Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics!

Posted by: fishbulb

Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 02/01/13 09:52 PM

Hi everyone,

I have the opportunity to receive my parent's piano for "free" - if I want to pay the transport costs to have it moved ~300 miles.



40 detailed pictures, outside and in: http://imgur.com/a/LD8xP

More pictures (with the action removed) & action detail: http://imgur.com/a/5bKiz

Pictures of the back side, frame, soundboard: http://imgur.com/a/suneG

I am wondering what you think regarding it as a candidate for restoration - worth it or not?

This piano has some sentimental value for me - I am not looking to make a quick buck selling it unrestored, or to make a profit from a restoration.

What I mean is: will I have a quality piano after restoration, something with a good tone (for an upright) to justify the cost of a restoration? That is, if I spend $10,000 to $15,000 on a restoration, will it sound and play as well as a new piano that costs as much? Or is that a fool's errand?

One very important question: does anyone have any real experience with these old 3/4 plate Webers? I have been told by a professional piano restorer that the 3/4 plate on the Weber is a very strong design because it fully supports the pin block in a different way than cheaper 3/4 plate pianos. But the whole 3/4 plate thing is still something of a concern for me. Thoughts?

Piano quick notes
Weber, Rochester NY
Full-size upright
Serial 38036, 1890s
tuned 1/4 tone low
3/4 plate
underdamper action
overstrung

1. What is the brand name on the piano?

Weber (Rochester, NY)

2. How tall is the upright piano from the floor to the top?

It's a full-size upright, 56" tall, 59" wide, 28" deep. The keyboard is 48" wide.

3. How old is the piano?

About 120 years. It was built between 1890 and 1895, probably in 1893 (according to the serial number #38036 and various online sources). It was bought used from a private party by my parents, and they have owned it for about 30 years.

4. Where has the piano been stored?

For at least the last 30 years, always indoors, away from the heater and windows.

5. When was it last tuned?

At least five years ago. The piano tuner did not want to "risk" trying to get it to concert pitch, so he tuned it 1/4 tone low. He offered to tune it to concert pitch, but said he was concerned due to the age of the instrument.

6. Has the piano had any major work?

For at least the last 30 years, only tunings.

7. Do all the keys work?

Yes. The foot pedals work as well. There are no "untoward or unexpected sounds" according to my dad. Only one of the white keys has a small chip in it, about 1/16" square. They are ebony and ivory, according to the piano tuner.

8. Describe the furniture. Style, Color, condition.

Pictures are included. Overall, it is in fairly good condition. There is no detectable peeling or warping veneer. Nothing visible is cracked.

9. How much will it have to be moved?

From the first floor of a house to the first floor of another house 300 miles away. Both houses have some porch steps, but otherwise, no stairs. The piano is on the heavy side at 800-1000 pounds.

Thank you!
Posted by: Ed McMorrow, RPT

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 02/01/13 11:00 PM

It looks quite well preserved and little used for it's age. I do see cracks in the bass bridge at the bridge pins. The probable grain orientation of the bass bridge is a possible weakness. If you get work done get the bridges caped with quarter-sawn maple.
It would at least be worth having a good rebuilder who will do uprights look at it. You need one with the skills to recap bridges, replace pin-block along with the string replacement.

You will have more money in it than you can sell it for but if the piano means something to you and you can afford the work it could come out nicely.

(disclaimer) Any liability from this advice is limited to the price you paid for it! Photo evaluations are not binding!
Posted by: Supply

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 02/02/13 12:34 AM

If you are you asking whether a $10k or $15k investment would bring that piano to a level which is comparable to a new piano of that price, I would say no, simply because today's designs are are optimized for the sound and feel that players expect today.

The Weber was arguably a state-of-the-art piano 120 years ago, and a large investment can bring it back to its original glory, but short of re-designing and re-manufacturing it, it will be true to its own design.

It looks like it should still play and be able to give good service. I suggest keeping it the way it is and spending your (or your parents') $15,000 on a nice new or new-ish grand piano.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 02/02/13 02:46 AM

You can probably forego recapping the bridges and replacing the pin block. If the bridge only has those tiny cracks after 120 years, they are not likely to get worse soon. Replacing strings, springs, hammers, and other felts should get you a piano that you can use for at least another 20 years or longer for a price that would be far less than $10,000. (Refinishing might take a good chunk of change in addition.) The biggest problem would be finding someone who will do the work well.

I recently replaced the strings on a newer, but still old upright that was the family piano for a friend of mine. The hammers had previously been replaced, not a great job but passable. The piano is not up to new standards, but it sounds better than most new pianos.
Posted by: fishbulb

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 02/02/13 02:30 PM

Thanks for the input so far everyone.

I have a good tech in mind for the job, who is experienced with antique uprights, thankfully.

I would pay for everything, including shipping. The piano plays quite well considering its age, with great deep resonating bass and surprisingly good action. Better than you would expect, certainly. It's not as bright as a fresh piano on the showroom floor though - the highs seem somewhat tinny or wimpy, probably due to the old strings. It is a bit out of tune of course.

Does anyone know more about the Webers from this era? My online research seems to indicate that they were a very high end brand and well-regarded, but being post-victorian, and after the death of Weber himself, I'm not as sure. It is well before the Aeolian acquisition though.

Does anyone know more about the 3/4 plate issue and if that's a legitimate concern?
Posted by: Ed McMorrow, RPT

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 02/02/13 10:13 PM

Only inspection by an experienced rebuilder who is well versed in piano woodworking protocols will be able to answer the 3/4 plate and other structural issues. Many piano technicians have very limited woodworking expertise. Some rebuilders who do not do pin-block, bridges and soundboard replacement, also lack the requisite woodworking knowledge to properly evaluate and plan a program of effective repair of a piano this old. Proper wood selection, grain orientation and bridge pin layout can do a lot to improve the wimpy treble.
Weber uprights from this era were on a par with other top makes of the time. Steinway also made some 3/4 plate uprights in the early years.
Posted by: PianoWorksATL

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 02/02/13 11:03 PM

The skill is being lost in part by economics and by time. With fewer people able to justify this type of investment on antique instruments, this generation of rebuilders gets less experience with them. More and more are ravaged by time, and popular tastes have changed.

I don't see why it couldn't be a project funded by sentiment. It would not be my choice, but for most people, happiness is independent of reason. If a tech is eager for this project, that would worry me...not because it is too challenging, but because we usually talk customers out of getting so upside down on a piano. A few hire us to do the work AMA anyway.
Posted by: miscrms

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 02/03/13 02:50 AM

I'm certainly no expert, but it looks like a great old piano to me smile But then again I like old pianos wink

I think it might be hard to justify putting $10-15k into it as it may never be worth more than a few $k no matter what you do, but as BDB indicated with a few $k put into new strings, hammers, and rebuilding the original action I'd think you'd have a piano that means a lot to you, plays well (though probably never as precise in action as a newer piano) and has a sound that would put many new pianos to shame.

