Friday, February 25, 2011

The German Coil on Piano Wire

There are several versions of German coils made on piano wire when stringing a piano; in this demonstration and photo album we look at making the single looped coil with three turns on the tail. There are other versions; the double looped coil with three turns is a common one also; then both of these with either a left-handed or right handed tail. I have also come across German coils of types, the single loop and the double loop, with only one or two turns at the tail. 

With any piano stringing, the more one develops a technique over time, the better and more consistent the coil making looks. When using a looping machine for the first few times I would encourage the attempts to be practice on spare wire, until such time as the loops and coils begin to become consistently the same size and amount of turns. This does not take long to learn consistently once familiarized with the way the looping machine works. 

One must also be aware that the tied end of the wire with the tail end must come over to meet the other side of the wire, so that in the end result, the length of wire is almost a complete straight line. In other words, while this demonstration is of a left-handed coil, one must also notice in the last photo of the photo album, that the left side does indeed come over to meet the right side, leaving the length of wire beyond the loop and coil in a straight line. This is an important part of German coil making; if done so that the two sides meet in the middle of the hitch pin, this will pinch the length of wire on the back side with too much angle, causing the string to eventually break when pulled to pitch.

Here is the link to the photo album with a looping machine making the German coil. 

Looping machine

Friday, February 18, 2011

Blüthner Aliquot Grand Tour

Here is a restoration project of a rare German grand piano I found. This is a Blüthner Aliquot grand piano. (Pronounced Blootner)

This instrument was manufactured in Leipzig, Germany in 1979. This is one of the few remaining family owned piano manufacturers.

Blüthner is not a familiar name to many people. These are very special instruments with a very special sound. The Blüthner Aliquot Grand has an extra string for the treble sections; a 4th string that is not struck by the hammer head upon play; it is excited by sympathetic vibration.

This creates an extra tone body as one plays…….Many popular vocalists prefer to sing accompanied by a Blüthner grand.

In Apple Studios in Britain, all of the Beatles albums for example, and many other fine recordings were done with the Blüthner instrument located there.

The Blüthner instrument here now in my shop was located at one time on the west side of Vancouver Island in a place called Tofino, which is the windward side of the island. The property was oceanfront and the instrument sat in the front window facing the beaches.

I discovered this instrument at an estate sale. While I was there I recognized the name and knew what this instrument was; I managed to pick this one up for restoration.

The problem was that the salt air caused all of the treble wire and bass strings to corrode and rust, along with all the other metal components. So the instrument was breaking a lot of wire each time it was tuned.

This instrument had been manufactured with tinned wire. Piano wire with a coating over top does not do well in coastal areas. I had to replace all of the wire and bass strings. Actually the instrument was dismantled and many of the metal parts had to be cleaned or replaced.

This one is a spare time project; I have been working slowly on completing this one because it must be done correctly, and according to factory specs.

To string a Blüthner is very different. In a Blüthner, each string is singly strung instead of the usual loop stringing associated with traditional piano stringing.

Each string has a German coil at the end that ties it to the frame of the instrument. Usually in traditional stringing the string goes down to the hitch pin and back up to the next tuning pin; in reality it is a giant loop, creating two strings. Some of the high end European instruments are manufactured in this way.

New, this instrument is in the 75-90k pricing category.

So have a look at the photos if you like….same thing again, this is a Picasa web album. Please left click once on this link and that will take you to the photo albums. Then left click once on the first photo top left and that will open the album so that you can read the text below each frame.

Here is the Blüthner Aliquot Grand Tour….enjoy….

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Restoration And Rebuilding

There are a variety of opinions on what these words mean to various people. These words can mean many things. To restore a vintage piano is to attempt to return it to its’ former glory when it left the factory floor many years ago.

Sometimes you can restore a part of the instrument by rebuilding the badly worn component part. Other times you have to replace the part with a new part. Many of the replacement parts for pianos today are what are called generic after-market parts. These parts kind -of, almost- fit, every piano with some adjustment. One has to be careful in the choice of replacement parts for vintage pianos; especially the components that produce tonal qualities, for example, replacement hammer sets, replacement strings, sounding boards and bridge work. Improper choices in these areas may produce undesirable results in the finished product.

Also one has to be mindful of the fact that maybe this is a historical piece and it must be kept as original as possible while at the same time attempting to get the instrument to function correctly. It can be a delicate balance indeed; trying to retain the vintage or antique value……

Years of experience tell the restorer what replacement parts will work with certain instruments better than other parts.

Here is a Chickering piano that I restored recently. Depending upon how the vintage piano is cared for in its early years will determine the amount of work required to return the instrument to its former glory.
This one comes with an interesting history. Originally this instrument was owed by an English geologist. In the early part of the last century this person was commissioned to work in northern Canada; a place called Frobisher Bay.

Back then this instrument was first loaded onto a ship bound for Greenland. Then, upon arrival the instrument was loaded onto a dog sled and taken up over the Pole and down into Frobisher Bay where it remained until this person passed away. It was then purchased by my clients’ mother and sent to a place called Loon Lake (north of Winnipeg) where it stayed until she passed.

Both of these places were heated by wood stove or furnace. Because of this, the instrument was subject to huge swings in temperature and humidity. This caused the animal hide glue to come apart on almost every seam. So basically the instrument was all complete; just that everything was coming apart.

The instrument had to be completely dismantled and then re-assembled. While re-assembly was taking place, many of the wooden parts could be re-used. This is sometimes where the words restoration and rebuilding are confused. With many of the wooden parts in the antique action I restored them by rebuilding the felt work built into them. So yes the action components were “rebuilt “with new cloths and felt, but they were also “restored” to their original condition.

This instrument took 16 months to complete. Here is a photo album to browse through. This is a Picasa on-line web album. Please left click once on this link, that will take you to the location of the photo album. Then left click once on the first photo, top left and this will open up the photo album so that you can read the text below each frame. Inside this photo album you will see the some of the problems associated with replacement parts.

 Here is the link for the photo album…..happy viewing…..