Saturday, June 27, 2009

Steinway A1 Bridge Work

Recapping piano bridges is very exacting work. It is important that they are accurately duplicated, and that the wood joints are perfect. I use .030" Lexan to make patterns from the existing bridges. The first step is to remove the old bridge pins. This is done by gripping them with a Vise Grip and twisting and pulling upward until the pin surrenders it's place in the bridge. The Lexan can now be place on top of the bridges and indexed by drilling a hole through the Lexan and bridge body- all the way through. The using an awl, I indent the Lexan at every bridge pin, and finally, drill a hole through the Lexan into the vacant bridge pin holes. When this is completed, the caps are cut off on the band saw.

Next the bridge pin holes in the bridge body are fill with wood dowels. After the glue has dried, the tops of the bridge body is planed to just where all the old bridge cap is removed. Now we can lay out the new caps, by tracing the cut off caps. Care must be taken especially at the section joints for a tight fit. Lastly the caps are glued to the bridge body. I prefer Bolduc acoustic glue, as it is very heat resistant, and will not clog the drill bit when drilling the new pin hole. At this point, the bridge should be thicker than the the original, as when setting the bearing, we want to be able to remove material to obtain the desired bearing.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Steinway A1 Soundboard Pressed

After the ribs are indexed. I prepare them for gluing onto the soundboard. The cut outs for the reliefs in the ribs were saved and used as cauls for pressing the ribs. They are taped to the rib from where they were removed, and a hole is drilled through the indexing hole into the caul. a #7 bridge pin is inserted into the caul through the indexing hole, being left to protrude about 1/8". The ribs can then be dry-fitted onto the new panel, inserting the pins in the hole that were indexed into the new panel. Line are drawn to mark the location of the ribs before they are removed. the panel is now sealed in shellac everywhere but where glue will be applied. The original soundboard is used to set up the press for pressing the new board. When the panel has been brought down to 5% EMC, it is ready to be pressed. The press uses 100 PSI air pressure to clamp the ribs to the spruce panel. They are glues one at a time. Great care is taken to be sure that the ribs are placed in their indexing hole before pressure is applied to the rib. The whole process takes about 5" per rib. The loaded press is exerting about 15 tons of pressure on the soundboard.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Steinway A1 Rib Indexing

After the panel is shaped to fit snugly into the rim, the new panel must be indexed as I use the old panel as a pattern for drilling all holes in the new panel and for locating the ribs. I drill a hole in the end if each rib, through the rib and into the rim. Also, three locator holes were drilled through the old board into the rim before the old board was removed. After the holes were drilled, .086 dia. bridge pins are inserted with about 1/8" protruding from the top. The new fitted panel is then placed into the piano, and pressed down on the locator pins to index the new board panel. The old board is then placed on top of the new panel, and the locator holes are joined with a bridge pin. Now I can transfer all the hole from the old board into the new. When it is time to glue the ribs onto the new panel, the rib indexing holes are also aligned with a bridge pin.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Steinway A1 Soundboard Panel Cut and Fit

After the ribs are shaped and fit into the rim, the next step is to cut the new board panel, and fit it precisely into the rim of the piano. I purchase Eastern White Spruce panels already glued up, sanded to thickness, and slightly oversized. The old panel is used as a pattern to match the grain angle. The shape is traced onto the new panel, and the new panel is again cut slightly oversized. Now I will hand fit the panel into the piano as perfectly as possible, marking and removing material along the edges of the panel. This is rather tricky because of the shape of the rim being numerous curves and only one straight side. I plane the straight side to match the straight side of the rim first, then proceed to mark and sand areas that need material removed until the panel fits into the rim shelf.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Harp Project Completed

After the neck finish cured, I rubbed the entire neck and sound chamber with steel wool and wax to give the harp a satin patina. The holes were drilled to receive the guide pins and tuning pins. I chose to use piano tuning pins rather than the harpsichord pins supplied with the hardware. Installing the nylon strings was a bit different than music wire. Tuning the new strings and adding tension to the soundboard is some what frightening. Will my board design withstand the tension? Time will tell, but so far it is holding, although it has bowed upwards about 1/8" in the center. I am having a bit of trouble with the knots at the end if the strings sliding. I applied a drop of super glue to the knots and hopefully that will stop the sliding. The tuning pins require a fair amount of strength to move, but I am sure they will loosen up with time and use. I hope to take the harp and my grand daughter to meet the Cumberland Valley Harp Circle this Sunday.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Grandma and Grandpa Camp 2009



Tomorrow morning we leave to travel to MI to pick up three of our grandchildren, Andrew, Anna and Ava.. They will be joining their two cousins, Benjamin and Kara on our return trip on Wednesday afternoon. Our headquarters for the week will be at our cabin at Roxbury PA. There is lots to do there- wading in the creek, bike riding, campfires and lots of fun with Grandma and Grandpa. On Thursday we plan a day trip to Pine Grove Furnace State Park for swimming, hiking and a picnic. On Friday we will head to Chambersburg to visit the Gibbles Chip factory and to visit Great Grandma Wingert. Saturday afternoon we will return home to meet up with everyones parents. Greg and Beth will be traveling here to pick up their children so we don't have to make a return trip to MI.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Steinway A Soundboard Begun




This week I began building the soundboard for my Steinway grand. The foundation for the new soundboard is the ribs, so that is where we begin. Using the old soundboard as a pattern, rib stock is choose by length, grain density and wood species. Three wood species are generally used. Those being Sitka Spruce, Eastern White Spruce, and Sugar Pine. The Sitka Spruce is the most dense and has the tightest grain pattern, but it is also harder to work. The Eastern White Spruce is a bit lighter than the Sitka, and is generally easier to work. The Sugar Pine is even lighter and softer, and very easy to work. There are different theories as to which wood is better. Sometimes different species are used in the same board. Generally the theory is that the tighter heavier wood will give more reflective resonance in the high notes, and the lighter Sugar Pine gives the middle of the board more flexibility, and that the end of the board needs a little more strength due to the double bridge load in that section. That is how I configured this board. Does it make a difference? It's hard to say.

After the rough ribs are chosen, they need to be cut to length, width and height. I cut the width first, length next, and finally the thickness after a crown is cut unto the rib. Finally the end cutouts are band sawed and sanded as per the original board. Each rib is individually fitted into the notch in the liner with very close tolerances. This will assure me of a very solid foundation that I can build the remaining board and bridge structure upon.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Harp Neck Finish

Today I hope to complete spraying lacquer on the harp neck assembly. After the lacquer hardens a few days, I will be able to rub it with steel wool and wax, and then drill the holes for the guide pins and the tuning pins. Then I will mate the sound box and the neck assembly. The final step is to install the strings and tuning.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Steinway A Case Work Begins

I have begun the case repairs on the Steinway. There is a lot of damage from rough handling by the previous owner, and by sloppy work from the previous rebuilder. There is so much craftsmanship that can be done well or poorly that the customer never sees. I have learned a long time ago that you can't be a high end rebuilder and be cheap. If a client buys a "cheap" job, that is what they are going to get. It may not be evident to the untrained eye, but the player will hear and feel the difference between excellent craftsmanship and a poor craftsmanship. You get what you pay for is very true in piano rebuilding. If the price is cheap, the end result will be cheap. A cheap price for high quality work is call bankruptcy.