I would definitely try to get the tech that you think would do the work out to evaluate it in person if possible before moving (or just take the risk of moving but have it fully evaluated before committing to rebuild), as the keys are likely to be the condition of the bridges, soundboard and pinblock. If any of those need major work, you'd probably have to put a lot of $$ into it. If it holds a tuning well (you might even want to go ahead and get it tuned now to see how tight and uniform the pins are) the existing pinblock would probably do fine with new oversized pins when restringing. If any soundboard/bridge issues are minor they can probably just be repaired in place and be fine for years.

If you haven't already, I'd highly recommend getting Larry Fine's Piano Book and Reblitz's Piano Servicing, Tuning, and Rebuilding just to educate yourself on whats involved. I've found them both to be fascinating and enlightening as I start my own old piano adventure.

Best of luck,
Rob
Posted by: Ed McMorrow, RPT

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 02/03/13 11:02 AM

I have 40 years experience tuning and rebuilding pianos. Bridges with flat-sawn grain orientation do not sound good when they get old, even when the cracking is minimal. If memory and what I am seeing in the piano is as well preserved as the photo's indicate, you need to decide with your eyes wide open about going deep enough with the rebuild to bring the tone to a really good level. The bridges are more important than the soundboard to tone.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 02/03/13 12:05 PM

There are a lot of theories about the effect of age on pianos, but few of them are actually tested. There are too many variables to be sorted out so that they can be tested individually, and besides, there is rarely, if ever, a reliable comparison with the same piano when it was new. To test a statement like "Bridges with flat-sawn grain orientation do not sound good when they get old, even when the cracking is minimal," one would have to find several old pianos with bridges like that, rebuild them without doing anything to the bridges, make detailed analyses of the sound, then rebuild them again after doing something to the bridges, and compare the analyses. You need to do several comparisons, because there are so many variables involved. All that would be very time consuming and expensive, so it is dubious whether anyone has actually done that.

You would also have to have some idea what does or does not sound good. Even if someone had done that, you have to evaluate whether the difference is enough to merit spending the extra money involved. I doubt that it would for over 99% of piano owners.

You have to be wary of the claims of someone who has an interest in selling you an expensive job when a cheap one will suit your needs.
Posted by: Chris Leslie

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 02/03/13 03:42 PM

BDB gives wise and practical advice on old pianos. I hope you can find a technician who will service your needs rather than their desires. An expensive restoration job may not be appropriate. Often a couple of thousand dollars only in repairs/ reconditioning will give maximum cost vs gain.

BTW, I also have an old Weber from my parents. It has similar bass bridge hairline cracks that have been there for many years and have not noticeable progressed.
Posted by: fishbulb

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 02/03/13 09:37 PM

Originally Posted By: BDB
You have to be wary of the claims of someone who has an interest in selling you an expensive job when a cheap one will suit your needs.


Good advice. The techs I have talked to so far have given me menu pricing based on what MAY need to be done (i.e. refinishing = x, soundboard = y, stings = z, etc.). I will probably forgo refinishing, as I like the look of it as is, and it is hard to justify the cost from the quotes I have received.

Instead, I will probably focus on what needs to be done to get the piano safely tuned up to concert pitch again. At minimum, this would be new strings, maybe a pin block, and probably new bridges. Also, new felt, but it seems like the action is fine otherwise, and, assuming the soundboard is undamaged, probably not much else would be needed. Hopefully...

Due to the relatively remote location of the piano right now, I haven't yet found an experienced piano rebuilder in the area to take a look at it before I ship it. If I do find a rebuilder locally, I should probably have someone move it away from the wall so that they can take a look at the soundboard too, right? Or can you inspect a soundboard from the front?
Posted by: BDB

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 02/03/13 11:55 PM

Already you are talking about things that could take a $5,000 to a $10,000 without adding much improvement.

Are there any notes that sound wildly out of tune, like one string is a lot different from the rest? If not, the pin block is doing its job, and most likely can be reused with larger pins, or swabbed with epoxy as others have recommended. That saves several hundred right there. Bridges will work fine unless the cracks go from one pin to the next. Soundboards are almost always good, and really cannot be evaluated by any other means except by listening. If it sounds good, but someone says it looks bad, you would be better off putting money into the exterior finish, since you are going to look at that, and you are only going to listen to the soundboard.
Posted by: miscrms

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 02/04/13 12:43 AM

I'm getting out of my league here, but I would suspect that the pinblock is likely the critical decision point.

A pinblock in a grand is a big enough job. A pinblock in an upright is as I understand it a much bigger job, and probably borders on being not feasible depending on the piano. The difference is that in an upright, and I would suspect even more so in a 3/4 plate upright such as this, the pinblock is often a part of the very structural integrity of the piano itself. Its often embedded directly into and is an integral part of the top structural beams of the piano. Often the only way to "remove" it is to destructively cut/route it out of the top beams. Creating a replacement that not only does the job of the pinblock in gripping the tuning pins but also re-integrates structurally into the top beams would seemlike a pretty big deal. I assume this work alone would cost thousands of dollars, which seems an unfortunate place to spend that kind of money as it really does nothing to enhance the tone quality or playability of the piano.

Unless it really needs it, in which case I think you'd have to seriously consider if its really wise to proceed, I would worry that "proactively" replacing the pinblock might do more to risk the long term health/stability of the piano than leaving the original in despite its age.

On a positive note, my understanding is that particularly in a high end 3/4 plate design, the pinblock was likely seriously over engineered so the chances of it being fundamentally sound are probably pretty good.

Rob
Posted by: fishbulb

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 02/05/13 12:36 AM

Originally Posted By: miscrms
If you haven't already, I'd highly recommend getting Larry Fine's Piano Book and Reblitz's Piano Servicing, Tuning, and Rebuilding just to educate yourself on whats involved. I've found them both to be fascinating and enlightening as I start my own old piano adventure.


Thanks, I have those books on order; should be here later this week. I'm thinking about visiting the piano (and by proxy, my parents heh) this weekend and having a look myself with books in hand.

Originally Posted By: miscrms

On a positive note, my understanding is that particularly in a high end 3/4 plate design, the pinblock was likely seriously over engineered so the chances of it being fundamentally sound are probably pretty good.


From looking at pictures of other piano frames and talking to the tech, it appears that the piano is actually NOT a '3/4 plate' upright, but a 'full perimeter plate' with an exposed pinblock. I really need to look at it to know more, but from what I can tell, the pinblock is not a structural component of the piano frame / case. You can see from the large bolts in the pictures that the pinblock is actually bolted to the plate at the top edge. So, I am wondering if the piano tuner who called it a '3/4 plate' piano was wrong? So little information out there on old pianos.

I will know more when I get a chance to check this thing out in person, do my own inspection, and play it again. Interesting stuff, so much to learn!
Posted by: miscrms

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 02/05/13 02:12 PM

Very interesting! It certainly could be as you describe. Note that our 1874 Steinway 3/4 plate does have similar bolts across the top, which help hold the pinblock rigidly to the structural beams and help keep it from rotating due to the string tension. There's a lot of force there, many tons. The date does seem pretty late for a 3/4 plate, but I don't know when other manufactures phased them out. It seems like Steinway started using full plates around 1878 and had phased out the last 3/4 plates by 1882.

