Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Days 23 and 24 – A little bit of everything

Sunday June 27 and Monday June 28 -

Goals: Work on whatever can be worked on, mainly the harp and legs.

Music: Chet Baker’s “My Funny Valentine” 10-CD set (disks 9 and 10); Bix Biederbecke’s “Bix and Tram” set (disks A and B); Carla Bley’s Incredible Big Band’s “Appearing Nightly” (again – yes it’s that good).

At this point in time, I’m sort of in a quandary as far as a systematic approach to my piano project is concerned. The problem is that everything needs to be done, and starting a lot of jobs depends on finishing a lot of other jobs. Can’t clean the keys until I repair them. Can’t put the lyre together until I repair the felt and paint the pedals. Can’t put the pedal assemblies together until I replace the felt. Can’t put the legs back on until I clean and repair them. Can’t put the keys back on their rack until I fit the felt and paint the side bars.

Like that.

I did find out a few things:

-Super glue works better on key repair than wood glue, because it dries clear and because it is liquid enough to get in the tiny spaces between the key surfaces and the wood. It works faster and works the first time.
-Removing veneer sucks, and because I have a dark veneer going in and it’s only 1/42 of an inch, I’m just going to put it over the existing and finish it nice.
-Furniture refinishing chemicals are nasty, nasty, nasty. I’m going to do as little refinishing as possible. Stick to cleaning and repairing blemishes. Save time and energy and get just about the same result.

What I did (concretely): I repaired some of the white keys – five in total, I think. I replaced the felt on the pedal assembly arms. They’ll be ready to re-attach after I clean the dowel pins. I cut out all the felt pieces necessary for the pedal portion of the lyre, including gluing two pairs together to make a fitted pad to cushion the pedals when they are depressed. I wire brushed the hell out of the harp. I worked on it with a wire brush fitting I had, and the going was slow and barely noticeable. I bought three new ones in different sizes, thinking they would work better fresh, and I was right. The upper surface of the harp is essentially dirt and paint chip free, but I have not gotten down to the metal on everything yet. I doubt that I will. Once everything is smooth, I’m going to paint it and see how that looks. I still have to remove all the old bushings from the damper arm pin holes. I also began patching the rear veneer to get it ready to be covered up by the new sheet.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 22 – Tuesday, June 22:

Goals: Start felt work; start finishing work.

Music: Barry Harris Trio’s “Magnificent”, Chet Baker’s “My Funny Valentine” collection (disk 8).

I really wanted to start on the felt work today, because the sooner I get the smaller pieces and apparatuses re-attached to the piano, the sooner I can stop tripping over them all the time. Problem is, I don’t quite have all the parts I need, and certain processes depend on other processes, which means I can’t necessarily just do what I want. I can only do certain jobs that are available within a limited linear flow.

At least, I couldn’t start on the felt, yet, because that needs to wait on some wood refinishing work. Instead, I decided (or had decided for me) to tackle some of the wood work.

Since I did not wish to make a huge mess and wasn’t in the mood to hang plastic doors to prevent dust moving throughout the house, I decided to try some steel wool on the sound board. It worked quite well and made only a small mess. It still requires a lot of elbow grease, but all-in-all, it’s a tolerable and effective way of cleaning up the wood, sometimes dramatically so.

In summary, I spent about an hour and twenty minutes on the piano, and just looking at it, it isn’t easy to tell anything has been done, but actually, it was rather a lot of progress for such a small investment in time, especially considering the amount of that type of work yet remaining.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 21 – Sunday, June 20:

Goals: Start work on the harp.

Music: Short time working outside, so nothing today. Just the sound of my Ryobi power drill with wire brush head.

I had to work outside in the yard today, so I didn’t have much time for working on the piano. Still, I did have a few minutes before lunch, so I carried the harp outside, set it on sawhorses, and had at it with the power drill/wire brush combo. It does not seem like I’m going to be able to get all the way down to the metal with this method, and since I plan just to paint it, that’s fine. I’ll concentrate on getting all the dirt, dust, grime, and chipped paint off. As long as the surface is even and clean, I’ll be able to make it look like new again.

I ordered almost everything else I need to complete the piano: felt for the action and keys, brass letters for the fascia board, and the large screws for attaching the harp to the piano body. I will order the strings and veneer on Monday, then all I’ll need is the hardware: hinges and a lock.

