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.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sounding Board Cleaner

One of the problem cleaning areas of the piano is the top surface of the sounding board.

 Because of the strings running over top of the bridgework, this leaves little in the way of room for tools to reach underneath the strings to clean off the dust and dirt that accumulates over time on surface of the piano sounding board.

Dust and dirt hold moisture, and will retain moisture found in the air. That retention can cause the finish on the sounding board to be damaged permanently if not kept clean. This is one of the main causes of sound board decal deterioration.

I have taken a crevice tool from an old vacuum and made up a tool that fits underneath the strings. This tool allows most of the dust and dirt accumulations to be cleaned away. This is not the perfect tool for the job but it gets the majority of the flat surface cleaned up quickly. Then a small brush can be used for the really tight spots.

Take a crevice tool and block the end where the air enters. Then cut away one side of the tool along its length. Line the sharp edges with thin gauge felt to prevent scratches on the surface of the sound board finish and decal. Hook up the tool to your shop vacuum and you are ready to go.

 For the purposes of this demonstration I am using an empty paper towel roll. In a pinch if you have no small gauge plastic pipe or old crevice tool from your last vacuum then the paper roll is a good one for making this handy item. 

Here is a photo set for the making of the tool.

Sounding Board Cleaner

Custom Colours for Piano Cabinets

Perhaps for the last two decades or more, the most common colour  for piano cabinets has been black; either the high gloss poly or the satin lacquer finishes being the two most popular that we all see today.

Black initially became popular in the early part of the 1900’s. It was thought, at the time, if the instrument on stage was too detailed in cabinetry and colouring, this would distract the audience.

 The mindset regarding black was that colouring of the instrument would not detract from the performing artist.

There are, of course, the traditional colourings available, and still produced by a wide variety of piano makers; oak, walnut, and mahogany colours.

At times there are requests for custom colours for piano cabinets. Here are some photos of a piano recently completed in a custom colour called Pacific Ocean blue.

Some of the photos do not show the true colour of the piano as the camera cheats a little according to the lighting available. But this does create an interesting study about how and what kind of lighting affects the picture results.  

The last two photos are the true colour of this piano. Here is the link for the photo set.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Spanish Pianola circa 1930


In my  travels over the last several months I came across an unusual instrument originally from Spain.
 The owner told me that this instrument was shipped from Spain in the 1930’s when several of his family members moved from that location to North America.

During that time period Spain had protection on the removal of historical objects, so this instrument would have been taken out of Spain without proper documentation or permission.

This is a Spanish pianola, or barrel piano. Inside the instrument there is a large drum with tabs on the outside of the drum. 

In the photo set below on the left side of the instrument are all of the controls to operate the pianola along with a list of ten different songs the instrument can play. The controls on the left side determine which songs will be heard.

When the crank on the left side of the front is turned the piano plays the desired song. I have seen several photos of the barrel piano but have not come across one in original condition such as this one.

Here is the photo album below.

Spanish Pianola