If you remove the round nuts holding the action to the top action bolts you may be able to tip the action back and get a clearer view at the ends to see if it seems like the plate continues up beyond the bottom of the pinblock. You might also be able to see it from the back. Since I assume it would go up through the middle, it could be kind of tricky to tell.

Good luck with your trip!

rob
Posted by: Tjpp

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 02/05/13 02:53 PM

I cannot give you any technical advice, but we were recently given an old Weber upright and just today, we had an excellent tuner/tech here and he said it was one of the best old pianos he had ever seen. The condition was fantastic for its age, the pitch was good and was quite a surprise. I have some pictures on another post. We will see how the upcoming years go, but we are thankful to have a beautiful and good sounding piano in our family.

We had hoped it would be good, even for a little while for our son to use and see where he goes with his playing and what good news to hear it is in great shape! I guess you never know what you will find, but if it has sentimental value and sounds good currently, have someone inspect it and then I say go for it and decide down the road as to how far you want to restore it...but that is my non-technical opinion!
Posted by: fishbulb

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 02/11/13 02:58 PM

Well, I made it back. I was able to remove the front panels like my dad did when he took the pictures, but also the fallboard and complete action assembly.

I went through the chapters in The Piano Book and in Piano Servicing, Tuning, and Rebuilding about inspecting an old piano. Here's what I learned:

- Playing - the piano plays surprisingly well for the age. I'm not a master piano player by any stretch of the imagination, but it has a rich, full sound, plenty of volume, and a nice feel to the keyboard. Something I can definitely play and enjoy.

- Design - It's most likely a 3/4 plate design, with a "full perimeter" plate (vertical columns of iron on the left and right sides for a stronger plate), but it only goes up to the pinblock, which is bolted to the top of the wood frame, but not through the plate itself. Research I have done on uprights from this era (1893) indicates that most uprights were 3/4 plate, and that at the time people believed that full-plate uprights didn't sound as good. If the plate goes behind the pin block on this piano, I certainly can't see it, so I am assuming it's 3/4 plate.

- Plate - is intact, no rust or cracks. Case and wood frame components look good as well, no cracks or delamination.

- Soundboard - From what I can see with the action removed, it is completely intact. The piano is still against the wall and is far too heavy to move, but from what I can see from the front, the soundboard is in excellent condition. The piano is very resonant with the action removed - my voice echoes easily, and pretty loudly. There are no buzzing noises or "dead zones" of resonance (that I can find, anyway).

There is one area where two sections of the soundboard have started to come apart (where two pieces of wood were butted against each other in a 45 degree line), but I would say the gap is about 1/2 a millimeter, and it's a gap between planks, not a crack.

- Pin Block - appears to be three-ply maple, with each ply about 3/16" thick, as was common in this era. There is no evidence of chemical doping, and all of the pins are roughly uniform in how far they are sticking out. There are a couple that may have been hammered in the past, but there is still about the same size gap between the wound string and the wood block on all of the pins. I would say at most there are a couple of pins that have been hammered in about 1/6" from their normal position.

- Unisions - are all still in tune with each other (i.e. all three notes that a single hammer strikes are the same pitch). The last tuning was actually over ten years ago, but all of the unisons are remarkably stable. The overall piano is out of tune a bit though, but surprisingly playable. So, no signs of any slipped tuning pins.

- Bridges - There are small cracks in all of the bridges, with the lower bass bridge being the worst. However, compared to the diagrams in The Piano Book, the damage is very minor and should be repairable with epoxy.

- Strings - are definitely not original (clipped ends in the pins are not uniform). Very, very little rust, only in a few places at the bottom of a couple strings. They may have been restrung in the 1960s when the action was refurbished. The bass is a little muddy but I've heard much, much worse. Highs are better than I remembered them sounding.

- Hammers - The hammers were either reshaped or replaced at some point - they are barely flattened at all, and all have the string marks properly aligned. There is some moth damage on the hammer felt, but nothing too bad. All of the hammers seem sturdy and intact. The hammer butt buckskin is worn, not too badly, but probably worth replacing if other action work is done.

- Action - has has definitely been refurbished at some point in the last 120 years. One tech I talked to believed in the 1960s due to the type of bridle straps that were used. In any case, the only action parts that are *obviously* worn are the catcher buckskin squares, as shown in the photos in the first post. The dampers are a bit out of alignment and need regulating, but the wedge felt is in decent condition. From what I can tell, there are no cracked or missing pieces of the action, and all the springs are accounted for as well. If any of the wood or metal parts of the action were replaced in the past, I can't tell.

- Keys - one chipped key as pictured. The felt key bushings allow too much side-to-side movement for the center keys and need to be replaced. The backrail cloth, sticker cloth, and rail punchings could also be replaced, but they are mostly OK. The height of the keys is a bit uneven and needs to be regulated, so new punchings would probably help there.

- Pedals - all work. The right is the usual damper-lifting sustain pedal. The left is the soft pedal, which moves the hammers closer to the strings. The center is a "practice pedal" which lowers a large strip of felt over the strings, so that the hammers hit the felt-covered strings instead of the bare strings. It makes the piano VERY quiet - you could probably play while someone was sleeping in the same room.

While I wish that the soft pedal had a lost motion compensator, and the center pedal was a sostenuto, at least everything works I guess. Since sostenuto was patented by Steinway in 1874, it was probably still legally protected (should have expired in 1894) so it is not surprising that the Weber lacks a sostenuto (also, it's an upright obviously).

So, I've made the decision to get it moved up to my house and get to refurbishing the action as needed. I've decided to do the work myself since (a) If I can rebuild a car engine and have it start on the first try, I can probably handle this and (b) The prices I have been quoted by local techs are far, far more than I am willing to pay.

So off I go on my own piano restoration adventure! I'll update this thread some time in the future with more information.
Posted by: miscrms

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 02/11/13 07:38 PM

Sounds pretty cool fish. I'd think hard about trying to DIY though. And I say that as a guy just launching into my own DIY project. It really depends on what you want out of it.

If your main interest is having a good playing instrument, I'd pay a pro to do the work. You just need to find the right tech who has the right skills and gets what you are trying to accomplish and wants be part of it. This is probably not the kind of project most want to take on, so they will probably bid it high and recommend lots of work to make it worth their while. I don't see that as dishonest, its a pain for them so they have to make it worth it to take it on. I've heard a number of rebuilders indicate a typical upright job is 2-3 times the work for about 1/2 the pay. Hopefully there is someone in your area that likes doing this kind of work, and doesn't need it to be a $15k rebuild with all the bells and whistles to make it palatable (who also happens to be really good at what they do).