And although I still have a lot of woodworking to go, it’s exciting to already be able to see the finish line this early in the project. It will be nice to have all the major expenses behind me, too, investing only labor after I buy just a few more things.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day 20 – Saturday, June 19:

Goals: Remove and clean the keys and clean out the frame under them. Figure out what felt I need and order it.

Music: Chet Baker’s “My Funny Valentine” collection, disks 5, 6, and 7; Count Basie’s “The Complete Atomic Basie”; Ran Blake Quartet’s “Short Life of Barbara Monk”. (Yep, still more or less working through my entire collection in order...forgot how good “Short Life...” is, so I’m glad I’m taking this opportunity to reacquaint myself with my not insubstantial jazz CD collection.)

Although I wanted to work on the harp and lid pieces today, it rained heavily during the first part of the day, making putting the cars outside and working in the garage more trouble than it would have been worth, so I decided to work inside on the keys, just cleaning them up and assessing how much felt I needed. And it’s times like these when I really am glad the square grand is three keys shorter than a standard piano. You can tell how long that took by how much music I listened to.

  Oh, great. 12 more feet of felt I've got to buy!

Now all the key levers are clean. I still have to clean the actual key parts and glue down certain portions. (The piano guy said that antique pianos should look a little imperfect and he advised against replacing the key tops.) Maybe tomorrow the weather will cooperate and I’ll be able to cut the grass then do some sanding and wire brushing outside. If not, I’ll keep working on the keys.

The picture below is the only fun thing I got to do with the keys while cleaning them. I may be mistaken, but I’m pretty sure I saw something like that in an art museum once. This picture I got for free (and you did too)!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day 19 – Friday, June 18:

Goals: Get an assessment of how I’m doing and suggestions for proceeding (or recommendations for how not to proceed).

Music: Chet Baker collection, disks 2, 3, and 4.

I had a gentleman who is semi-retired and now works on and tunes pianos visit yesterday to have a look at my piano and the work I’m doing on it. The long and short of it, was, I’m doing fine and seem to be proceeding at a good pace and in a systematic and organized fashion that will, in the end, greatly benefit the piano. He basically told me that everything I’ve done so far is more or less how he would have done it, and he said I showed a lot of energy and discipline in my approach.

So, I discussed a few things that have to be done yet, and he concurred with my ideas and said he felt I was on the right track. He also said there was a possibility that my piano was built in the fashion of a Steinway, as it was probably an OEM piano that was manufactured by someone else and assembled and sold by C. H. Stone & Co. He theorized that would explain the two different numbers, such that, the 1498 that is all over the piano was the manufacturer’s serial number, and the 6345 in front is the purveyor’s serial number. That seems logical to me.

Anyway, with the vote of confidence, I proceeded to remove the hammers from the action assembly, only breaking one in the process. (Damn!) I was amazed to discover a boatload of small felt pieces here and there that will have to be replaced to bring the piano back up to snuff. Much of it is visible in this picture. (Jefferson is keeping an eye on the broken hammer for me.) (Only cats know why they do what they do.)

Really, they put felt everywhere on these things. Little tiny squares, little puffy circles, landing pads, cushioning pads, strips underneath, strips on top, just rife with felt. That’s fine. I mean, it’s no big deal to remove and replace, but I’m buying German-made100% wool felt, and that stuff’s not cheap! I would say, as the expenses pile up, it is looking more and more as if it will be difficult to recoup all of the money I put into it.

Just as well. After pouring my life into it, I’ll probably want to keep it, at least for a while.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Days 17 and 18 – Tuesday, June 15 and Wednesday, June 16:

Goals: Paint underside of the piano.

Music: Count Basie’s complete Decca recordings (disk 3); Tony Bennett’s “MTV’s Unplugged

Tuesday night I filled some more cracks and small holes on the underside of the piano with wood filler because I just wasn’t happy with the cosmetics of the under surface. This time, however, I did take notice of where the legs will be covering up the bottom so that I didn’t spend a lot of time repairing something that hardly anybody would ever see.

