stripping Baldwin F Case Parts

One of the worst, no, make that the worst jobs in the piano restoration process is stripping the old finish from the case parts. A chemical stripper is applied to the old finish, and is let stand for about 30 minutes. Then it is removed with steel wool, and the parts are washed to remove any remaining finish. Protective gear must be worn, which makes it a very uncomfortable job. Today I spent 2 hours just doing the three legs and the lyre. A whole lot of other parts are awaiting me. Guess what I will be doing most of the week when I'm not tuning pianos?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Meet Al Dewett

Tomorrow Al will be performing for the UpStreet kids in PowerUp. Al is one of my favorite characters. He is big, so he is very visible. His personality is easy going and he is always on the lookout for a good laugh. Like his name suggests, (Al Dewitt-I'll do it) he is always quick to do what is right. He has two imaginary brothers Willie Dewitt and Kenny Dewitt. Tomorrow Al will be looking for some respect in some unusual places, but he learns that respect is not something we can find. Respect is how we treat people. We will be teaching the kids that we treat all people fairly, even those who are different.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Baldwin F -All Strings Attached

After about eight hours of twisting, cutting and hammering, all 230 strings are attached to tuning pins, pins driven into the pinblock, and the strings are resting in place on top of the the bridges and soundboard. This completes the belly work on the Baldwin F. In review, that included a new soundboard, new bridge caps, new pinblock, new strings and new tuning pins. This cost about $1000 for materials, and about 125 hours of labor. Not a small task!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Baldwin F Plate Installed

After the soundboard is complete, it's time to install the pinblock and plate to prepare the piano for receiving the new strings. The plate rests on the pinblock and wooden dowels. The dowels prevent the plate from resting on the soundboard, which would inhibit the sound. Finally, large screws and lag bolts firmly fasten the plate into the piano case.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Grand Action Regulation

The piano action is a facinating mechanical device that connects the players fingers to the touch, tone and sound produced by the instrument. It is a rather complex arrangement of levers made of wood and felt. The piano action allows the player to put feeling and color into their playing by varying the intensity at which the hammer hits the string. Originally the instrument was called the pianoforte.

With use and aging, these small pieces of felt wear and compress, causing the action to perform at a reduced level of tone production and control. Reconditioning and regulating the action restores and readjusts the many components to bring it to an optimal level of operation. Reconditioning involves reshaping the hammers, alignment of all the components, and cleaning in preparation for the regulation. Regulation is a rather tedious operation with 9 adjustments to be made for each of the 88 notes.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Agraffe Replacement - Baldwin F

To the non-piano technican, the word agraffe must seem a little strange. An agraffe is a small brass piece with holes in it that guide and space the the strings. They are found in most grand pianos and a few upright pianos. They also act as one of two speaking length termination points for the vibrating string, and are attached to the cast iron frame. Over time they can begin to weaken from the stress that they are put under with the tension of the string constantly bearing on them. Also, wear occurs with the movement of the strings through the tiny holes in the agraffe. This can cause tonal issues, which can be very annoying, and difficult to remidy. For this reason, on any piano more than 40 years old that I am rebuilding, I insist on replacing the agraffes.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

UpStreet @ McBIC

Rosanna and I have the privilege of giving leadership to an awesome ministry at McBIC called UpStreet. This is a small group based ministry for children grades K-5. We have 11 small group leaders and have an average attendance of 65 children. Each month we study a virtue from a series of 36 virtues. February's virtue is Fairness-making sure that everyone is treated respectfully. Every week we have a different Bible story, and a Bottom Line that helps the kids apply the lesson to their own lives. The kids meet with their SGL for 15 minutes before coming to a 30 minute large group time. Then they return to their small groups for 30 minutes of various activities that help them make life applications. There are three basic truths that we teach: I can trust God no matter what, I need to make the wise choice, and I need to treat others the way I want to be treated.