If you are looking for a project, and want to spend a lot of time (100s if not a thousand or more man hours) learning and applying new skills and screwing it up and redoing it and that sounds like fun (as it does to me) then its maybe feasible to DIY. You just have to be realistic about what the quality of the end product is likely to be. At best it will probably be an ok average job at 10X the time and ~1/2 to 3/4 the cost. That's about what I'm striving for, and also while I'm planning to do it over a long time and will likely never really do a true rebuild/restore. We're not very serious players, and there are a lot of quirks and character we're willing to put up with. Your mechanical skills will likely be handy, but don't underestimate the complexity of a piano. An engine has maybe ~200 moving parts. An old upright piano might have 5-6,000. And most of them are made out of 100 year old wood smile My engine skills are pretty basic, but imagine an engine with 88 valves to adjust (each with its own independent timing), 88 pistons/rings to precisely bore out and fit, ~230 carbs to re-jet and tune, maybe a 1000 old gaskets to replace, hundreds of cams to balance, etc and again they're mostly made out of 100 year old wood wink

Good luck with whatever you decide, and look forward to seeing how it goes!

Rob
Posted by: miscrms

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 02/11/13 08:10 PM

And oh yeah, since this engine is 100 years old replacement parts are long unavailable so you'll have to try and adapt modern parts to work, scrounge vintage replacements, or make your own. And then there's the thousands of dollars of unique tools, jigs, etc to acquire or try to do without.

smile

This still sounds like fun to me, but I've clearly contracted some kind of sickness that's clouding my judgement wink

Rob
Posted by: newinstru?

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 02/11/13 08:42 PM

Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
The bridges are more important than the soundboard to tone.


Ed, if you're still around, would you mind explaining further??

Thanks,
Melly
Posted by: fishbulb

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 02/11/13 10:32 PM

Went through the photos today. I've got a piano moving company that is going to pick it up in about 6 weeks and get it here. About $700 to move it 300 miles. Could have had it here sooner, but I would rather wait and get it here cheaper heh.

More pics here (with the action removed): http://imgur.com/a/5bKiz

.

Originally Posted By: miscrms
Sounds pretty cool fish. I'd think hard about trying to DIY though. And I say that as a guy just launching into my own DIY project. It really depends on what you want out of it.

If your main interest is having a good playing instrument, I'd pay a pro to do the work. You just need to find the right tech who has the right skills and gets what you are trying to accomplish and wants be part of it. This is probably not the kind of project most want to take on, so they will probably bid it high and recommend lots of work to make it worth their while. I don't see that as dishonest, its a pain for them so they have to make it worth it to take it on. I've heard a number of rebuilders indicate a typical upright job is 2-3 times the work for about 1/2 the pay.


Yep, that's the experience that I had. The quotes I got for a "full rebuild", minus cabinet refinishing, ranged from $10,000 to $30,000 Add another $5,000 for a refinished cabinet. I just can't afford that, and I have no desire to go into debt to restore an old piano (or buy a new one). I envy the people who can pull that off financially. One piano store employee I talked to said every now and then people just walk in and drop $30k on a piano without even playing them for more than a few minutes. One person even bought a large grand for their kid's birthday present! Wow. It must be nice to be in the 1% heh.

Of course, "full rebuild" was different for different techs. At the $30,000 end, that meant a new soundboard, pin block, strings, and totally refurbished action. At the $10,000 end, that meant just strings, tuning and minimal action and regulating work to get it up to snuff. I did get quotes from a rebuilder who only does uprights, one who does mostly grands, and one who does both. Of course, the guy who rarely does uprights was the highest heh.

Originally Posted By: miscrms
Hopefully there is someone in your area that likes doing this kind of work, and doesn't need it to be a $15k rebuild with all the bells and whistles to make it palatable (who also happens to be really good at what they do).


Heh, that would be nice. I have a feeling it falls under the old adage about contractors in general: "The good ones aren't cheap, and the cheap ones aren't good."

Originally Posted By: miscrms
If you are looking for a project, and want to spend a lot of time (100s if not a thousand or more man hours) learning and applying new skills and screwing it up and redoing it and that sounds like fun (as it does to me) then its maybe feasible to DIY.


Sounds fun to me. laugh I've got plenty of time to "read the manual" before the piano even gets here. I could use a project that doens't require digging with a shovel, getting covered with spiders in the crawlspace, or building a fence haha.

Originally Posted By: miscrms
You just have to be realistic about what the quality of the end product is likely to be. At best it will probably be an ok average job at 10X the time and ~1/2 to 3/4 the cost. That's about what I'm striving for, and also while I'm planning to do it over a long time and will likely never really do a true rebuild/restore. We're not very serious players, and there are a lot of quirks and character we're willing to put up with.


My plan is to approach it in stages. First off, get the piano in my house ($700). Second, refurbish the keybed (priced out less than $200 in parts and tools). Next, dampers (less than $100 for parts). Next, practice rail felt (about $10 counting glue). Next, buckskin replacement (about $50 in parts). Next, either restringing and bridge repair, or just tuning up what I've got. After all that's done I should be able to work on regulation ($250 for tools).

I don't think I'm good enough of a piano player to really 'deserve' a $30,000 restoration, but hopefully my piano skills will improve with my piano maintenance skills, so as I get better at playing, I can get better at regulating (and possibly tuning if I go down that road). This piano means a lot to me, and I'd rather it be "mine" than just something I threw a bunch of money at. Also, http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=2722

After that, tuning? New strings? Instead of paying out thousands of dollars up front, or a few thousand as each stage of restoration is completed, I only pay when I want to work on it, and the dollar amounts are an order of magnitude smaller. Sounds good to me wink

You are lucky to live somewhere where piano restoration is inexpensive and quick - all the well-known rebuilders in my city have a wait list, plus 3-6 months while they have your piano. It also seems they have much higher prices since there is no way I will be at 1/2 to 3/4 of the cost doing it myself, even with premium parts. Probably more in the 1/4 to 1/2 range. For example, just doing the minor action work the piano needs, and regulation afterward, will cost me less than $1,000 in parts and tools, versus the cheapest quote I got for that of $3,000 (new hammers not included in that either). :sigh: "If I were a rich man..."

Originally Posted By: miscrms
Your mechanical skills will likely be handy, but don't underestimate the complexity of a piano. An engine has maybe ~200 moving parts. An old upright piano might have 5-6,000. And most of them are made out of 100 year old wood smile My engine skills are pretty basic, but imagine an engine with 88 valves to adjust (each with its own independent timing), 88 pistons/rings to precisely bore out and fit, ~230 carbs to re-jet and tune, maybe a 1000 old gaskets to replace, hundreds of cams to balance, etc and again they're mostly made out of 100 year old wood wink


I chuckle when I see on piano tech's websites: "a piano has thousands of parts in it, you must hire a professional". Yes, there are obviously a lot of parts. But on an upright, you've got say 60 parts in the action of one key. Multiply that by 88 and you've got 5,000+ parts. Of course, "5,000 parts" sounds a lot scarier than "60 parts repeated 88 times." Obviously it's not going to be easy either, but that's what the books are for smile
Posted by: miscrms

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 02/12/13 12:46 AM

Well, it sounds like we're both in the same boat then. Best of luck to both of us wink

Rob
Posted by: Ed Foote

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 02/12/13 10:15 AM

Greetings,
>>My plan is to approach it in stages. First off, get the piano in my house ($700). Second, refurbish the keybed (priced out less than $200 in parts and tools). Next, dampers (less than $100 for parts). Next, practice rail felt (about $10 counting glue). Next, buckskin replacement (about $50 in parts). Next, either restringing and bridge repair, or just tuning up what I've got. After all that's done I should be able to work on regulation ($250 for tools).
After that, tuning? New strings? Instead of paying out thousands of dollars up front, or a few thousand as each stage of restoration is completed, I only pay when I want to work on it, and the dollar amounts are an order of magnitude smaller. <<

