Monday, July 26, 2010

Day 39 and 40 – Saturday, July 24 and Sunday, July 25 – Back to the grind

Goals: Get the harp ready for priming and prime; varnish the soundboard; practice engraving techniques with the Dremel (that’s going to be hard); start work on the impossibly numerous and minute pieces of felt and leather that must be replaced.

Music: Miles Davis’ “Milestones”; Ornette Coleman’s “At the Golden Circle” (volumes 1 and 2); Chick Corea’s “Now He Sings, Now He Sobs”; John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” and “Crescent”; Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band’s “Act Your Age”.

I’m so sick of the harp not being finished, that I thought I would try to knock that out this weekend. The problem I’m having is that with the heat and humidity, the weather doesn’t allow the paint to go on and dry properly. I figured I would just grind the hell out of the thing and spray paint it early in the morning the next day.

But after cutting the grass in that heat and humidity, I could really only spend about an hour prepping the harp. That left me with another hour of prepping on Sunday, so it was almost 11:00 by the time I got to the paint. I actually was planning to wait on the paint, but I noticed that since I’ve stripped it down to the metal, a thin coat of dusty corrosion forms on parts of the harp if I let it sit for a short time. There was nothing for it. I sprayed the primer on after masking all the pins, and that seemed to work okay. I had a few areas with some bubbles from the sprayer not spraying right, but with the paint partially dried, I was able to press them out. I may not even have to sand before the final coat goes on. We’ll see.

For good measure, I spray painted the damper cover too.

Saturday afternoon I also put a coat of varnish on the soundboard. I’m pretty sure I’m done with that. It did not really help the shims blend in, but everything looks quite good nonetheless. Varnish is pretty tricky to handle indoors, and it’s not at all like painting, and personally, I’d rather deal with polyurethane, but I’m going for some authenticity here. So, I think one coat of varnish is all it’s going to get.

Finally, I started the felt and leather work. I’m experimenting with the best ways to attach felt and am having some success with two sided tape. The problem with it is that it is difficult to handle and it takes the most time, because the pieces of tape have to be cut to the right size or else they stick out and don’t look so pretty. That’s why I decided that anything visible will get glued, and anything that requires more than, say, ten of something, I’ll try to use glue. At the same time, I’m also experimenting with different types of glue. Plain old Elmer’s gives the best finish, but doesn’t always stick well. Contact cement sticks the best for most applications, but it’s a pain to handle. Superglue works wonders, but it can be tricky to handle, too, and it isn’t really too good on the cloth (felt) applications. Basically, I’m just going to keep sticking stuff as best I can however I can and leave it at that.

So for starters, I tackled the two pieces of felt that go on the key levers. Because the felt I bought is half the thickness of what’s on the keys, I had to do two of everything, but I quickly figured out that it isn’t that difficult if you make everything twice the size it needs to be then cut it in half. I used Elmer’s to glue the two halves of each piece together, so with 59 damper push pads and 85 keys in total, I cut almost 300 pieces of felt over a period of about two hours. It looks like I’ll have to use contact cement on the small pads that go over the wippen spring, because that is hollowed out underneath and I can’t afford to get any glue on the spring, in which case, I might just use contact cement on the back felt as well. I’m about out of Elmer’s, anyway. Here's what that looks like. The dime is for perspective.

I tried to use my felt cutting technique on the leather for the hammer catchers, but leather is a different beast than felt or paper. I’m probably going to have to use an Exacto knife and cut each piece individually, in order to compensate for the grain, texture and topography of the leather.

It was a full weekend. Next chance I get, I plan to finish up the harp so I can begin the wood refinishing process.


Nefri said...

I am sure you didn't mean for that photo of felt & dime to be a work of art, but I blew it up on my computer, and its a fascinating image all by itself...

Eric said...

What kind of makes it cool is, it's shot on a glass table, so there's a lot of background depth. That one's definitely going in the "My Personal Piano Renovation" scrapbook...