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#2012017 - 01/10/13 01:26 AM Need input on Piano Restoration - Please
Jorge Andrade Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/09/13
Posts: 64
Is it worth restoring/rebuilding a piano? Not moneywise but sound wise and touch and feel of the instrument, having it retain its characteristics without sounding 'tampered with'. I don't really care as much about the cabinet as I do the sound and action response and accuracy, so if it was just to remove nicks, scratches, etc. I wouldn't do it, however my 1967 Bosendorfer Imperial has lost its thunderous sound it once had. I first got the piano in June of last year, it had a very meaty sound, with powerful bass, clear midsection and not super brilliant but defined upper register (it literally sounded like there was a subwoofer hidden inside somewhere). After the summer, a slit on the soundboard opened up into a nasty crack and now there are more cracks coming out in other areas, ever since then the piano has lost its thunderous sound, I'm devastated. The action also needs work (but I know we can still order original parts from Renner), according to my piano technician the knuckles are flat and the hammers are worn out, the keys have full ivory tops, they're in great shape, except for a tiny crack on one of them, the cabinet has everything you can imagine: dings, scuff marks, chips, stains, someone tried getting creative with a black sharpie (fail!), the finish is dull and tired but I could live with that, what I can't live without is my thunderous piano sound, hence the restoration idea, however, I'm afraid that after the restoration my piano won't sound like a Bosendorfer anymore; I don't have the funds to ship the piano to Austria to be rebuilt, so I'll have to have the work done here in the U.S., so hence my worry. Once they replace the soundboard with another kind of spruce wood and the strings with whatever strings they use here in the U.S. will it be noticeable? I have never dealt/played/seen a rebuilt piano in person so I can't attest for the before/after and I just want to make sure I'm not dooming my piano, now guys, I've seen lots of excellent works by reputable companies here in the U.S. and as far as cabinetry goes, I know they can make the piano shiny again with new finish, rebronzed plate, new strings, etc. but listening to these pianos online I'm honestly not impressed with the sound, not to say that the piano probably didn't have a great sound to begin with, but it's hard to tell since most companies usually only show photos of the before but don't record anyone playing them. I've watched a few videos of Steinways, Mason & Hamlin pianos being rebuilt and when they play them in the end it's really bad, it's like the piano has no life, I can't explain it but I wouldn't want my piano with that kind of weak, characterless sound, for that I'd keep things the way they are. I even found a comment from one guy that restores organs and he criticized the work currently being done and said that these soundboards sound like cardboards instead. I'd like some input from people that had this type of work done on their pianos, or technicians that service pianos that were restored but knew them beforehand, hopefully there are technical guys out there that went through this and can provide some quantitative and defined input, I’m looking for more than ‘my piano looks great’, ‘it turned out wonderful’, ‘my mom loves it’. Also, input from the professionals performing the work is welcomed but biased because I wouldn't expect someone that asks U$25K for a restoration job to raise issues and concerns about this type of work, we are all adults here. I thank you and hope to get some real useful input on this.

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#2012036 - 01/10/13 01:57 AM Re: Need input on Piano Restoration - Please [Re: Jorge Andrade]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5173
Loc: Olympia, Washington
You might start with getting the action back in good shape. It sounds like the hammers are now in poor condition and the action is worn and out of regulation.

Have the hammers and hammershanks replaced. Renner made the original hammershanks and still makes parts to fit your piano. Both Renner and Abel make hammers that are appropriate for your piano. Have the keys rebushed along with any other parts that are badly worn and have the action carefully and meticulously regulated. Then see what you have.

The cracks may look scary but they may not be an acoustical problem. It depends on how the soundboard was crowned during installation. You'll be in a better position to evaluate the soundboard after the action has been rebuilt. Even if it does turn out that you need the soundboard repaired and/or replaced the action work will have to be done anyway so you'd not be duplicating much work. And you may find you don't need to have the soundboard replaced.

If it does turn out that the soundboard needs to be replaced there are many shops in the U.S. that do an expert work. But start with the action and hammers.

ddf
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#2012045 - 01/10/13 02:27 AM Re: Need input on Piano Restoration - Please [Re: Jorge Andrade]
musicpassion Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 899
Loc: California, USA
Originally Posted By: Jorge Andrade
Is it worth restoring/rebuilding a piano? Not moneywise but sound wise and touch and feel of the instrument, having it retain its characteristics without sounding 'tampered with'.was a subwoofer hidden inside somewhere). After the summer, a slit on the soundboard opened up into a nasty crack and now there are more cracks coming out in other areas, ever since then the piano has lost its thunderous sound, I'm devastated.