Greetings,
This sounds like several situations I have seen over the years, and every one ended with a lot of expensive parts and tools in boxes next to an unfinished and damaged piano. I hope you can have better results, but don't expect it to progress smoothly, you will find anomalies and unexpected damage.
It is naive to think with $100 is all that the dampers will cost, and if the dampers are shot, so are the hammers,(usually). There is a lot of fragile wood, damper levers are quite thin, and springs are fragile. If you are going to replace hammers, you will need to learn to repin, and probably how to replace an upright shank. The keybed, if refurbished, might need new pins as well as bushings, punchings, and back rail felt. Repinning requiries a total respacing of the keys, too.
If you must go at this, plan on several hundred hours to overcome a learning curve that most experienced techs have had to go through to avoid doing more damage than good. This stuff looks pretty simple, but in practice, you are looking at a mechanism with tons of force behind it. A piano warps, swells, and changes, so quality piano repair is done by those that have some idea of what sort of tolerances are required for the piano to play year-round.
If the pinblock is cracked or falling apart, say goodbye to the piano or your wallet. There are very few techs out there that can successfully replace a pinblock in an upright. If considering having someone do this, make sure you talk to tuners that have tuned the pianos afterwards, (not the tech that did the work and does the tuning).
Regards,
Regards,
Posted by: SteveM732

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 02/12/13 11:54 AM

I'm not an auto mechanic, but I rebuild a 1991 V-6 engine and it ran very well for several years before I sold it.
I'm not a plumber, but I fixed a leaking and clogged drain pipe.
I'm not an electrician, but I installed a new sub-panel and wired up a workshop in my garage.
I'm not a certified hardwood flooring installer, but I installed 2.25" red oak flooring in our house.
I'm not a house painter, but I painted the exterior of our home.

Point being that Fishbulb may not be a piano tech, but I bet if he can build a fence and get dirty in his crawl space then he can have some fun working on a piano that most think isn't worth it. It's good to be forewarned, but then a liberal dose of positive encouragement is in order. You can do it!

Much of the cost is labor. Ask about the cost to spray on a new finish if you've done all of the work to get down to bare wood. I bet it is far more affordable.
Posted by: fishbulb

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 02/12/13 12:43 PM

Originally Posted By: Ed Foote
This sounds like several situations I have seen over the years, and every one ended with a lot of expensive parts and tools in boxes next to an unfinished and damaged piano. I hope you can have better results, but don't expect it to progress smoothly, you will find anomalies and unexpected damage.
It is naive to think with $100 is all that the dampers will cost, and if the dampers are shot, so are the hammers,(usually). There is a lot of fragile wood, damper levers are quite thin, and springs are fragile.


Thanks for the advice. It is interesting that you mention this, as I've read that in other places, but with few details. Do you have any more examples of what are the common things that inexperienced people break when working on a piano the first time? Rookie mistakes? Do they snap of hammers, damper levers, and springs, or is there something else...??? I understand if you don't want to give away trade secrets though smile

I must have done the math wrong when planning my order for the dampers. I'll have to measure again. From what I can tell, the hammers are usable (for a novice piano player like myself anyway) although the dampers don't perform well and certainly don't look too good. So, I don't plan on replacing the hammers any time soon. For the rest (key pins, respacing, etc.) I will cross that bridge when I come to it. Slow and steady wins the race.

Originally Posted By: Ed Foote
If the pinblock is cracked or falling apart, say goodbye to the piano or your wallet. There are very few techs out there that can successfully replace a pinblock in an upright. If considering having someone do this, make sure you talk to tuners that have tuned the pianos afterwards, (not the tech that did the work and does the tuning).


Yes that is why I have been obsessing about the pinblock. From my analysis and pictures (above), it seems usable. None of the big red flags like doping stains, cracks, warping, delamination, hammered-in pins, or seriously out-of-tune single strings. The unisons were all in tune with themselves, amazingly. To my ear anyway.

Originally Posted By: SteveM732
I'm not an auto mechanic, but I rebuild a 1991 V-6 engine and it ran very well for several years before I sold it.
I'm not a plumber, but I fixed a leaking and clogged drain pipe.
I'm not an electrician, but I installed a new sub-panel and wired up a workshop in my garage.
I'm not a certified hardwood flooring installer, but I installed 2.25" red oak flooring in our house.
I'm not a house painter, but I painted the exterior of our home.

Point being that Fishbulb may not be a piano tech, but I bet if he can build a fence and get dirty in his crawl space then he can have some fun working on a piano that most think isn't worth it. It's good to be forewarned, but then a liberal dose of positive encouragement is in order. You can do it!


Hear hear! Far too few do-it-yourselfers in this day and age. I've done the hardwood flooring thing too, all sorts of weird car things over the years, electrical work (both home and auto), home appliance repair, and a lot of custom computer and electronics building (talk about fragile components!).

Maybe I'll break something. But if you go through life being paralyzed by fear of making a mistake, you never learn any valuable skills. And as we know... "Nunchaku skills... bowhunting skills... computer hacking skills... Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills!" laugh
Posted by: Withindale

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 02/12/13 01:25 PM

It's surprising how much you can improve a piano in reasonable condition with a few basic tools and without replacing anything at all. Taking time to make the most of what you've got could well be the best approach. It would certainly avoid the pitfalls Ed Foote rightly mentions, and it will be an education.

The keys on the 110 year old piano I have at the moment could do with rebushing, and maybe some of the centres need loosening up, but compressed air, tightening loose screws and bolts, setting the treble strings, adjusting dampers, and regulating the action have made a huge difference. The instrument has gone from one that was almost unplayable to one that is a pleasure to play.
Posted by: fishbulb

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 03/02/13 05:33 PM

The piano is on the truck, coming in a few days!

Soundboard looks pretty good for 120 years old!

Detailed pictures of the back side: http://imgur.com/a/suneG

Posted by: BDB

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 03/02/13 05:43 PM

I do not know whether your tech carries them, but I carry replacement casters. It does not take long to replace them if one has access to the bottom of the piano and one knows what one is doing. So you might ask if your tech can replace that broken one when the piano comes. It can be more difficult later.
Posted by: miscrms

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 03/02/13 10:51 PM

Very nice, wish mine looked that good wink

Rob
Posted by: fishbulb

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 03/04/13 12:53 PM

Piano delivered! It's in a really nice spot in the living room, near the center of the house, about as far away as possible from windows, heater vents, the bathroom, the kitchen and the fireplace. Hard to dodge all those trouble zones, but my house floor plan allows it. Nearest possible trouble maker is the fireplace, about 8-10ft away on the other side of the room.





I love the tone, despite it being about a 1/4 to a 1/2 tone low and out of tune. The keybed definitely needs some work (center position keys have some side-to-side wobble, key height is a little uneven).

