Saturday, May 29, 2010

Day 3 – Thursday, May 27

(Piano lesson on Wednesday, gave myself and the piano a break for a day)
Goals: Vacuum out the inside of the body; commission the fabrication of the missing damper arm; measure and record the diameter of all the strings; read through or test out any materials or tools that arrive today (not expecting many, but my tuning/refurbishing book is a good candidate, as is my Dremel tool).

Music: Chico Freeman’s “Destiny’s Dance”; The Crystal Method’s “Community Service II

I gave the damper arms to “MB”, the guy at work who has his own woodshop. He’s going to see if he can buy some Brazilian rosewood from some place and then manufacture that missing damper arm.

I figured out how to remove the damper arm assembly and its cover, the cover having two small removable heads to hold it in place, with the damper assembly having only one hand-tightened nut to hold it into a frame. I swung up all the damper arms on the assembly, and after vacuuming it, revealed a bright red piece of felt padding. Exciting.

With the damper assembly gone, I was able to clean underneath and around the strings much more easily. Using an old rag and lemon oil, I could also wipe away a lot of the dust and give the soundboard wood a bit of luster back. The more I looked at the piano, the more I learned. Not only do I now understand the damper assembly, but I understand how the pedal raises up the damper assembly to allow the notes to sound continuously. I also found out how the soft pedal works (by shifting a board with felt and leather tabs between the hammers and the strings). While there are many delicate and time consuming jobs I am finding having to do with replacing felt, gluing parts in place and whatnot, I have yet to find any job that is going to be difficult, per se.

So, last night I started to look at how to get at the sound board. There is some decorative trim all around it, basically extending wherever it can attach to two pieces of wood at a 90-degree angle. There was one small piece of this wood, attached with long-since-gone-brittle glue and two rusted brads. I separated the glued edge with a screwdriver (slowly, since the wood is as brittle as the glue), and pulled the brads out. It looks to my untrained eyes that those pieces of trim are not native to the piano. I really think they were added later. Since I already commented on how I noticed the soundboard had been painted in faux brass, I started looking much more closely at the piano. Again, to my untrained eyes, it appears the mother-of-pearl inlay feature was also added at a later date. I think this is true because I had the idea to do an inlay in the “C. H. Stone & Co.” letters, but happened to notice that someone had already started to chip away at it. And they stopped.

In short, I’m pretty sure that somebody was trying to turn this piano into something else and they just gave up. This tells me two things. One: I have an opportunity to turn this piano into an "original classic" by restoring it and fixing up the added features. Two: I can do whatever sort of restoration work I want on this thing, because I haven't got as much to lose if I was working on, say, and all original Steinway. So I don’t have to worry about replacing obsolete hinges, or using the same wire, or anything like that. I can basically have at the thing, add high quality, modern, beautiful parts, and whatever I end up with, it should be fine. Right there, I’m going to be saving some money on custom made hinges. (I think long piano hinges look better anyways.)

The better part of the evening, after vacuuming, I spent wiping inside and out with lemon oil. The finish is definitely getting better and the piano is definitely looking better. I’m sure the moisture is a big positive. I started to try and tackle some of the screws holding down the soundboard, but they are these honking half-inch slotted monsters and I couldn’t generate enough torque with a regular screwdriver to even budge them. The next day I bought a driver at lunchtime that I think will allow me to do the job. I also picked up heavy duty wire cutters and a small screwdriver with a regular handle that I should be able to grind down into a super narrow, sharp head that I can use on any more tiny screws I find (and any I might use to put the piano back together).

I read my Dremel manual at lunch and I’m ready to go with that. I’ve got my piano refurbishing book. All I need now is my tuning kit, which could possibly be arriving today (May 28).

Memorial Day weekend will start off with me going to fire a gun for the first time in my life. The rest of the weekend is all about selling stuff on e-bay and working on my piano. (I need to give it a name pretty soon.)

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