First of all, I'm saddened to hear about your piano. That would be truly heartbreaking.

I'll post my answers one by one, below the quotes. One note: I'm posting this from a pianist's perspective, not a tech (as I'm a pianist, not a tech). I've had two pianos restored recently, however. So I thought my experiences might be helpful.

Your first question: is it worth restoring a piano? In my opinion yes, as long as you find a rebuilder/restoration expert who can do work at a level that will make you happy. There are superb rebuilders out there, but finding the right one for you and your piano is of the utmost importance. I have seen tremendous results, and I think the best rebuilders (although they cost more) are an amazing value - because you can get a piano as good or better than new (in my opinion, with a bosie it would be hard to get better than new, as their quality control and prep is so good).


Quote:
The action also needs work (but I know we can still order original parts from Renner), according to my piano technician the knuckles are flat and the hammers are worn out, the keys have full ivory tops, they're in great shape,


On your piano, the action work should be completely doable for a good tech - no problem there.

Quote:
the cabinet has everything you can imagine: dings, scuff marks, chips, stains, someone tried getting creative with a black sharpie (fail!), the finish is dull and tired but I could live with that
,

Plenty of musicians have chosen to not worry about their piano finish. I sometimes hear numbers of between $1000 and $1500 per foot for finish work. I'm not sure how accurate those numbers are, btw.


Quote:
what I can't live without is my thunderous piano sound, hence the restoration idea


And here is the crux of the matter. It sounds to me like your piano needs major bellywork. It lost it's power and sustain. So on your shopping list for a rebuilder make sure they're very good at bellywork.


Quote:
I'm afraid that after the restoration my piano won't sound like a Bosendorfer anymore; I don't have the funds to ship the piano to Austria to be rebuilt, so I'll have to have the work done here in the U.S., so hence my worry. Once they replace the soundboard with another kind of spruce wood and the strings with whatever strings they use here in the U.S. will it be noticeable?


I'm not sure why they would use a different kind of spruce. Whatever strings are available in Europe are available here in the USA. In my opinion (as a pianist, remember) the bass strings are the only ones that would sound different from different string makers. If they custom make bass strings to match original, or order to factory specs I don't know why there would be any difference.

Also, you might want to look for a rebuilder that has experience with Bosies. I'm not sure how different they are (inside) from an American piano.


Quote:
I have never dealt/played/seen a rebuilt piano in person so I can't attest for the before/after and I just want to make sure I'm not dooming my piano
,

By all means ask to play examples restored by anyone you are considering for doing the work on your piano.


Quote:
but listening to these pianos online I'm honestly not impressed with the sound, not to say that the piano probably didn't have a great sound to begin with, but it's hard to tell since most companies usually only show photos of the before but don't record anyone playing them. I've watched a few videos of Steinways, Mason & Hamlin pianos being rebuilt and when they play them in the end it's really bad, it's like the piano has no life, I can't explain it but I wouldn't want my piano with that kind of weak, characterless sound, for that I'd keep things the way they are.


Yes I've heard these pianos too. Without knowing the whole story about any particular piano (maybe the client refused the work the piano really needed) it's hard to really knowing what's going on. But surely there are lousy rebuilders out there.

Quote:
I'd like some input from people that had this type of work done on their pianos


Oh. Good. Maybe all my typing has been worthwhile smile The restoration work from the rebuilder I know and trust has been jawdroppingly good. Really - it's that good. I played a Steinway B that he put a new sound board in, and I think it's one of the best Bs I've ever played.


Quote:
U$25K for a restoration job

I'm not sure where you got the $25K number from. I would be surprised if you can get the job done with the quality of rebuilder you are looking for at that price. $30k - $50k maybe? I don't know, but $25k sounds low to me.




Edited by musicpassion (01/10/13 02:29 AM)
Edit Reason: spelling
_________________________
Pianist and Piano Teacher

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#2012046 - 01/10/13 02:38 AM Re: Need input on Piano Restoration - Please [Re: Del]
musicpassion Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 899
Loc: California, USA
Originally Posted By: Del
You might start with getting the action back in good shape. It sounds like the hammers are now in poor condition and the action is worn and out of regulation.