Wednesday night I sanded down everything, cleaned up, wiped down the surface, and painted everything to a smooth even flat black coat. I also cleaned up the room again, pulling out the one area rug that my cat peed on when he got trapped in that room after I put up plastic to keep the dust down. (He was smart enough to get in but not smart enough to get out.) I vacuumed everything, put everything away, and after some minor reorganization tonight, I should be ready to have the piano refurbishing guy come visit on Friday.

The former owner of this piano contacted me yesterday with a lead on an ornate, antique upright piano at a local thrift shop. Sale price: $18. That sounds like a refurbishing project I could actually do in the garage. I’ll probably at least go and have a look at it on Friday, since I’ll be down that way, anyways…

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day 16 – Monday, June 14:

Goals: Paint underside of the piano.

Music: Count Basie’s complete Decca recordings (disks 1 & 2)

I painted the bottom of the piano. That was it. I still have some patching to do and at the very least, I’ll have to move the sawhorses to paint the portion they occupy.

Mrs. S. will be out of town on Tuesday night, so I may try to do some more sanding if I can get the wood filling completed and dried pretty quickly. We’ll see how it goes.

Day 15 – Sunday, June 13:

Goals: Clean up and paint underside of the piano, including removing the pedal assemblies and cleaning them (maybe); polish the pedals and prep for painting (?); fabricate new brass rods for the pedal assembly.

Music: Louis Armstrong’s “Hot Fives and Sevens” (disk 4); Albert Ayler’s “Spiritual Unity” (about half of it before I couldn’t take it anymore); Chet Baker’s “The Original Quartets” from a 10 disk European import set, disk 1; Carla Bley’s Incredible Big Band’s “Appearing Nightly

The first thing I had to do was clean and organize. Since I started this undertaking, I’ve had to buy a lot of tools to get various jobs done. None of the new tools had designated storage locations, and few of the tools that I did have were not well determined in their storage location either. So I gathered everything up in the area of my toolbox, made a few decisions like “screwdrivers in the top tray, wrench sets in the bottom” and such, and put everything away. It was fifteen minutes very well spent.

Next, I vacuumed up all the old wood filler and chips and whatnot that had fallen down, moved the rugs and padding about, and put the keyboard assembly, damper assembly, legs, and miscellaneous piano parts, in separate areas around the walls and out of the way. Then I was ready to get to work.

Not wanting to mess up my newly cleaned dining room right away, I took the pedals outside and used the wire brush drill bit on them to clean them as best I could. They cleaned up pretty well, but I’ll have to make a decision about keeping or removing their patina, which is certainly authentic but definitely not pretty. I was dripping wet from the heat and effort after about ten minutes, so I went back inside.

Since I had the vacuum out, I decided it would be a good time to do the sanding underneath the piano. But, since I didn’t want dust all over the house, I first taped plastic over both of the dining room doorways. To do that, I had to open a window and close the air conditioning vent in that room, which made it 100 degrees in there in very short order. I got the sanding done as quickly as I could with the bare minimum of mess and cleaned up again. I would have been ready to paint, but I was too tired from the sanding and cleaning, so I left it at that. It was a productive enough day for a “lazy” Sunday.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Day 14 – Saturday, June 12:

Goals: Clean up and paint underside of the piano, including removing the pedal assemblies and cleaning them (maybe); clean up the pedal lyre, including fabricating new brass rods.

Music: Louis Armstrong’s “Hot Fives and Sevens” (disk 3)

Although it did not start out like it might be, it turned out to be a day of discovery.

Discovery #1: Bubbles in veneer do not always respond to ironing.

Before you ask: Yes, I tried to iron wood. I read on several websites that depending on the type of glue used, it is possible to use an iron to melt and reactivate veneer glue, after which you simply press and clamp the veneer down and it is good as new. Type of glue used is important though, because not all types of glue, especially old antique glues or glues that are just plain old and worn out, respond to this treatment. It sounded wacky to me, but I confirmed it with a guy at work who has his own family-owned wood shop, and he said that sometimes that would work. Well, it didn’t on the first top panel I tried to repair that way. When ironing failed, I tried another method. I cut it with an Exacto knife and tried to press it down with wood glue, and that helped, but it still needs some work. I’ll have to come up with something better for the other panel with a bubble in it.

Discovery #2: It is probably better to sand slowly with light grit paper than sand quickly with aggressive grit.