Thoughts on tuning? The piano was restrung about 40-50 years ago. In about a month, after it acclimates, should I just "tune it to itself" (say a 1/4 tone low across the board) until I can get a proper restringing done?

If I try to do a pitch raise to A=440 it seems like there will be a pretty high likelihood of breaking the old strings. The strings aren't rusty that I can SEE but obviously there could be rust in places that I can't see.
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 03/04/13 01:03 PM

Congratulations on your 'new' piano! It is a very handsome beast.

As far as tuning goes, it depends on whether the piano will be used to accompany fixed pitch instruments. If not, then the pitch does not need to be at A-440. That would give you the flexibility to gently do a pitch raise across a number of tunings with less chance of strings breaking.

Enjoy!
Posted by: miscrms

Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! - 03/04/13 03:32 PM

Very nice smile

Rob
Posted by: fishbulb

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/06/13 11:06 PM

Got to cleaning up the tops of the keys yesterday. Used a very, very, very well wrung-out damp rag to wipe up the dust and stains (seems like spray-on furniture polish residue).



The keys were already stamped from the factory, but they were difficult to read. I scrubbed them out with a dry toothbrush to remove the dust, and then carefully penciled in the numbers in the original stamps using a 0.5mm mechanical pencil.



There is a signature on key #88, looks like "A. Bornely" or "A. Barnely". "Barnely" and "Bornely" seem like fairly common last names in New England. "Abornely" and "Abarnely" don't get many results on google, but I suppose that could be it too.



Next step is to finish building my custom action rig. I wanted something more solid than the aluminum clamps that Schaff and NewOctave make. Once I get the rig done, I'll be able to take the action out and clean up that dusty old keybed.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/06/13 11:48 PM

Something to think about with regards to tuning it. Back then (120 years ago) they didn't tune necessarily to A=440. In fact, it was more likely closer to the 1/4 lower you're talking about. Of course, it varied quite a bit, so much so that Verdi stated all of his operas should be done to the tuning of A=432 (about 1/4 step lower than 440). So, I wouldn't necessarily try to bring it up to 440, as it probably never was intended to be there. Unless you have perfect pitch and this bothers you, you will find that the tone is much warmer at 432.

Beautiful instrument! Best of luck with the continued restoration work!
Posted by: RealPlayer

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/06/13 11:54 PM

Congratulations on your piano. Quite a handsome old beast it is! I have a soft spot for Webers, having used one of their old grands for many years...till the point it needed rebuilding and I passed it off to another PW member who intends to work on it. It was quite a good piano, though it was from the Aeolian era.
Posted by: fishbulb

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/22/13 12:31 PM

Time for an update.

Well I received most of the tools and felts I have ordered. I will post more pictures as I get to using them.

I am still working on my custom action rack, but it's almost done. I just need to make one more trip to the hardware store I think. Since Reblitz's method of regulating an upright involves removing the action several times, I want to make sure I have a solid, safe place to put it while it's out.

Here is my tuning setup:



That's Tunelab (demo version) on the laptop, and the cheap-and-popular CAD U37 USB Condenser Microphone for tuning and recording. USB mics are very easy to work with compared to having to deal with a mic pre-amp and so forth.

I have found that I get very long, sustained note recognition with TuneLab if I have the mic placed directly in front of the action instead of on top. This requires removing the front panel and fallboard, but it's worth it.

The piano is about 80-85 cents flat of an A-440 tuning (almost a half-step/semitone), so I am actually tuning DOWN slightly to 100 cents flat (a complete half step/semitone low) to safely improve my tuning lever control skills before I start the pitch raise. Not only will I be minimizing the risk of string breakage as a beginner tuner, but also I will be breaking loose any rust spots where the strings are rusted to any bars or pins (if there are any rust spots; the strings are pretty clean).

So far the tuning pins are holding fine, despite the low tuning. Interestingly, they are #1 size, so I'm glad I bought the extra tips for the tuning lever. The #2 tip fits, but is loose even when pushed all the way down to touch the wire coils. The #1 tip fits snugly with about an 1/8" to 1/4" of space between the end of the tip and the wire coil.

Once the piano is fully tuned down to 100 cents flat (of an A-440 tuning), then I'm going to go back over it and raise it up to 50 cents flat, and then go for the final raise to A-440. And then go over it one more time, since it will probably need some fine tuning after getting to A-440. Tedious, but slow an steady wins the race, and lowers the risk of broken strings.

I should be able to get some more work done this weekend if I can get the action rack finished. Then I can take out the keys and clean up that filthy keybed.
Posted by: fishbulb

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/22/13 02:02 PM

Also, I got some more books, to start working on my piano PLAYING skills:



* The Beatles piano songbook (easy piano/beginner)
* Radiohead piano songbook (beginner/intermediate)
* Neil Young piano songbook (easy piano/beginner)
Posted by: Mark VC

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/22/13 02:12 PM

On the songbooks: I have a pile like this too. Then I discovered MusicNotes, and PianoStreet. They're legal download sites for sheet music and they have tons 'o' stuff, including what you show in the photograph. Just sayin', it's available - the books may work best for you.

I like downloads because I can keep all the stuff on my iPad and just have THAT on the piano stand - actually easier to turn 'pages' too, you just swipe with your finger rather than have the mini-wrestling match while you're trying to play something, and of course the iPad never tries to fold itself closed. ;-) Either way, enjoy!
Posted by: fishbulb

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/22/13 02:24 PM

Interesting sites to know about, thanks! I don't have a tablet computer / ipad though, or a printer. So, that would have to be taken into account in the cost for me I guess. I will keep it in mind if I get a tablet someday though.
Posted by: OperaTenor

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/22/13 04:17 PM

Fish, I like your approach to this, and i think you got yourself a fine piano.
Posted by: miscrms

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/22/13 04:32 PM

Its funny, we seem to be on parallel journeys here smile Ours also needed a #1 tip and is 80c flat. Hopefully work will let up soon and I can get back to work on ours.

I have the same reaction to your pic that I often have at home, it looks so funny to see these old pianos plugged in to a laptop as if they have an OBDII port for diagnostics smile

Keep up the good work!

Rob
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/22/13 04:42 PM

Fishbulb - be careful of that Rob guy. He doesn't peddle smoke, but he has a mirror business!



(Click on his link)
Posted by: miscrms

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/22/13 04:44 PM

BTW how do you like the CAD U37? Was debating between that and shelling out for a dual usb pre amp and a couple of MXL 990s. It seems silly to spend that much on recording gear now (although I could use them for other things too) but I was wondering how well the all in one solution like this really works.

Rob
Posted by: SBP

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/22/13 04:45 PM

I really like the way the music desk folds out of the top board, sorta like an old player piano, instead of flipping up like most modern pianos.

I had the opportunity to buy an old Seiler art-case upright a few months ago when I was looking. I passed it up because I didn't want an old upright at the time. It still played, with an absolutely gorgeous mellow European tone (although slightly tubby), but if I were to spruce it up like you did with your Weber, it would've been a gorgeous instrument.
Posted by: Bob Newbie

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/22/13 05:02 PM

Is black its original color? I haven't seen many ornate black uprights of that period..
usually stained brown..
Posted by: fishbulb

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/22/13 06:42 PM

Originally Posted By: OperaTenor
Fish, I like your approach to this, and i think you got yourself a fine piano.


