This ca. 1848 Pleyel needed some serious rescuing of its tuning pins. Once we were sure it could hold pitch at 430 Hertz (common for this period), I could get on with putting it back together – rubbing down the iron strings, regulating the hammer spacing, re-building the dampers in a way that, as far as possible, kept the originals. (Note the folded felt – much stronger and more efficient than our modern wedge felts.)
It’s now a stable and expressive instrument.
The lid on my 19 guage steel wire tin failed.
As I was drawing out a length for this model L Bechstein, the lid suddenly jumped off – and I got THE WHOLE LENGTH…in one big tangled mess!
That’s 500g of diamond-drawn piano wire wasted.
But as you can see in the second photo, it all worked out well in the end – especially with these beautiful looking and sounding EKA bass strings.
This lovely Bizzi 2-manual (2x 8′, 1x 4′) harpsichord, which I have serviced before, had some sticking keys.
The reason was a surprise: a spider’s nest!
Keyboard out – notice the white patch!
Upon removal of the keyboard and keys in the treble area, the wee web was revealed. (The spider had already vacated – so no spiders were harmed in the making of this operation!).
The pianist Heidrun Bergander decided to fly me over to Catalunya to prepare her Tuinman fortepiano for a concert in Conca de Barbera. Early instruments have much lighter stringing than modern pianos – and so are much less stable in their tuning.
The pianist Heidrun Bergander with yours truly
Heidrun and the singer Cristina Ruiz
However, this lovely copy of a Walter 1805 fortepiano took the 1 hour journey and adjusting to the atmosphere within the walls of this medeival castle and re-adjusting to the heat of the lights and audience….and only needed tuning twice more before it gave a perfect performance!
Reconditioned by me – that means it’s beautifully voiced and sounds very even and open; easy to play. I’m quite enjoying playing it myself!
New strings (and bass strings) and tuning pins throughout.
Action is thoroughly serviced, with a light touchweight.
Key coverings are ivory.
Casework is clean but patchy: major dents filled and polished over, but there remain many small scratches and the colouration is uneven.
Most important for me is always the functionality of an instrument – that’s why the insides and workings are in top working order. Sorry about the casework. Nevertheless, a bargain, I think.
Do come and try it.
Price: £2,800. (Delivery paid for by customer).
Two free tunings.
Pedals before & after
Once re-bushed, all keys (naturals & sharps) may need some fine spacing. This is best done prior to key levelling.
The sharps are classically spaced very slightly towards the centre of the keyboard, bearing in mind that the movement of the pianist’s hand puts a slight outward pressure on each key.
Also, the groupings of the sharps (c sharp, d sharp / f,g,a sharps) should have equal spacing between each key, so that the pianist’s fingers will reliably fit.
1 If keys are not properly upright (and their respective capstans can also safely be altered), some correction of the balance pin is appropriate.
2 If the spacings need adjusting at the front guide (bat) pin, first remove the baize, then bend the bat pin as close to its fixing as possible, so as not to bring any curvature into the functional length of the pin.
3 If moving the key in either of the above ways makes the distal ends rub (and you’re sure the correction is really necessary), then fine planing of any excess key wood is the final step.
space too narrow
bend the bat pin
When hammer heads are angled on their shanks, they can sometimes require trimming (bevelling) to give clearance. I’ve posted on this previously (Hammer Cutting) but these pics show more clearly how to select the required angle (the amount) of bevelling: Simply, cut the felt in line with the hammer shank –
cut in line with shank
bevell is cut
Sometimes, this brings the cut close to the felt staple, so this too needs cutting/filing (otherwise you’ll get to hear that sickening sound of a beautifully sharp blade striking metal), and the felt perhaps needs rounding off.
First, all damper felts need to be trimmed and/or cleaned. I clean the felts using compressed air – it’s a delicate operation, but well worth the careful effort.
Trimming damper felts requires a perfect pair of scissors. Previous posts have shown how to trim the split wedges (Lift Noise Trimming), but below is a pic of the bass single rider dampers, the sides of which become splayed with use (and thus rub on neighbouring dampers, sometimes blocking movement).
(the odd bits of felt lying amongs the riders are the side trimmings):
trimmed bass riders
Then the damper lift can be regulated. This is done with simple bending in or out of each damper wire. Of course, you have to know where to bend the wires – but with practise it makes for a very satisfying job.
Regulating damper lift
Then the damper springs can be regulated. This is often forgotten, but it’s so important to ensure that individual damper springs are similar in strength to their neighbours, otherwise this effects the key touch weight.
Regulating damper springs
Finally, the half-blow can be regulated, by adjusting the spoons on the back of the levers. This also is vital for even touch weight. (no pic)
Sometimes dampers wobble as the key is pressed, especially on a hard blow, and can actually produce an audible vibration (a strange and annoying sound). Dampers with extended wires (usually at tenor/bass breaks) are particularly prone to this.
There are 2 remedies:
1 Replacing the wire guide felt.
2 Cutting back the damper head and re-cranking the damper wire (so that the damper head protrudes less, and so vibrates less).
Usually, both remedies are required – though as you can see from the pictures, only a 1.5mm thick sliver had to be removed, and the head sits just that amount closer to the plate arm…and now doesn’t vibrate!
Showing cut sliver (protruding)
The newly cranked wire
First bass damper now closer
Many quality keyframes have Dome Screws to adjust how the frame rests on the keybed. Most dome screws are adjusted using a tuning hammer or special key.
Many Piano People do this on the work bench, using a straight-edge; some draw slips of paper between the dome screw surface and the keybed. Neither of these methods are reliable – or easy.
This is the best method:
With the keyframe (and full action) in place on the keybed and cheek blocks screwed in position, tap obliquely down onto the key chasings close to each dome screw, lifting the keyframe as you tap (by pulling on the dome screw head or pressing up on the stack – as in the picture of a Bluthner concert grand) until you hear knocking (of the dome screw on the keybed).
Tapping the Chasings
The aim is to adjust each dome screw so that minimum lifting is required to produce knocking, thus putting as little tension into the keyframe as possible. Adjusting each dome screw may affect its neighbouring screw, so check up and down the keyframe several times.
For initial crude adjustment, try pressing down on the head of each dome screw. If this produces no visible movement of the hammers, the dome screw must be in firm contact with the keybed – and thus is either correctly adjusted or screwed down too far. Confirm this by tapping the chasing + gently lifting the stack. (if it’s screwed down much too far, it will be difficult/impossible to lift the keyframe clear, so you’ll get no knocking.)
Gap check: lifting the stack
Whereas, if pressing down reveals downward movement of the row of heads, there’s obviously a gap between dome screw and keybed: the screw must be turned down. Keep turning it down until the stack lift+chasing tap produce knocking. Now check neighbouring dome screws. Etc….
Sounds labourious? Once mastered, this method is quick and failsafe.