This is a piano that was given to me (for the cost of moving), with the understanding that I would find it a good home. I readily agreed, because it was a fine old piano that I didn’t want to see thrown out. However, it needed to be rebuilt and refinished before a home could be found.
As you can see, the former owner had tried to start the refinishing process by attempting to strip the old finish by himself.
The Ivory keys are missing and chipped.
The Action and Keyboard both need rebuilding, and as you can see, are quite dirty.
Click on a picture to enlarge it.
Before I removed the Bass Strings, I took a paper pattern of them so that they can be rescaled and remade by John Schenke.
Then I removed the Plate and cleaned both the plate and the soundboard.
The body of the piano was then placed on a tripod, covered with a blanket and then a heater placed underneath. The soundboard will then be warmed for the next few days to dry it out in preparation for the ribs to be re-glued, and the cracks shimmed. So far, there are two cracks which basically go from one end of the board to the other. As it dries out, these cracks may open up, or more may appear.
After the soundboard had baked, I then re-glued any loose ribs I found.
Many rebuilders use screws to clamp the freshly glued ribs back tight to the board, but I dislike adding pieces of metal to something that is designed to vibrate. You may also see where this repair has been done using screws, then the screws removed when the glue is dry and the hole filled with a plug. This is certainly superior to leaving the screw in, but it is important to use plugs, not dowels, and it works best when the plugs are made from old soundboard material. I use clamps with piano wire fed through the existing soundboard cracks and wrapped underneath the rib to draw the two pieces together. This way the repair is invisible.
After the ribs were re-glued, the clamps were removed, and the cracks filled with a shim made from a piece of scrap soundboard. I then scraped off all the old finish, sanded the board down and put on several coats of lacquer.
The bridge caps were fine except for a number of hairline cracks around some of the pins, so I removed all the old pins, and used a special glue when installing new bridge pins which fill these cracks.
I cleaned the keyboard and key frame using the glass bead blasting cabinet…
Then the old key tops were removed, and new plastic tops applied. After shaping the new tops by hand, cleaning the sharps, and re-felting the key frame, the end product looked like this:
Quite a change from what they looked like before eh?
The back and belly had been rebuilt. Now, it’s time to restring!
The case sides were split down their length, so instead of routing out the inside of the sides, inserting new wood, gluing and clamping them back together and repairing the veneer, I just made new cabinet parts!
I did keep the original toe-blocks and gable-ends, but modified them to make the case more contemporary in style. In the above picture, the new sides are glued and clamped to the back.
Here it is with the key bed and legs on. Notice that I made new tapered legs to replace the old finial-ed columns.
Then, after the glue was cured, I lifted the piano off the tripod, and onto a tipping horse.
I then put on the bottom board, and installed new rubber wheel casters.
And so, this is what it now looks like:
You can tell from this picture which parts are the original, and which are the new parts. (Compare it to the picture at the top of the post!)
All done. This piano’s famous!
Now it’s time to finish it in hand-rubbed Satin Ebony!