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#1363316 - 02/01/10 02:37 PM Restoring Fallboard with elaborate brass inlay?
Cielo Azure Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/01/10
Posts: 3
Question: On a black lacquered fallboard with elaborate brass inlay, what are my options for restoring the finish on the face of the fallboard, while also preserving the inlay?

Context: I have purchased an 1897 Viennese 6’3” parlor grand in original working condition (Viennese action works great, buckskin covered hammers in great shape, casting guilding intact, soundboard intact, ivory near perfect, minor cracks in the pinblock but holds the pins and tune, original strings, exterior finish a bit rough). Piano was imported directly to Atlanta when new, then passed down and cherished by 4 generations, then sold during a home downsizing as "just an old piano". Tone is wonderful, action could be faster, but what do you expect from 1897?

Purpose is to support the further development of my 17 yo son’s playing, and his Steinway-sponsored concert pianist teacher loves the piano (although it is certainly not a Steinway D, like the one he has at home and uses for lessons). The teacher absolutely supports our keeping this antique at this point rather than buying a used Kawai/Yamaha (“built like a tank, and sounds like one too”, “no character like this one has” "I love old things").

Design and manufacture is similar to Bosendorfer of the same vintage (about 200 piano manufacturers in Vienna at the time, this one “Vinzenz Oeser” was of the top echelon).

The fallboard has an elaborate brass inlay with the Austrian eagle, large lettering identifying the maker, the seller, and the makers designation as the Austrian equivalent of “by special appointment to the emperor and prince” (which Bosendorfer did not have at the time …). Unfortunately, it also has quite a bit of crazing of the surrounding black lacquer- fortunately no flaking (yet). The inlay is all quite intact.

A related challenge is the double linear brass inlay (like a pair of pinstripes) which runs all around the skirt of the case and the rim of the top.

For those interested, pics can be seen at http://www.cieloazure.com/piano.html

"leave it alone" is certainly an acceptable answer concerning the face of the fallboard.

Thanks in advance for any advice!

robert

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#1363324 - 02/01/10 02:49 PM Re: Restoring Fallboard with elaborate brass inlay? [Re: Cielo Azure]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4526
Loc: San Jose, CA
I'd ask your tech, or a local piano store, whom they use for finish work. This sounds like a job for a lacquer-experienced refinish expert. You might also post your question on the Tuner/Tech forum; someone there may know a local outfit they like.

By the way, no call to smackdown other people's pianos. But good luck on the refinish project, and on your son's music education. The cracked pinblock is concerning, but it sounds like a special and beautiful instrument. No doubt, your piano tech has already had a look at it.

Come to think of it, I don't really know what a tank sounds like; I've never seen one in person. For all I know, my piano might sound like a tank.
_________________________
Clef


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#1363366 - 02/01/10 03:28 PM Re: Restoring Fallboard with elaborate brass inlay? [Re: Jeff Clef]
V10BlackBox Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 23
Loc: San Diego
If it is a actual brass inlay stripe and not gilding then restoration will be very easy for a professional restorer. If its a brass gilding then IMO just leave it alone its got a period look to it and it will only be original once.
_________________________
________________________________
1920 Steinway Style S

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#1363383 - 02/01/10 03:44 PM Re: Restoring Fallboard with elaborate brass inlay? [Re: Jeff Clef]
Cielo Azure Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/01/10
Posts: 3
Hi Clef:

My apologies. No intent to smackdown. I would have loved to buy my son a GS-30/40, KG2 etc. None in my price range! He just happens to like Kawai tone and action over Yamaha, hence the choice of example. In any case, just a proactive attempt to document that for this particular antique piano, the restoration juice may well be worth the squeeze.

These days, it seems that there are many voices making the argument of why not to restore a piano, when there is such good product coming over from Japan (graymarket or new). The laid off Steinway repair folk (no business these days due to the economy) that I have had come out to tune and assess this old piano all pretty much made the case for sell it ASAP and get a used Kawai/Yamaha.

No offense intended in any way, and did not even cross my mind that my comments would be taken as such.

Thanks for your comments.

Generally, response from restoration folk that I have spoken with seem to run along the lines of "I don't touch pianos" or, from the piano types "why not just get a decal". I investigated the decal idea, and that is a no go. Not much of a market for decals for obscure european piano manufacturers.

Yes, I agree the pinblock is a source of concern. At least the soundboard is intact. Sort of a one day at a time situation. The Steinway types may turn out to be right in the end. Or not. Time will tell. But my understanding is that pinblock repair is not advised, and replacement is prohibitive ($$$) due to having to tear it down and rebuild all the guts, restring, new damper pads, etc.

It is currently tuned nicely to itself, 1/2 step below A440. My sense is that if it is ever to come up to concert pitch, one needs to sort of sneak up on that over many months of re-tuning, and it still may have some catastrophic failure. Would very much welcome any comments/advice concerning that issue also!

Wheras Yamaha/Kawai products are considered bombproof in this regard, or so I hear.

I am a newbe to this piano restoration world, but a longtime collector of various types of turn of the century stuff (like carriages), and it seems to me that these older pianos merit some respect- who knows, there may be aspects to their design that might merit consideration by future manufacturers? And to my untutored ear, I do think that the time and timber/resonance on this one is quite different from similar sized modern instruments (in a good way).