I was using 220 (fine grit) on the watermarks on the above mentioned panel. After about five seconds with The Mouse, (you know, those Black & Decker vibrating rotation mini-sanders) it was clogged with dirt, old lacquer and such. So I went to a 120 (medium) grit, but it only lasted about fifteen seconds. I would have liked to try a 100 or an 80, but all I had left in the box was 50’s, so I tried that. Worked great, but, it left some “trails’ in the finish and edges. Fortunately, redoing them with 120 grit and wiping everything down with wood oil after the sanding pretty much fixed the problem, although from an angle, those trails are still visible. Better to take my time with the light stuff than speed things up and ruin the delicate wood.

Discovery #3: How a pedal assembly is put together and how it works.

Removed the bottom panel on the pedal lyre and uncovered the secret workings of the pedals. (What greeted me inside is shown above.) Simple, actually, with two small wooden wedges to hold each pedal in place, with pieces of felt top and bottom to prevent the pedals from making noise when depressed or released. The wedges themselves are simply held in place by the lyre bottom. There is nothing fancy. The pedals are cast with grooves to hold the felt and pivot pins as part of the pedal. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I didn’t think it would be as simple as that. The felt, by the way, in my pedal assembly was far, far gone: disgustingly dirty and dusty, loose inside the pedals, and as hard as the wood around it. Replacing this thick felt is going to be a bit of a challenge. I haven’t a clue where to get something like that and I may end up replacing it with something else.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day 13 – Tuesday, June 8:

Goals: Take care of cosmetic issues on the underside of the piano

Music: Grant Green’s “Complete Quartets with Sonny Clark” (both disks)

While I would prefer to be doing some tangible work on more critical aspects of the piano’s appearance and function, I have more questions than answers about what to do and how to do it, which prevent me from proceeding until I talk to someone to give me some information or until I look it up online or in my piano restoration book. So I picked some low hanging fruit by working on a few cosmetic issues underneath the piano.

Somewhere along the line, somebody thought it would be a good idea to use bondo and a big-ass wood screw to hold the pedals to the bottom of the piano, instead of running a rod through the dowels the way you are supposed to. So the first thing I did, which was also the easiest and by far the lowest hanging fruit, was to remove the bubble-gum pink bondo from the bottom of the piano and the hole. Because it wasn’t designed to hold to wood and because it was done in such poor fashion, the stuff came right off. Some was gunked up in the hole – you know, the hole that shouldn’t be there anyway – so I used a screwdriver to get all that out, and glued the one chipped splinter that was threatening to come off. I scraped all the obvious lumps of glue and gunk scattered here and there, then grabbed my old can of wood filler and putty knife and filled in all the holes. Inexplicably, next to the dowel holes for the back legs are two 1-inch diameter, 2-inches-or-so deep holes. They are too large to be filled with wood filler and they look like they have some purpose (or did at one time), so I’m going to ask the piano guy when he comes over about them. They will have to be filled with a piece of dowel, glue, and wood filler when (and if) we determine they need to be filled in.

All that took the entire evening and I haven’t even cleaned up the mess yet.

The only other thing I did was to use my wood burner kit to mark the legs and dowels more legibly so that they don’t get mixed up like they did when we moved the piano.

Tonight’s my piano lesson, and tomorrow’s the company’s first ever golf outing, so it will be the weekend before any more work is done on the piano. I’m thinking I’ll sand the underside and paint it. I’ll probably have to remove the pedal assemblies to do that, which is just as well, as they need all their felt replaced anyway. So I guess I have to buy some felt pretty soon, and…and…and…

It’s a logistical nightmare keeping up with all that is needed or will soon be needed. Hopefully, this experience will make my next piano project go smoother.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Day 12 – Monday, June 7:

Goals: Research where to get parts for this sucker.
Music: None today.

I did not really work on the piano much. I just had to do some research on where to get stuff that will start going into the piano before long: screws, rods, strings, shims, and felt. So, I spent a lot of time on the Internet finding the stuff. I’ve already found a ton of links on my own, but it takes time to go through everything and whittle it down to what I really want to put in my piano. Lots of trial and error. I suppose that’s as it must be.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Day 11 – Sunday, June 6:

Goals: Clean up the legs; solidly fix the dowels in each leg; clean up the lyre.
Music:            Louis Armstrong’s “Hot Fives and Sevens”, disks 1 and 2

In the morning, I took the legs outside and scraped all the mud and old wood off of the inside of the feet. It was a delicate job, because portions of the feet were missing on some of them, and other portions were about to go missing. So after I got them as clean as they were going to get, I got some polyurethane and coated the insides of the feet really well and touched up a few rough bare spots here and there where they were obvious.

