Introduce myself and my DIY project -- long

Posted by: Blues beater

Introduce myself and my DIY project -- long - 01/04/13 11:59 PM

I have owned some really wretched pianos over the years. In my drinking days, I was just happy to beat out the blues on a piano if all the keys returned. Now I expect more out of a piano, but, I am sure, not remotely close to what some do.

I recently acquired a 54" upright, old-school pre-1929 of uncertain make. It says "Whittier NY" and somebody told me that means it was made by Kimball. It was essentially unplayable and I have done the following:
** Restrung the 25 bass notes -- at which time I filled cracks in the bass bridge with epoxy.
** Replaced the hammers.
** Replaced the keytops.
** Done extensive work on the action. I had a free piano that didn't work out due to pinblock separation and loose ribs on the soundboard etc., but it had the same type of action with the exception of shorter stickers and that action donated a whole lot of hammer butts and whippens to to the decrepit action in the current piano.

I am not at all unhappy with the result and have less than $1k total in the project --and lots of hours! I have made a lot of mistakes such that I think I would prefer not to post pix of my work in order not to offend the squeamish smile but I don't think any of the mistakes are fatal. I have learned a LOT, and learned how much more there is to learn, as well.

What still needs to be done:
** Final professional tuning after the bass strings get a little more stabilized. I am tuning them myself with the help of a smartphone app that has an "Equal temprament -- streched" option.
** The 17lb Abel hammers are considerably heavier than what was on there and tomorrow I plant to try lightening the touch weight. I am fortunate in that the keys have weights behind the balance rail that I can remove. Not too concerned about lift weight, because it is currently over 30 grams -- nice aspect of used broken in parts! smile
** Properly regulate all the dampers. I ordered a spoon bender for uprights today.
** Perform a more thorough and precise regulation of the action per Reiblitz after the used parts get better acquainted with each other. At this time I have done little beyond hammer stroke, lost motion and let-off. Some of the capstans were getting a little wobbly in the keys because they had to unscrew further so I put a few drops of blue Loctite at the base of the threads. It seems to have wicked down and tightened them up nicely.
** Would like to address two items: The Bb at the bottom of the trichords is noticeably brighter and stronger than the A at the top of the bass. It was like this before I did anything, but I was hoping it was just dead bass strings. As you go down the bass gets a lot stronger. Comments? My understanding is that this is transition can be very challenging and, perhaps, the nature of the piano and something I will have to live with to a degree. I put hardener on the top bass hammers and can't tell any difference.
The other items is around the top of the octave above middle "C." Sometimes the notes have a metallic ringing, much more evident with all the panels removed than with the piano closed up. I swear sometimes I hear it and it is annoying, and sometimes I don't. It is maybe weather dependent (??) or 66 year old hearing. Prying the strings sideways on the capo bar I didn't see any grooves. There are TINY cracks coming from the bridge pins no more than 1/4" long. They are thin and hard to see. I am considering removing the bridge pins and reinstalling with epoxy, possibly longer pins and drill the holes a little deeper. But I wonder if I should better let this sleeping dog lie.

Comments welcome! I know what I have done to this instrument does not come remotely close to being considered a true "restoration," but it is all relative and the piano is relatively a thousand times what it was. While I have been frustrated at times, and am not happy with my ragged job of hammer installation, I am overall quite satisfied with the project and looking forward to continuing to make enhancements.
Posted by: Goof

Re: Introduce myself and my DIY project -- long - 01/05/13 08:21 AM

Yep the transition from treble to base bridge is a problem it is discussed elcewhere in this forum. I have eaxctly the same problem as you on a 54" Brock upright from 1956. The only difference is that on the Brock the break is after base D3.
I have made some improovement by carefully sanding off the nose of the hammer so that both strings of the bichord are struck evenly.
I used a graphite stick to rub on the strings and mark the hammer face. Did this about three times - i.e. removed hammer and shaft and shaped the felt on 200 grit sand paper laid on a flat surface; and this after fitting a new pair of strings!
Posted by: wcctuner