Best wishes

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#1363394 - 02/01/10 03:57 PM Re: Restoring Fallboard with elaborate brass inlay? [Re: Cielo Azure]
Steve Jackson Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/02/07
Posts: 681
Loc: Zichron Yaacov, Israel

Hi:

Nice looking piano. I believe you could clean and polish the piano
to restore it. No need to do anything else. Speak to someone experienced
in 'Germanizing' (a form of French Polishing) to spend a couple of days
on the case. You should get great results.

Good luck!

Steve
_________________________
International sales of vintage Piano and restoration.
Exclusive Live Performance Player Systems Dealer

http://stevejacksonpianos.com

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#1363400 - 02/01/10 04:02 PM Re: Restoring Fallboard with elaborate brass inlay? [Re: Cielo Azure]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4526
Loc: San Jose, CA
Aw, no offense taken at all--- you have to work a lot harder at it than that, around here--- home of twenty-page flame wars. I liked your expression about the juice being worth the squeeze, and truly wish you the best of luck with the project.
_________________________
Clef


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#1363415 - 02/01/10 04:16 PM Re: Restoring Fallboard with elaborate brass inlay? [Re: Cielo Azure]
pianobroker Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/14/07
Posts: 4309
Loc: North Hollywood CA.
In that the finish is crazing,the question is whether one has to strip it down to the wood or not. Considering the age of the piano that might be the case. If you could just wet sand the fallboard not sanding thru the black base coat
than brasso just the brass letter inlay and than shoot a clear coat of polyurethane or polyester,color sand and buff. It might work.
It is a tricky proposition. Now the fallboard will look newer than the rest of the piano. What do you think resident refinishing experts ?. grin
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#1363431 - 02/01/10 04:29 PM Re: Restoring Fallboard with elaborate brass inlay? [Re: pianobroker]
acortot Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/28/07
Posts: 511
Loc: Italy
I'd keep the natural resin ebony finish (french polish)..

it's easy to maintain forever if you know someone who is good at doing it.
_________________________
rhythm must be inborn - Alfred Cortot

An Article on the unusual makeup of original Pleyel hammers, during Chopin's lifetime:

http://acortot.blogspot.it/2012/07/pleyel-hammers-in-chopin-era-i-martelli.html

Max DiMario

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#1363434 - 02/01/10 04:32 PM Re: Restoring Fallboard with elaborate brass inlay? [Re: acortot]
Steve Jackson Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/02/07
Posts: 681
Loc: Zichron Yaacov, Israel

Hey PB:

I usually agree with you, but not here. A modern solution for an old
finish will not work well and look strange. No sanding needed, just
cleaning and polishing. The new french polish will remove the crazing
and you can do the rest of the piano and it will look great, with some distressed areas to show its age.

Steve
_________________________
International sales of vintage Piano and restoration.
Exclusive Live Performance Player Systems Dealer

http://stevejacksonpianos.com

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#1363468 - 02/01/10 05:17 PM Re: Restoring Fallboard with elaborate brass inlay? [Re: Steve Jackson]
Cielo Azure Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/01/10
Posts: 3
Thank you all for that learned discussion.

Can you recommend a resource or web site for "Germanizing"?

I like the idea of working with what is there, and not feeling like one needs to make it look "new".

Also like the idea of a solution which does not require me to put it into the garage (hand rubbed lacquer) or tear it apart and send it to the spray booth.

I have repeatedly read the words "French polish", but without understand the meaning. Do I understand correctly that it basically involves a black stain covered by shellac and then buffing with compounds of various grits?

Do I also understand correctly that this may have been something like how it was originally finished, and hence why the brass inlay strips worked as a detail (they do not accept stain)?

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#1363484 - 02/01/10 05:43 PM Re: Restoring Fallboard with elaborate brass inlay? [Re: Cielo Azure]
John_B Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/17/10
Posts: 621
Loc: Bristol, UK
Deleted (best leave it to the experts).


Edited by John_B (02/01/10 06:26 PM)

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#1363533 - 02/01/10 07:03 PM Re: Restoring Fallboard with elaborate brass inlay? [Re: Cielo Azure]
pianobroker Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/14/07
Posts: 4309
Loc: North Hollywood CA.
Yeah...I agree with you guys afterall. smile Though even if you french polish the fallboard,you would still need to cut it back blocksanding the brass inlay. The brass is probably elevated above the black base coat.
Actually,I heard,that is how Yamaha does their fallboards.
Of course,they're dealing with polyester.
_________________________
www.pastperfectpiano.com
Largest selection in the USA
100+Steinway and M&H grands
Warehouse showroom Onsite Restoration
Preowned & Restored
Hailun dlr.818-255-3145
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_z8RvhXGKzY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Voo0zumHGgE

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#1363540 - 02/01/10 07:13 PM Re: Restoring Fallboard with elaborate brass inlay? [Re: John_B]
David-G Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/17/06
Posts: 1285
Loc: London
French polish uses shellac to achieve a very tough mirror-like surface. It was frequently used on antique furniture. I am no expert and cannot recommend any particular reference; but if you search for "French polish" with Google, you will find plenty.

I absolutely agree with acortot's recommendation. Please don't coat it with polyurethane!

You would do well to find an expert restorer of antique furniture.

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#1363542 - 02/01/10 07:14 PM Re: Restoring Fallboard with elaborate brass inlay? [Re: pianobroker]
Brandon_W_T Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/10
Posts: 1940
Loc: Omaha, Nebraska
That is a very beautiful piano! I envy you! I am a nut for vintage pianos.
Still hoping I can get this free Baldwin Model L thats from the 20s! Its going to be a project! Needs new pin block.
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