After that dried, I set about fixing the dowels. The one that we had put in using toothpicks was amazingly well secured. After extracting the toothpicks, however, it came right out. I started to scrape the old glue and broken wood off, but that didn’t seem a very productive or worthwhile job. Instead, I just coated the whole inside of the leg with fresh wood glue and reinserted the dowel where it had been, driving it just a bit deeper than it was to make sure the glue secures it and to tighten it against the body of the piano a little better.

I cleaned up the lyre pedal assembly. The wood looks good and cleaned easily enough. It should not be a major problem reattaching it to the piano. I’m going to replace the rusty metal rods with new brass ones, and in fact have already found the brass rod material on Amazon.  

That’s really all I did. I have so many questions and so few answers at this point, I’m really just going to have to wait until the piano expert comes to my house and looks at the piano, and that won’t be until June 18. Maybe I’ll just play my digital piano in the meantime….

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Day 10 – Saturday, June 5:

Goals: Get the piano up on sawhorses; remove legs; repair dowels; remove casters and clean; begin refinishing legs.
Music: Air’s “Air Time”; Mose Allison’s “The Sage of Tippo” (both disks) (Kind of going in order through my collection – got a four CD Louis Armstrong set next...)

I’m not going to say much about putting the piano up on sawhorses other than, it should not be attempted by a middle-aged man and his wife in the middle of their dining room for any reason whatsoever. Mrs. S. and I succeeded nonetheless, and if there is any damage to the floor (what?), we won’t see it for another couple of months yet.


I removed the legs, marking their locations both on the dowels and the actual legs. I removed all the casters. They are very sturdy, heavy suckers, but I doubt I will remount them. One had a screw that was broken and required quite a bit of finagling to get it to turn to the point where I could grab it with something and twist it out. The other casters were not so difficult. Three of the four wheels were absolutely caked in dry mud. I can’t begin to imagine who thought it was a good idea to move that piano on those tiny casters through dirt of any kind, much less mud. I will say, that when I was washing the mud off, it had quite a unique “non-Alabama” smell to it. Not in a bad way, mind you, just I’d been working in the yard all day, and the smell of the old dirt coming off the casters was definitely out of the ordinary.

That was it. I started to clean the keys, but again, I want to talk to somebody before I do. I think today will just be removing, cleaning, and re-gluing the dowels. They’re pretty shaky as it is.

By the way, every single leg had “1498” stamped into it. (See photo) That’s obviously the number of my piano. The question now is: what the hell is that “6345” in the left front corner about?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Day 9 –Friday, June 4 – Puttering:

Goals: None in particular.
Music: Arthur Blythe’s “Lenox Avenue Breakdown”; Dave Brubeck Quartet’s “Time Out

I didn’t do much of anything today on the piano. I did move the harp into the bedroom to get it out of the way and make some room for working on the legs and moving the rest of the parts out of the way. I smashed both my knees on the thing when I was moving it and I had a HUGE lump on my right knee immediately after I did that, but I put an ice pack on it and took it easy the rest of the evening, even leaving the thing on over night, and today my knee is just a little sore, but no big deal. I’m sure I’ll have a lovely bruise show up later today or tomorrow, but I’ll live.

So basically, I didn’t do anything to the piano today.

My key cleaner came, so on Saturday after I cut the grass and recover from that, I’ll try it out and start on the legs, maybe, depending on my energy level.

Here’s some pictures of the other serial (?) numbers I found in my piano.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Day 8 –Thursday, June 3 – “Everybody wants a piece of the action”:

Goals: Remove the action. (Everybody wants a piece)
Music: Andrew Hill’s “Point of Departure”; Brad Mehldau Trio’s “The Art of the Trio

After spending a lot of time online, I thought I had picked up enough clues to be able to free up and remove the action (key and hammer assembly) from my piano. Previously, I just hadn’t been able to find what parts separated from what parts, and I sure didn’t see any screws, latches or pins or anything that seemed to be holding everything in place. But, I read somewhere about the action of a grand piano “just sliding out”. I was anxious to have a look at my piano and see if it looked like something might slide somewhere.