Have the hammers and hammershanks replaced. Renner made the original hammershanks and still makes parts to fit your piano. Both Renner and Abel make hammers that are appropriate for your piano. Have the keys rebushed along with any other parts that are badly worn and have the action carefully and meticulously regulated. Then see what you have.

The cracks may look scary but they may not be an acoustical problem. It depends on how the soundboard was crowned during installation. You'll be in a better position to evaluate the soundboard after the action has been rebuilt. Even if it does turn out that you need the soundboard repaired and/or replaced the action work will have to be done anyway so you'd not be duplicating much work. And you may find you don't need to have the soundboard replaced.

If it does turn out that the soundboard needs to be replaced there are many shops in the U.S. that do an expert work. But start with the action and hammers.

ddf


Hi Del - I always enjoy reading your posts smile

A question (I'm asking to learn, I'm not disagreeing): can worn out shanks cause a loss of power like he's describing?
_________________________
Pianist and Piano Teacher

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#2012063 - 01/10/13 03:35 AM Re: Need input on Piano Restoration - Please [Re: Jorge Andrade]
beethoven986 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3319
Not all pianos are worth restoring, but a Bosendorfer Imperial certainly is. A new one costs over $200,000 and even in a worst-case scenario, restoring one would cost 1/4 of that. There are numerous rebuilding shops in the USA that are capable of restoring your piano to new condition, or even better than new condition. Choose your technician wisely and follow the advice given.
_________________________
B.Mus. Piano Performance 2009
M.Mus. Piano Performance & Literature 2011
PTG Associate Member
Certified Dampp-Chaser installer

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#2012072 - 01/10/13 04:00 AM Re: Need input on Piano Restoration - Please [Re: Jorge Andrade]
Jorge Andrade Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/09/13
Posts: 64
Thank you so much for all the amazing information everyone!! I'm overwhelmed with the quality of your answers and will not take any suggestions lightly. My piano technician is the president of the RPT guild in Nevada, he has been working with Bosies, Steinways, and all higher-end concert pianos for many years so I'll discuss the action work with him.

Del: You mentioned the crown and that's something I haven't had a chance to check, but it goes to the top of my to-do list. The crack is right in the middle of the sounboard and it runs from one end to the other almost parallel to the keys,I can hear buzzing when I play but last I checked, the sb didn't seem separated from the ribs. I'll try and post a picture if I can figure out how to do it here.

Musicpassion: Could please send me the information of the rebuilder you know so I can reach out to them.

beethoven986: you're absolutely right, I know that some people buy uprights off of craigslist and do this kind of work for pure fun and I admire them, but in my case, I got the Rolls Royce of pianos according to some and I definitely need professional help.



Edited by Jorge Andrade (01/10/13 04:09 AM)

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#2012135 - 01/10/13 08:17 AM Re: Need input on Piano Restoration - Please [Re: Jorge Andrade]
woodfab Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/05
Posts: 367
Loc: Stoneham, MA
Sounds to me that the soundboard held up quite well over forty years.

Then moving it into a new environment where the humidity and temperature is different most likely caused the soundboard to crack and dramatically change the tone of the piano.

Due you maintain a constant humidity level for the piano?

I heard similar story's like yours.

I don't maintain a constant humidity for my piano and and the tone changes greatly over the seasons.
_________________________
Dan (Piano Tinkerer)

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#2012223 - 01/10/13 12:04 PM Re: Need input on Piano Restoration - Please [Re: woodfab]
Jorge Andrade Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/09/13
Posts: 64
Yes, you might be entirely correct as the piano came from Atlanta - GA where the humidity level is way higher than here in NV, I presently do not have a climate control system installed yet, I would like to have a room humidifier so that the entire piano can benefit from it, however, the humidy here in NV is always very low but it's always very constant. The think that gets me though is that only the bass area seems to be affected, mid-section and treble still sound the same to me.

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#2012236 - 01/10/13 12:33 PM Re: Need input on Piano Restoration - Please [Re: Jorge Andrade]
Phil D Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/10
Posts: 551
Loc: London, England
I'd recommend auditioning in person some rebuilt pianos from the rebuilders you approach. You can't get an idea of the tone of a piano from a recording online. The life you say is lacking could just be a problem with the recording or playback medium.

