I am pleased to say that this winter has given me some time to get back to rebuilding this Chickering Quarter Grand piano. Here is the cabinet, or parts of it anyway.
The main chunk is mounted on temporary legs while I work on the actual ones. The rest of the “fly parts” (those that can be removed) are hanging on the rack behind it. It’s had several coats of lacquer now, and I am letting that settle and shrink before the final rub.
My half inch, single speed, heavy duty drill is all decked out with an air gun aimed at the bit, and a bubble level that sort of looks like a white disc floating above it. The air will blow away the debris, and cool the bit somewhat. The 360° bubble level keeps everything lined up, and is set to drill the tuning pin holes leaning back at the proper 7° angle. It’s slow and steady work with an emphasis on uniformity in motion and timing. The resulting holes are where the tuning pins will eventually be driven in. I think I have drilled around 12,000 tuning pin holes in forty years.
At this point the cast iron plate has been all cleaned up and regilded (well, it’s a fancy paint and lacquer top coat). Brass “agraffes” and various brass nuts and bolts have all been polished in readiness for re-installing the plate, with it’s new pinblock back into the piano cabinet.
I still have hours of work ahead of me on this nice piece, but it’s exciting to me to see it beginning to come together. I’ll post more as it does.
This nice McPhail upright is one of the only two pianos that I’m technically allowed to service in Canada. Judging by the tape on the floor, it’s about twelve feet over the line from the USA.
For those unfamiliar with this unique situation, I will explain that I am working in the Haskell Free Library located in BOTH Derby Line, Vermont, and Stanstead, Quebec. The tape line is quite literally, (it is a library) the international boundary between our two countries. Whatever the country, I love working in libraries – it’s so nice and quiet. The other piano I tune in Canada? It’s right upstairs in the Opera House.
Click here to learn more about this very cool building.
I am really pleased with the way this nice Richmond upright is coming out. I’ll be finishing the work on it this week and will post it for sale on my website. Meanwhile here’s a preview.
Outside, I have been working to maximize the beauty of the cabinet–short of stripping and refinishing. Repairing an old finish is time consuming, but often well worth the effort. The process includes veneer patching, stick lacquering, coloring, and building layers of new finish over the old. This piano was manufactured 118 years ago. I would rather let that come through in this case (pun?), than attempt to make it look perfectly new.
Inside, this fine piano has been thoroughly rebuilt with new hammers, dampers, key bushings, bass strings, new bass bridge, and bridle straps. Essentially every wear part has been updated with brand new material.
I had a great year in 2017 with sales of similar pianos as well as a few smaller and more modern instruments. Now I am working to refresh my inventory. I am still moving along on the Chickering Quarter Grand about which I have posted before, but keeping the showroom full of ready-to-go pieces has been a priority.
A very nice, relatively new Yamaha console piano was painful to play. Not to the ears, but to the hands and wrists. The key “dip” was either never set right initially or had worn itself into a woefully shallow position. Key dip refers to downward travel distance, and should measure about 3/8″. This piano was bottoming out at little more than 1/2″. After a few minutes of playing…ouch, what a pain! This is something like playing an otherwise very nice guitar, with the action set W A Y to high.
Shimming up the keyframe’s balance rail adds to key hight. This global tweak helps make short work of the finer, individual key adjustment that follows, when proper height and dip are set. After regulating the rest of the parameters, the action now plays like new.
My tool box is where recycled playing cards go to die, or in this case (pun), where they go to become integral parts of fine musical instruments. Thank you, King of Hearts!
The Goodrich memorial library in Newport has a lovely upstairs meeting room with a very nice Ivers and Pond piano as a focus. They take good care of it and it gets a lot of use with various concerts and recitals. I love tuning library pianos. It’s almost always nice and quiet and in this case the acoustics are great.
After spending some quality time in the sunny south, Heidi and I have returned to witness spring in Vermont’s beautiful North East Kingdom. I spent the last two weeks catching up with many of my great tuning clients and their home service calls. I also finally added some pianos for sale to my website:
Next, I have a major grand piano restoration job starting this month for a local church, and I hope to find time to continue work on the Chickering Quarter Grand that has been my on-going shop project. Looks like a busy season ahead. I hope yours is looking good too!
Easter and Christmas are two times of the year that I have the pleasure of working in many of the beautiful churches in our area. They are almost always nice and quiet, but sometimes a little chilly. Here are a few pictures of some of them. Perhaps you will recognize some. Continue reading Going to church
Like some other fine manufacturers, the McPhail company applied the same high quality veneer and finish inside and out of its upright pianos. So if I set the fence of my table saw just right, I can slice off a vertical and horizontal strip from the inside of the bottom panel where it won’t show. With that done, I now have an arsenal of original, matching 1915 mahogany veneer to make repairs with. This piano arm was gnawed at or worn away by something. It will look original when done; it will be done with original material!