The only vaguely loose piece on the front of the piano was the board in front of the piano keys. After two sips of my beer, I had just the right amount of moist tackiness on my fingers, so I grabbed hold of that board and gently pulled forward.


Well, that’s not it, I thought. That little bit of movement, however, did jar quite a bit of dust out of the corner formed by those two pieces, so I still thought I had the right notion. I pulled at it once more, this time in a 90-degree vertical direction, and…

It came right off! (It’s held in place by a couple of screws and some V-notches that sit on top of the screws.
There I was, staring at a nasty felt pad, some faded ivory key fronts, and a bunch of dirt. There were six screws underneath that piece of wood, two holding the action in place, and four for that board to sit on, and in the center was a metal rod which turned out to be the handle that you pull to remove the action. I pulled out and numbered the screws, got another area rug from the garage and set it down opposite the piano, pulled on the handle, and removed the action. I spent the rest of the evening vacuuming the inside of the piano, vacuuming all the dust off the hammers and keys, rescuing all the damper felts and leather tabs (which will be replaced anyway, but now I have almost all the originals so I can manufacture exact duplicates), and wiping down the wood. I don’t plan to do anything further to the action until I’ve consulted with somebody who knows what they are doing, because those things are delicate and obviously, the most important part of the piano. Mess that up, and I really may have to turn the sucker into a desk!

Here’s some photos of where I’m at now.

Day 7 –Tuesday, June 1:

Goals: Nothing in particular – general cleaning, wood conditioning, photographing, noting condition, etc.
Music: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers’ “Moanin’”; Cannonball Adderley’s “Somethin’ Else

Back to the day job, so I didn’t have much time to work on the piano. I also didn’t have much energy. I did do some cleaning, and I packed up the rest of the tuning pins in their WD-40 bath in three of my fastener box’s drawers (which were the ideal length width and height to exactly hold three rows of twenty pins each with cardboard separators).  There were 159 pins total, so without making a note before the fact, I know that eleven keys were single string and 74 keys were double string. (Isn’t math a wonderful tool!?)

I vacuumed the hell out of the inside and wiped everything down with a light coat of lemon oil. I scrubbed at a few of the heavier areas of dirt and scraped a lot of wax off of the sound board and around the pin blocks and edges of the piano. (Pretty sure someone had a drippy candle on this sucker at one time or another.)

As I wiped down the wood that I could reach, I made an interesting discovery: another (what I believe to be a) serial number. Now, in the front of the piano, there is a small piece of wood with the number “6345” either burned or printed into it. Problem is, this piece of wood looks like it could possibly be not native to the piano. I say that because it looks like it was added after the fact, and is not really a part of any of the functioning pieces of the piano. Still, I took it to be the serial number, because I’m experienced enough to know that piano’s have a serial number and that tells you a lot about the piano.

Now, when I was meeting the former owner and looking over the piano, I seemed to remember her mentioning that C. H. Stone was a small company that was in business only “around five years” before the factory burned down.  To get to piano number 6345 then, they would have had to have been making over 1200 pianos a year. While certainly not out of the realm of possibility, it seems an unlikely number. Supposing they started at number 1000 and made, say, 1000 pianos a year, the 6345 number gets a little more realistic, but not much. So, I assumed that the history account of the C. H. Stone factory was probably the culprit, and I continued to assume the 6345 really was this piano’s serial number. But when I was wiping down the boards around the hammers, I removed some dust and discovered an ornate, engraved, “1498” right in the rosewood facing of the pin board. Voila! I’m now 90% sure that someone was trying to make that piano into something elaborate that it was not, and 100% sure they hadn’t a clue what they were doing. It’s a shame, really.

I’m no genius. I’m no expert. I’ve no experience and have never done anything like this before. I guarantee, nonetheless, that when I am through, I will know more about this piano than anyone in the last century ever did, and even if I don’t, I will be able to “manufacture” a more plausible, reasonable, and interesting history for this instrument than anyone else could ever have imagined.

On Wednesday, I’ve a piano lesson, so again, my piano will experience a day of R&R before I get back to it on Thursday. I expect my heavy duty sawhorses to arrive by then, so I’ll probably be going “down under”.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Day 6 – Monday, May 31 – Success!

