Saturday, March 29, 2014

Piano Refinishing: Quarter Oak colour and tinting

Yellow oak sawn on the quarter or “quarter oak” was a popular finishing veneer for the vintage tall upright pianos.

During the time period when quarter oak was used the late Victorian and Edwardian home furnishings were all dark in colour; usually mahogany or dark walnut.

Many of the pianos finished in quarter oak were stained dark to match the furniture and home living during the time period.

Over time the colour has been stripped away by use, time, and UV light from sunlight, leaving the piano a light colour of yellow and orange.

Quarter oak presents two problems with replacing the colours. First the grain lines need to be darkened once again. Then the colour of the white quarter cut lines needs to be tinted back to original.

In order to do this I use a two-step process. First I use an oil based stain which highlights the grain lines by making them dark.

Then I use a tint coat of lacquer where colours are added to the lacquer to make the overall colour even and tint the white quarter oak cut lines.  With some of the photos there are instructions for making tinting colour coats.

I have often considered placing the photos inside the blog postings. However this would reduce the photos to a much smaller size and a lot of the detail in each picture would be lost. I decided to leave the blog postings as text only and add a link to photo albums in the usual way.

When viewing the photo album it is best to right click the mouse. A new window will open and please choose “Open in new tab”. Done this way it is easy to toggle back and forth between the blog posting and the photo set.Go forward and back using the arrows beneath each photo.

If there are any problems viewing the photos please contact the blog author.  

Below is a link to the photo album of the process used to make quarter oak back to dark walnut.

Quarter Oak colour tinting

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Tuner’s Life 7


Recently I attended the home of a new client who had recently purchased a small upright from my shop.

The usual process is repeated; I arrive at the residence, access is provided by the homeowner, attend the location of the instrument, and go through the usual process of dismantle the cabinet components, insert the appropriate tools and begin the process of tuning the piano. 

This is a home with three pre-school children of various ages, from barely walking to kindergarten years. 

Because some of my previous work included maintaining school board inventories of pianos, I am well trained to be used to the constant noise children produce while playing or at work with school activities.

While I was tuning I could hear the children moving around behind me, oblivious to the work I had to complete, and their shuffling and talking was something that did not overcome my ability to tune by ear.

I just ignored the noise as usual.

So there I am, working away tuning, not paying any attention to what was going on behind me. After a short time I needed a bit of a break so I stopped tuning, stood up straight and looked around behind me.

Now we all know about those small chairs that children use in primary classrooms. These are chairs that have a sitting height of about one foot from the floor, and at my age if I ever sat down in one of those not only would the chair be unable to sustain the weight but it would be highly unlikely if I was able to stand up again.

Well unknown to me, while I was tuning the oldest child had organized the other two, they had gone to their playroom and brought back 3 small chairs, organized in a semi-circle  where they could sit and watch spellbound, at me tuning.

The only problem I could see was, the piano was small, I am big, and the children could not see any of the piano tuning but mostly were studying my back; bent over in front of the piano.

So when I turned around what I saw were 3 small children all beaming at me with their little wisps of hair poking straight up in the air, looking very much like an onion looks with its little wisp standing upright off the top.

I started laughing out loud to the point that the homeowner came to see what was going on. She told me that the children were so excited to have the piano tuner come to the house.

It seems that I have a new fan club; the three  little onion heads.

There are times in my career as a piano technician that some of the things one experiences tell me I wouldn’t change this job for any other.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Newcombe Piano Company

Recently I came across an early example of Canadian piano building from the Newcombe Piano Company and took some photos of this early example.

Octavius Newcombe was involved in a partnership in 1871 with Thomas Mason & Vincent Risch who were at that time the Mason & Risch Piano company.

Newcombe formed his own company in 1878 and began building mostly square pianos and uprights at that time.

Newcombe Piano Co.  patented several clever inventions  and won wide acclaim for their upright models in particular.

Here is a photo set of a Newcombe upright, an 85 key instrument built in the straight strung style with a ¾ plate. One of the best preserved examples of early Canadian piano building I have come across in my travels.

Here is the link to the photo set.

Newcombe Piano circa 1878

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Piano Keyboard Repairs: Key Bushing Replacement

During regular use, the felt products inside the piano action and piano keyboard wear. This is especially the case where the felt comes into contact with the wood and metal components found within the action and keyboard parts.

Here is a common repair done to the key set in many pianos; the replacement key bushings. 

The keys in a piano are made of wood with holes mortised into the front underside and the approximate middle of the key.  These holes in the key set are made to allow metal pins that act as guide pins keeping the key in a straight line while in use.  So as not to cause noise during play, the mortised hole in the key set is fitted with a thin layer of hard-wearing felt that keeps the key motion correct. Over time these felt products wear and require replacement.

There are several ways to accomplish this task.   This is one of the most popular ways of replacing key bushings. Please see the photo album at this link provided below.

Updated February 19 2013-02-19
In reality the aluminum cauls were designed for bushing replacement underneath the front of the key, as the shape of the caul will allow the cloth to be glued in an L shape.

When using the aluminum key bushing cauls, especially for the balance rail bushing replacement, this leaves a tail of bushing cloth that must be removed when the keyset is dry. That creates an extra step in the process of piano key bushing replacement and will lengthen the time required to complete a set of piano keys. 

Many years ago, long before I was aware of the readymade bushing cauls, I used to make my own out of hardwood. For the bushing replacement at the balance rail, I have found these straight line cauls to work much faster as the bushing cloth can be cut off immediately after the bushing is set inside the key mortise.

I have included a few extra photos of my old wooden two- ended cauls at the end of the photo album attached to this posting.