Re: Introduce myself and my DIY project -- long - 01/05/13 09:33 AM

The bass bridge might be coming unglued from the soundboard. If you can slip a business card between the bridge and the soundboard it needs repair. That would account for the reduced volume and poor tone. If this is the problem and you already added hardner to these hammers, you will probably have to voice these hammers, as those notes will be way too bright.
Posted by: Blues beater

Re: Introduce myself and my DIY project -- long - 01/05/13 09:48 AM

Originally Posted By: wcctuner
The bass bridge might be coming unglued from the soundboard. If you can slip a business card between the bridge and the soundboard it needs repair. That would account for the reduced volume and poor tone. If this is the problem and you already added hardner to these hammers, you will probably have to voice these hammers, as those notes will be way too bright.


Before I brought this piano home I was seduced by a "free" piano with beautiful tiger oak panels and carvings. My tuner pointed out to me what a POS it was for, among many other reasons, the bridge lifting from the soundboard. But all was well as the piano was the donor of lots of decent hammer butts and whippens. I knew to look for the bridge gap before taking in this latest piano. As you go a little further down in the bass it becomes quite aggressive with no hardener.

Thanks! Don
Posted by: Blues beater

Re: Introduce myself and my DIY project -- long - 01/05/13 09:55 AM

Originally Posted By: Goof
Yep the transition from treble to base bridge is a problem it is discussed elcewhere in this forum. I have eaxctly the same problem as you on a 54" Brock upright from 1956. The only difference is that on the Brock the break is after base D3.
I have made some improovement by carefully sanding off the nose of the hammer so that both strings of the bichord are struck evenly.
I used a graphite stick to rub on the strings and mark the hammer face. Did this about three times - i.e. removed hammer and shaft and shaped the felt on 200 grit sand paper laid on a flat surface; and this after fitting a new pair of strings!


I am considering having my tuner voice the very bottom of the trichords a little softer. They are unnecessarily bright. I don't know why because I did not mess with those hammers. I don't think I want to attempt the needling at this stage of my "skills." I have to live with the embarrassment of not having lined up the hammers very evenly, smile so I don't want to bring him in until I have, at least, got everything else as good as I can make it and the bass strings are relatively stabilized.
Posted by: Blues beater

Re: Introduce myself and my DIY project -- long - 01/09/13 07:41 AM

I have been puzzled by the fact that when playing the newest piano I seem to be losing my (limited) talents and playing an inordinate number of wrong notes. Its like I lose my place on the keyboard. 66 years old but hope I don't have Altzheimers yet! Discouraging.

Figured it out last night and verified the problem by comparison to my other two pianos. The new keytops I put on are way thicker than the old ones so the black keys do not project adequately above the white. I have a substantial task ahead of me and will order a big assortment of punchings. Won't be sitting in front of the TV bored watching reruns of "Cops" anytime soon.
Posted by: Blues beater

Re: Introduce myself and my DIY project -- long - 01/09/13 07:43 AM

Originally Posted By: Goof
Yep the transition from treble to base bridge is a problem it is discussed elsewhere in this forum......


Could you do me a big favor and direct me to that discussion?

Thanks....Don
Posted by: Goof

Re: Introduce myself and my DIY project -- long - 01/26/13 09:13 AM

Sory but I can not find the exact post but I do remember the point was made by Del Fandrich.
Try using the Google SEARCH at the top left hand corner ot this site's main page.
It does as it says "works much better ---".
Type in "discussions on piano briges" - there are plenty and very informative they are - too!
Posted by: Olek

Re: Introduce myself and my DIY project -- long - 01/26/13 10:25 AM

it is better to take off enough material from the key before gluing new tops? the other solution is to use taller sharps

Problems may arise with the board at the end of the keys , if the new tops are higher, but mostly you are obliged to raise the sharps and that is detrimental to touch. (plus you may need to add so many cardboard punchings under the sharps that the white keys will touch them)