Goals: Remove the strings; remove the tuning pins, remove all the last of the screws holding down the sounding board/pin frame; remove the frame; clean up the inside.

Music: Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s “Rip, Rig, and Panic”; Bill Holman’s “The Original Bill Holman Band” (both disks); Ahmad Jamal’s “Cross Country Tour” (both disks); Dexter Gordon’s “Go”; Bill Frisell’s “Have a Little Faith”; and Stan Getz’s “Focus”. (Yes, that’s about eight hours’ worth of music, because that’s about how long I worked on the piano yesterday.)

Started off by continuing with the string removal. This was deceptively difficult, not only because the strings are so brittle and rusted onto to the pins, but also because I attempted to keep the strings in some kind of order for possible future reference. What makes this hard is the curly ends of each string, which I kept in case I have to refer to the length of any of the wires in the future. I can’t imagine I would, but never having done this before, I’m just not sure how important that is. But those curled up ends all gathering at about the same location can really get infernally tangled, and they catch on everything: each other, parts of the pianos, tools laying around the piano, my clothes, and stuff hanging in the garage where I attempted to hang the strings. Toward the end, with the little strings that just kept breaking anyway and where I was missing one to begin with – and because my patience had run out, I admit – I just cut all the ends off. Note, however, that I didn’t have a choice, because those upper end strings are run through a sort of holder through which the curled end never would have passed anyway. So, I did what I could, but had the strings off by lunch time.

Then I started on the tuning pins. Seeing that I would have to slide the frame to get it out from under the front edge of the piano, I knew they had to all come out. My piano has 85 keys, only eleven of which consist of one string. That’s one hundred and fifty nine tuning pins. As I took them out, I put them in little trays in groups of 20 sprayed thoroughly in WD-40 and stored that way. Although I finally took out that last pin at about 8:30 in the evening, I ran out of WD-40 and had to just line up the pins for storing this evening, as I will buy some more on the way home tonight.

With the pins out and the screws out, I tried to lift the frame, but it wouldn’t budge. There was one kind of cap looking thing right in the center, which upon further examination turned out to be holding the frame on some kind of screw. I removed that. Finally I could lift the frame, but I banged into the pins sticking in the side of the piano that hold the arms that support the top when it is open for playing. I removed those four pins. I lifted one end of the frame and set it on the side of the piano. I lifted the other and moved it over and the far end dropped right down on the sound board, nicking a pin block on the way down but fortunately, missing the pins and doing no damage to the soundboard. I went out to the garage and got a bunch of plastic tool holders that I had and they were just the right height and strength to put under individual sections of the frame so that eventually, the frame sat above the piano about two inches, supported along its entire length by these tool holders.

Now make no mistake: this frame is frigging heavy. I’d guess in the neighborhood of 100 pounds. But what makes it so hard to move is that it is six feet long and it is not perfectly rectangular. I decided my best bet was to slide it out of the piano. I went to the garage and got our old carpet runner and set that at one end of the piano. I started to slide the frame but quickly realized I was going to tear up the wood at one end of the piano if I wasn’t careful. I went and got a couple of old towels and covered the edge of the piano, and slowly, carefully, determinedly, lowered the frame to the floor. I had Mrs. S. takes pictures before the elation wore off.
I started to wipe down the soundboard and noticed that it has cracked in at least two locations, luckily, both at the edges of the soundboard and not very severely. I should be able to repair them pretty easily. The book on piano refurbishing that I bought has an extensive section on repairing soundboards, as this is a pretty common repair.

Next will be the legs and pedal assembly. I bought a pair of sawhorses to support the piano on so I can remove the legs and pedal stuff. I’m still undecided how deep inside the piano I want to go. I need to look at it some more tonight.

I bought a special key cleaner and will use that to determine if I need to replace the keys or not. I asked the guy to send me a sample of the replacement keys he sells as well, but I’m not sure he’s going to send them to me. I guess I should also start working on the damper assembly and the soft pedal assembly, or at least, I need to be shopping for leather and felt for replacing those parts. There is still so much work to do.

So Memorial Day was by far the toughest and longest day so far in my piano project, but it was certainly the most rewarding. You can tell by my face as I stand next to my “trophy”, even with the eight day shadow.