Pianos: Tales from the golden submarine

Among the activities in the piano lair, a piano is dismantled. This is a loose series of vignettes rather than any sort of instructional.

If you're about to complain that this blog post (or the greater internet) is lacking in cats, please address your kitty letter to Locked Bag 141, I-randomly-rode-my-bicycle-down-this Street. Any further questions, ask the Oracle Cat of Clunkerton Mews.

The scope of work for this piano is extensive. In readiness for restringing and repinning its strings are loosened then the becketts (the sections that enter the holes in the tuning pins) are prised out. Before any undoing begins, the torque of each tuning pin is measured. This provides valuable information about the condition of the pin block and helps confirm what size tuning pins should be used when the piano is restrung.

The music wire coils are snipped off.

The tuning pins are removed via a tuning tip installed into a powerful drill operated at a relatively slow speed. Too much speed will burnish and compromise the holes in the wooden pin block.

The pins are packed into boxes. A box of tuning pins is quite a weight. The boxes provide a convenient way to balance the cast iron piano frame (or plate) when it is lifted out of the piano by means of a hoist.

The cabinet is protected with felt underlay lining. Metal clips over the lining ensure that the cabinet insides are not damaged as the cast iron frame is removed.

An example of a clip made for a for a smaller piano.

The frame is winched out and (implausibly) rotated and leant up against a wall. I really wish I could find some conclusive data on what such a frame weighs. It's got to be 300 kilograms at least. Bloody heavy. Channeling my inner cat, I slithered behind the near-vertical frame for this blog instalment's opening selfie.

I hope to bring you many of the little things I've witnessed in the piano lair.

Not really tools, but rather, jigs, on this occasion. This little block, whipped up in a trice, has 12 holes on one side and ten on the other. When a grand piano action stack is removed from the keys there are commonly 10 or 12 screws which attach the action stack to the key frame. Keeping the screws in order is recommended not only because some might be worn differently. Occasionally a screw of a larger size may have been substituted to combat a compromised wooden thread in the key frame, although that is not regarded as a desirable 'fix' for a fine instrument. 

The Good Woodsman whips up a rest to house the collection of plate bolts during the dismantling. Often something as simple as the side of a corrugated cardboard box may be used to hold removed screws. Holes jabbed into the cardboard (in a shape or order reflecting the screws' orientation when installed) hold screws, bolts and other hardware. I've learned that the same cardboard method is a mainstay in the automotive industry. Anything practical one can do to make mantling more efficient is worth it.  

Plate bolts, bells, bits and bobs. One can never be too organised with such items. There are myriad measurements to take and observations to be made before anything is disassembled.

Out in the field the little block does its job as we remove the action stack to clean and regulate a keyboard. That screw in the top left hand corner looks to be just the sort of 'substitute' I mentioned earlier.

Another random wooden block houses a set of screws in the workshop. Note the naked soundboard and bridges in the background.

The plate suspended. It will be prepared for repainting. Off to Bunnings for more moon dust and thinners.

With the magic of a pan across a set of keys removed from a piano, let me take you away from all this, gentle reader, out into a swanky piano room where the Caped Regulators encounter a piano with a peculiar problem.

A bichord agraffe has broken. It is an unusual event although apparently not entirely uncommon for this brand of piano.

The top of the brass agraffe has broken off its base.

In readiness for the service call various spare agraffes are located in the workshop. The thread size of the broken agraffee is not known. Note the small brass washers which are used to ensure that each agraffe is at the correct height and orientation when screwed in tightly.

A hole is drilled into the agraffe base to enable the insertion of an extractor tool.

Out it comes with a Grabit Drill-Out industrial-grade damaged bolt remover. If the bottom of the broken agraffe had not been able to be extracted cleanly, a new thread would need to be created.

Remarkably an agraffe from a Young Chang piano fits this poor Petrof.

The unenviable and uncertain task of wrangling resilient music wire to re-attach the strings begins.

A trichord agraffe (designed for three strings) deputises in the bichord range. This will serve as a reminder to the client that this part belongs to another piano and is an interim replacement only.

Wheely jigs made to assist piano manoeuvering in the workshop. Grand piano legs (with castors or not) sit in these three-wheeled doovers.

And now, something from the garden.

Oops, I mean something from the garden.