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King of Hearts to the Rescue.

King of Hearts 3

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! 

King of Hearts
Ready to go.
King of Hearts 2
On the job.
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Goodrich library – another nice venue.

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.  

Goodrich library
Ivers and Pond piano at the library.
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I had a great vacation, but now back to work.

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:Currier Console #94876 Yamaha Console with Bench McPhail #55036

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!

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Here’s a neat trick.

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!

Panel with veneer removed
The much lighter core wood on the edges of the inside of this panel show where I have “harvested” the mahogany veneer.
McPhail Arm
It usually works better to change out a whole piece rather that attempt a small patch.
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Interesting Antique from about 1800

Astor and Company Full Open

The world has seen approximately 320 years of piano building.  The era of the modern piano began in about 1880.  This interesting antique is an “Astor & Company” square piano from about 1800.  Son Sherwin, also a piano technician, ran across this piece while doing some moving around the Portland, Maine area.  It’s obviously in need of restoration if one hoped to play it.  Design aspects of this instrument demonstrate one step in the evolution of modern pianos.  It notably lacks a cast iron plate, therefore the string tension would be much lower than we use today, affecting tone.  If only it could talk!  Imagine who might have played this 217 years ago…  

Astor and Company Full Open
Full view. Action on the left. The soundboard (central) with its bridge is smaller than a cello, so we can be sure that the tone was rather delicate compared to modern instruments.
Astor and Company Fallboard
Hand painted name board.
Astor and Company Tuning Pins
You can just see the letter names of the notes hand written on the pin block.
Astor and Company Action Detail
Action visible below the worn and missing strings. The dampers are off track and misshapen, but all the principles that define “piano”–or in this case “fortepiano”, are present.
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What I am working on this week.

This week I have been continuing work on the Chickering Quarter Grand.  Patching the plate finish is easier once a working color is applied; the minor defects are made more visible. The body of this beast is beginning to show its real beauty.  I now have the soundboard refinished, and about half of the exterior finish has been applied.  

Chickering Q. G. Plate
Temporary working color on the Chickering plate. This is not the final look.
Scraping old finish off the sound board.
Scraping old finish off the sound board.
Decal Applied.
Decal Applied.

I also just picked up this action from a friend and client who has asked me to make improvements to the touch and tone of his piano. It is getting new hammers, key bushings and the requisite regulation.