I'm not a rebuilder but from reading many stories of satisfied customers, and from the expertise I see every day on this forum, I know that you can be confident that, given the right rebuilder, you can restore this magnificent piano to the way you remember. Actually it isn't a huge leap to say that you could expect it to be better than when you bought it - the action was already 40+ years old and needing work then.
_________________________
Phil Dickson
The Cycling Piano Tuner

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#2012246 - 01/10/13 12:44 PM Re: Need input on Piano Restoration - Please [Re: Jorge Andrade]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21255
Loc: Oakland
I suggest that before you do anything else, you should read Peri Knize's gothic horror tale of piano torture, Grand Obsession. It sounds like your problem is exactly the same as hers: You have moved to a different area, and your tuner is different.
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Semipro Tech

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#2012297 - 01/10/13 02:47 PM Re: Need input on Piano Restoration - Please [Re: musicpassion]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5173
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: musicpassion
A question (I'm asking to learn, I'm not disagreeing): can worn out shanks cause a loss of power like he's describing?

The combination of worn knuckles and the general deregulation that comes from regular—and, I suspect, fairly heavy—playing certainly can.

There is no question that the soundboard panel has changed as a result of moving the piano from one climate to another. But so have the hammers. Wool felt is hygroscopic just like wood is hygroscopic. Climate changes affect both.

If memory serves—it doesn’t always, but I think I’m remembering this right—Bösendorfer does crown the ribs before they are glued to the soundboard panel. There is also some panel compression involved but not nearly as much as is found in new Steinway boards.

In the end it may turn out that your piano does need soundboard work. But it is certain that it needs hammer and action work. My recommendation is to care of the certainties before you go ahead with the Really Big Stuff.

ddf
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#2012299 - 01/10/13 02:56 PM Re: Need input on Piano Restoration - Please [Re: Del]
musicpassion Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 899
Loc: California, USA
Originally Posted By: Del
Originally Posted By: musicpassion
A question (I'm asking to learn, I'm not disagreeing): can worn out shanks cause a loss of power like he's describing?

The combination of worn knuckles and the general deregulation that comes from regular—and, I suspect, fairly heavy—playing certainly can.


Ok thanks!
_________________________
Pianist and Piano Teacher

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#2012304 - 01/10/13 03:04 PM Re: Need input on Piano Restoration - Please [Re: Jorge Andrade]
musicpassion Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 899
Loc: California, USA
Originally Posted By: Jorge Andrade

Musicpassion: Could please send me the information of the rebuilder you know so I can reach out to them.


Certainly - I sent info via a PM. Fist time I've used that feature, so if it doesn't work let me know.
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Pianist and Piano Teacher

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#2012376 - 01/10/13 05:08 PM Re: Need input on Piano Restoration - Please [Re: Del]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7169
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: Del
Originally Posted By: musicpassion
A question (I'm asking to learn, I'm not disagreeing): can worn out shanks cause a loss of power like he's describing?

The combination of worn knuckles and the general deregulation that comes from regular—and, I suspect, fairly heavy—playing certainly can.

There is no question that the soundboard panel has changed as a result of moving the piano from one climate to another. But so have the hammers. Wool felt is hygroscopic just like wood is hygroscopic. Climate changes affect both.

If memory serves—it doesn’t always, but I think I’m remembering this right—Bösendorfer does crown the ribs before they are glued to the soundboard panel. There is also some panel compression involved but not nearly as much as is found in new Steinway boards.

In the end it may turn out that your piano does need soundboard work. But it is certain that it needs hammer and action work. My recommendation is to care of the certainties before you go ahead with the Really Big Stuff.

ddf


I don't know for pre crowning, certainly they are shaped, but the panel is thick and ask for much downbearing.
There is also a large slant on the bridge, and despite that some angle may remain between back of bridge and the plate. Not enough downbearing and those (large grands) are lacking power.
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#2012395 - 01/10/13 05:59 PM Re: Need input on Piano Restoration - Please [Re: Olek]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5173
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: Kamin
I don't know for pre crowning, certainly they are shaped, but the panel is thick and ask for much downbearing.
There is also a large slant on the bridge, and despite that some angle may remain between back of bridge and the plate. Not enough downbearing and those (large grands) are lacking power.

Yes, I know Bösendorfer soundboard panels are thick. To get any kind of sustain they have to be thick because the rim is so light and flexible. That is why I think the soundboard might still be functional in spite of its current cracking problems.

