I have owned some really wretched pianos over the years. In my drinking days, I was just happy to beat out the blues on a piano if all the keys returned. Now I expect more out of a piano, but, I am sure, not remotely close to what some do.
I recently acquired a 54" upright, old-school pre-1929 of uncertain make. It says "Whittier NY" and somebody told me that means it was made by Kimball. It was essentially unplayable and I have done the following:
** Restrung the 25 bass notes -- at which time I filled cracks in the bass bridge with epoxy.
** Replaced the hammers.
** Replaced the keytops.
** Done extensive work on the action. I had a free piano that didn't work out due to pinblock separation and loose ribs on the soundboard etc., but it had the same type of action with the exception of shorter stickers and that action donated a whole lot of hammer butts and whippens to to the decrepit action in the current piano.
I am not at all unhappy with the result and have less than $1k total in the project --and lots of hours! I have made a lot of mistakes such that I think I would prefer not to post pix of my work in order not to offend the squeamish
but I don't think any of the mistakes are fatal. I have learned a LOT, and learned how much more there is to learn, as well.
What still needs to be done:
** Final professional tuning after the bass strings get a little more stabilized. I am tuning them myself with the help of a smartphone app that has an "Equal temprament -- streched" option.
** The 17lb Abel hammers are considerably heavier than what was on there and tomorrow I plant to try lightening the touch weight. I am fortunate in that the keys have weights behind the balance rail that I can remove. Not too concerned about lift weight, because it is currently over 30 grams -- nice aspect of used broken in parts!
** Properly regulate all the dampers. I ordered a spoon bender for uprights today.
** Perform a more thorough and precise regulation of the action per Reiblitz after the used parts get better acquainted with each other. At this time I have done little beyond hammer stroke, lost motion and let-off. Some of the capstans were getting a little wobbly in the keys because they had to unscrew further so I put a few drops of blue Loctite at the base of the threads. It seems to have wicked down and tightened them up nicely.
** Would like to address two items: The Bb at the bottom of the trichords is noticeably brighter and stronger than the A at the top of the bass. It was like this before I did anything, but I was hoping it was just dead bass strings. As you go down the bass gets a lot stronger. Comments? My understanding is that this is transition can be very challenging and, perhaps, the nature of the piano and something I will have to live with to a degree. I put hardener on the top bass hammers and can't tell any difference.
The other items is around the top of the octave above middle "C." Sometimes the notes have a metallic ringing, much more evident with all the panels removed than with the piano closed up. I swear sometimes I hear it and it is annoying, and sometimes I don't. It is maybe weather dependent (??) or 66 year old hearing. Prying the strings sideways on the capo bar I didn't see any grooves. There are TINY cracks coming from the bridge pins no more than 1/4" long. They are thin and hard to see. I am considering removing the bridge pins and reinstalling with epoxy, possibly longer pins and drill the holes a little deeper. But I wonder if I should better let this sleeping dog lie.
Comments welcome! I know what I have done to this instrument does not come remotely close to being considered a true "restoration," but it is all relative and the piano is relatively a thousand times what it was. While I have been frustrated at times, and am not happy with my ragged job of hammer installation, I am overall quite satisfied with the project and looking forward to continuing to make enhancements.