Thanks!

Originally Posted By: miscrms
I have the same reaction to your pic that I often have at home, it looks so funny to see these old pianos plugged in to a laptop as if they have an OBDII port for diagnostics smile


Heh I know the feeling; although, I have never owned a car new enough to have an OBDII port ;-)

Originally Posted By: Minnesota Marty
Fishbulb - be careful of that Rob guy. He doesn't peddle smoke, but he has a mirror business!


Rob's piano is a very interesting one; even though it was hacked up for the mirror retrofit, it looks like they did a very good job of it - and it's still a Steinway!

Originally Posted By: miscrms
BTW how do you like the CAD U37?


Well, I haven't recorded with it yet, so I'm not really the best one to ask I think. It's great for tuning though. One of my friends who's more into gear than I recommended it as a good budget mic. My only caveat with it would be that I doubt it could withstand a lot of banging around since the case and stand are plastic. If you treat it nice though (or wrap the case in 50 layers of duct tape) it should be fine.

Originally Posted By: SBP
I really like the way the music desk folds out of the top board, sorta like an old player piano, instead of flipping up like most modern pianos.


Thanks! I like it too. That was supposedly a very common feature of late Victorian uprights.

Originally Posted By: Bob Newbie
Is black its original color? I haven't seen many ornate black uprights of that period..
usually stained brown..


Yep, it's definitely original unless they redid the entire cabinet inside and out, up and down. I've seen no evidence of any refinishing so far. This piano was dated to 1894 according to some notes I have from my parents' tuner, and the serial number info I have supports that. This is about when ebonized (black) finishes were introduced, because they were cheaper to apply than wood finishes. Overall, this was probably a mid-level piano (for Weber anyway, which was a high-end company). It was probably made after the panic of 1893, since it has the less-expensive black ebonized finish and the simplified carvings instead of the full cut-out carvings.

There is a great amount of detail about this in Martha Taylor's article on upright cabinet styles.

I have also been writing an article for Wikipedia on the Weber piano company (none had existed yet). Weber really has an interesting story, complete with illegitimate children, pistol-brandishing playboys, suicides, legal battles, and declaring oneself insane to avoid creditors.

The working draft is located here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_...8piano_maker%29
Posted by: miscrms

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/23/13 04:29 AM

Originally Posted By: Minnesota Marty
Fishbulb - be careful of that Rob guy. He doesn't peddle smoke, but he has a mirror business!



(Click on his link)



Hey now! Just because my plan for world domination begins with convincing everyone to buy old uprights and trying to... Oh wait. That's supposed to be a secret. Never mind!

Rob
Posted by: Bob Newbie

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/23/13 07:53 AM

I like them! especially the fancy ornate ones from the 1880s period .... smile
Posted by: heathermphotog

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/23/13 08:29 AM

I love this. Absolutely beautiful. Thanks for sharing your pictures and journey - it's inspiring! One day when I have the time and money to invest I'd love to have a beautiful old piano such as yours. Enjoy!!
Posted by: fishbulb

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/23/13 05:24 PM

Minor update...

Pictures of the action rack I've been building, as promised.

First, I cut some mortises by hand with my chisels. Wish I had a router and a drill press, or even better-quality chisels, but my workshop space is pretty limited.



Completed four mortises:



Cut the other pieces of wood, sanded rough spots, glued everything, and let each side of the rack dry overnight. Elmers Wood Glue, nothing fancy. All of the wood pieces are 24 inches long, and the spacer blocks are 3.5 inches square. This took two nights, since I only have enough clamps to hold one side of the rack at a time.



Drilling some counter sinks for the 4-inch lag bolts with a forstner bit:



Lag bolts installed:



Then there was the hardware. This took me several attempts to get right. First, the bolts were to short. Then the washers were too big. Then the new washers were too small. Luckily I have a good hardware store close by. This is the bottom attachment:



This is the top attachment. On all four attachments, there are nylon spacers around the threads of the bolts, so the action frame doesn't touch anything but rubber and nylon.



And this is the complete rack. There are cork pads glued underneath of each side piece to protect the dining room table (or whatever surface the rack rests upon.)



The good things about this rack: extremely stable, provides plenty of room to work below the stickers, and inexpensive to construct (especially if you already have some leftover 2"x4"s lying around.) The only major downside with this rack is that due to the weight it is difficult to move with the action attached by yourself - you definitely need two people to move the action around.

Posted by: miscrms

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/24/13 07:43 AM

Very Nice!! Conveniently one of my next projects. Thanks for figuring it out wink

Rob
Posted by: OperaTenor

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/24/13 11:36 AM

Nice rack, fish!

Wait, that didn't come out quite right...

laugh
Posted by: fishbulb

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/24/13 01:46 PM

Thanks guys. Made a lot of progress yesterday.

Found a couple more signatures, on key #1.

Looks like Sprigoode???


And on the bottom of the key, Deitz:


I also got started on the buffing project. Hard work, but it pays off. Left side is unpolished, right side has been buffed with Cory Coconut Wood Cleaner.


Now that I've got the action rack done, I had plenty of room to easily remove all of the keys. As I suspected, it's disgusting under there.




The balance rail and front rail punchings are pretty disintegrated.


The old punchings were handily removed using the punching lifter tool I got from VandaKing.com for $6.59. The tool is definitely worth it (it saves a ton of time both removing old punchings and sliding down the new ones) but it needed some modification. As shown in the pictures, I sharpened the two lower "teeth" so that the tool could actually slide under the paper punchings at the bottom of the stack. The tool is made of some tough steel. To sharpen the teeth, I actually had to clamp a metal file in a vice and then push the punching lifter tool back and forth against the file. Hard work, but the tool is actually effective. Without that modification, it's basically useless.




The pins are a bit worn (this is in the center of the keybed), but not at all rusty and still very smooth. Looks like I'll be able to get a lot more use out of them.




This is after a lot of vacuuming and detailing with Cory Harmony Detailing Oil. From what I can tell, someone spilled red wine in the piano at some point, I think on both sides of the keybed. When I polished this area, the rag came off purple like a wine stain, and not black like the finish. Hmm...


Now is a good time to talk about glue. Having used hot hide glue in the past, frankly, I think it smells like the devil's personal outhouse. Therfore, fish glue! Usable at room temperature, similar properties to hide glue (it can be 'reversed'), and it doesn't smell. Unless you live in a jungle, where fish glue probably wouldn't work quite as well due to its lower resistance to humidity, it is a much better choice for most woodworking applications where hide glue would have been used. Plus, unlike hide glue, fish glue is very unlikely to have bovine spongiform encephalopathy prions in it. ;-) I got both bottles from Lee Valley Tools.


Finally, here is the keybed with fresh felts and paper punchings, ready to go!


Currently, I'm working on replacing some of the smaller felt pieces that are part of the trapwork, and cleaning and polishing up everything, before I put the keys and action back in.
Posted by: OperaTenor

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/24/13 03:21 PM

Fish, I wouldn't use any kind of oil inside the case. Others' opinions might differ, but I would be concerned about it migrating to someplace I didn't intend for it to go that might irreparably damage the piano.