As well, their hammers have to be relatively massive and they seem to need a lot of surface tension. It has been my observation that their hammers can easily be over-voiced. I’ve worked on a couple of these pianos who’s owners had complained to previous technicians about overly bright voicing and when the technicians started needling the hammers down the voice pretty much died. Since I wasn’t there I don’t know what the technicians did but I know the technicians involved and they are good, skilled voicers. When I saw the pianos the hammers looked like they were in good condition but their voice was dull. New Abel “Natural-felt” hammers made a big difference.

ddf
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#2012403 - 01/10/13 06:10 PM Re: Need input on Piano Restoration - Please [Re: Jorge Andrade]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7169
Loc: France
Yes , but hammers are voiced a lot from the bottom to the top, but keeeping strong shoulders, indeed the rebound may be kept strong enough I agree with external tension.

The piano have a somewhat close tone, so if you voice them for brightness as usual you may loss too much power.

The soundboards are really robust. Indeed those recent felts,as Weickert or Natural felt, , may be very well adapted to those instruments.
_________________________
Isaac OLEG - http://picasaweb.google.fr/PianoOleg pro

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#2012479 - 01/10/13 09:00 PM Re: Need input on Piano Restoration - Please [Re: Jorge Andrade]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 1863
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
Del's observation that Bosendorfer hammers have to be "relatively massive" has not been mine. Every stock Bose hammer I have checked was on the light side of the range of hammer mass typical for modern pianos. They certainly are slightly narrower than most hammers and this reduces weight all other things being equal.

Bosendorfers re-hammered with heavier hammers sound very dead.

Dels advice on action rebuilding first is spot on. Be sure to work with a technician who understands the significance of hammer weight, gradient of felt density, and integrating touch response with dynamic control.

Bellying an Imperial for me would involve making a wider rib gluing caul because of the extra notes. Moving from humid Atlanta to arid Vegas for a Bose is very stressful with the pieced up rim construction your piano was made with. Are the case joints still solid?

You would be wise to maintain a steady 45% relative humidity in the room that houses your piano. I would do that immediately if I were you.
_________________________
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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#2014678 - 01/14/13 10:58 PM Re: Need input on Piano Restoration - Please [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
Jorge Andrade Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/09/13
Posts: 64
I haven't had a chance to check on the case joints, that's some homework for me. Thanks for your input.

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#2017978 - 01/20/13 06:35 PM Re: Need input on Piano Restoration - Please [Re: Jorge Andrade]
Goof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/05/12
Posts: 346
Loc: UK
I'm a retired mech eng and here in UK I have been to a workshop in Kent where another retired eng and his younger assistant restore old pianos and fit some with carbon fiber sound boards. The sound of these boards is truely amazing.
Starting price is around £32,000.
I wonder if there is a company in the USA which does this type of work.
On the web you will find said company as Hurstwood Farm Pianos!
Yep they also grow hazel nuts !!

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#2017986 - 01/20/13 06:53 PM Re: Need input on Piano Restoration - Please [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7169
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
Del's observation that Bosendorfer hammers have to be "relatively massive" has not been mine. Every stock Bose hammer I have checked was on the light side of the range of hammer mass typical for modern pianos. They certainly are slightly narrower than most hammers and this reduces weight all other things being equal.

Bosendorfers re-hammered with heavier hammers sound very dead.

Dels advice on action rebuilding first is spot on. Be sure to work with a technician who understands the significance of hammer weight, gradient of felt density, and integrating touch response with dynamic control.

Bellying an Imperial for me would involve making a wider rib gluing caul because of the extra notes. Moving from humid Atlanta to arid Vegas for a Bose is very stressful with the pieced up rim construction your piano was made with. Are the case joints still solid?

You would be wise to maintain a steady 45% relative humidity in the room that houses your piano. I would do that immediately if I were you.


The models in the 80's indeed had no underfelt (but thick heads . I dont really remind the size, possibly not very large indeed)
Today they have underfelt and are in the standard medium range of weight I believe.

I agree for the 45% HR, and for the emergeny situation if this is not the case


Edited by Kamin (01/20/13 06:55 PM)
_________________________
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#2029551 - 02/08/13 10:10 PM Re: Need input on Piano Restoration - Please [Re: Olek]
Jorge Andrade Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/09/13
Posts: 64
Yes, I'm out to buy a humidifier this weekend, I definitely need to up the RH in the house and hopefully my piano will regain some of its characteristics

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