As for glue, as long as it's wood glue, go for it.

Looking great so far.
Posted by: Eric Gloo

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/24/13 05:04 PM

I'm confused (which is nothing new). Did you already install new paper punchings, without the keys installed?
Posted by: fishbulb

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/24/13 06:25 PM

Yep, there are paper punchings under everything. To start out I just measured the old punching stacks with a digital caliper, and then selected a new punching thickness that a made a new stack that was about the same size. So everything is the same from key to key right now.

Key dip came out pretty good, but key height is a little uneven. So, the balance rail punchings will need to be adjusted after I break them in by playing.
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/24/13 06:33 PM

Fishbulb - This is a very interesting thread. I am enjoying it and learning a lot. Your photos are great! I do hope you plan to keep them comming.
Posted by: Norbert

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/24/13 07:03 PM

Congratulations to such an interesting undertaking!

In spite of all the nay-sayers, such project has obviously its onw rewards.

Enjoy the process!

Norbert smile
Posted by: LarryShone

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/24/13 07:13 PM

I just found this thread, absolutely fabulous!
Posted by: fishbulb

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/24/13 09:44 PM

Marty, Norbert, Larry - thanks! I would definitely take anything I do with a grain of salt - I am a complete novice here. Just going on what I've read in Reblitz's book and what I can find searching the internet.

If you go to google and type: site:pianoworld.com what you're searching for you can use google to search just pianoworld, which has been very handy. I also use site:mail.ptg.org/pipermail/pianotech/ what you're searching for to search the pianotech mailing list archives from the PTG - there are a lot of good discussions there.

Anyway, here is a summary of today's work, likely my last update for a little while as the weekend is almost over.

~~~

I completed tuning the entire piano, stem to stern, 100 cent (one semitone) flat using Tunelab.

First off, Tunelab is awesome software. Just go to Help -> Tutorial to get started. In short, just take your inharmonicity readings (I did all the C's) using the "M" key, and then press "T" to go to the tuning curve, and press "U" to set your stretch curve automatically. Then close that window, and begin tuning, either typing in notes or using the left and right arrows to switch notes. If you are using the demo version, it will make you wait for 2 minutes every 12 notes, so it's best to minimize note switching. Or just pay the $300. I may just do that before I tune next.

If you are using Tunelab, or any other computerized tuner, you can start tuning anywhere (you don't need to tune a temperment octave). I would recommend starting with the bass stings and working your way up; I found them the easiest to tune (I actually started in the middle). The last two octaves of the treble were a real pain due to the tight working conditions and difficulty muting the strings. The rubber mutes with the metal handles are a lifesaver for an upright, because you can jam the mutes all different ways to get the right muting. The plastic "Papps Treble Mute" is OK, handy in a few situations, but the rubber mutes are far more effective at actually silencing the strings - at least on my piano.

End result: my piano is playable and sounds 100 times better than before. The tuning is not perfect, probably pretty bad honestly (I can hear some beats in some of the unisions that I need to fix), but it is such an improvement from "not being tuned for ten years" that I'm very happy with it.

~~~

I also had time to do a little bit of work on the various felts that are easy to replace while the action is out.

First off is that nasty old damper-lifter rod (for the sustain pedal). Pretty crusty.


To remove the leather, I slowly picked it back from the wood and let a lot of vinegar soak down into the gap. Then I let it sit, peeled back a little more, and added more vinegar. Repeat until done.


Ahh, nice and clean:


And installed in the piano! I cut down a spare front rail punching to fit, and then cut a piece of buckskin to match the original. It actually made a big difference - the sustain pedal mechanism is quieter now.


~~~

Luckily, a lot of the trapwork bushings are just the same size as felt balance rail punchings. Pretty easy to fix.

I soak them in pure vinegar for five or ten minutes, and then they just scrape right off. Here's an example:


I have found that a plastic scraper (available at most hardware stores cheap) gives good results - a metal scraper is too dangerous to the wood.


Here is the lever for the damper lift rod, complete with four new bushings:


~~~

Also, that nameboard felt (what the top, flat surface of the keys hit against, visible from the outside of the piano, usually red) looked pretty bad - the blue was so faded that from the outside it had lost its color and just looked like dirty wool.


So I replaced it with a nice black peel-and-stick strip.


~~~

Other items on the list of felt replacements are the muffler rail felts and bushings, and basically the entire trapwork that is behind the knee panel - the felts down there are in pretty poor shape. And of course, trying to learn how to read music and play the dang thing! smile
Posted by: miscrms

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/25/13 03:58 AM

Thanks for sharing so much detail. Being trapped here on the computer at work rather than at home working on my piano its really fun to see the progress you are making!

Rob
Posted by: Mark R.

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 03/26/13 08:17 AM

The name on that key looks to be "Sprigade". While rare, it is still in use today.
Posted by: musicNow

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 09/25/13 12:31 PM

Fishbuld,

Any updates on this project? You were off to a great start!

- Rick
Posted by: Kyle_G

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 09/25/13 01:16 PM

I am loving this!

Are there any updates?

-Best Wishes

Kyle G.
Posted by: fishbulb

Re: Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics! - 10/02/13 05:03 PM

Hey hey!

Actually not much to say, mostly in a good way.

I have been tuning it up every few months, but it has held a tune pretty well. Mostly I am just learning how to play. I am basically starting as a total beginner and I have been working on reading music, scales, learning keys, and working my way through simple songs. I am try to sit down at the piano for at least a 15 minutes every day, and longer on weekends.

I have become barely skilled enough to at least notice things that bug me (out-of-tune unisions, keys that didn't play quite the same as the others; etc.), but so far I haven't had the time to go through a full regulation process. The thing is, the keys are not terribly bad as it is. I asked my mom if she had ever had it regulated, and sort of figured out that her tuner did this at every tuning - "I don't know, he charged me for fiddling with the insides and adjusting the keys and everything" - so that's why it's probably not been too out of whack.

(side note)

I really want to work more on the piano (every time I walk by it) but I discovered a major black mold infestation in my bedroom (luckily far away from the piano) due to a water leak, and I have had to really put my life on hold while I gutted half of the room down to the bare studs, including removal of the flooring. Incidentally, the leak was the fault of the Home Depot contractors who failed to properly caulk my siding when I had them put on new siding in 2009. This is hopefully the last in a long list of problems I have had from that job, ranging from not masking my windows (a fine mist of dried paint is still on most of the glass) to outrageous change orders (luckily I was able to fight them) to stolen property (grudgingly returned after I confronted them). So yeah, 0/10, would not hire Home Depot again.

(end side note)

Anyway, I assure you I will continue to update this thread when I do anything else to the piano. Next tuning I do, I want to take some photos and create a quick beginner tutorial of using TuneLab. I also need to replace the practice bar felt and level the keys, which should make for good tutorials.

Oh yeah and I also finished writing the Wikipedia article on Weber Piano Company, which was fun research, so I guess that counts for something smile https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weber_Piano_Company