Pianos: A screw loose

Here's a workshop jig for storing a piano's frame screws.

The various screws or bolts that link the piano's cast iron frame to the rest of its structure are stored carefully while the frame is removed.

Here we see a jig comprising two sections of steel, lined with thick felt, clamped onto the piano's frame ready for the frame to be hoisted out of the piano. A steel loop in the centre (pink) is where the hoist hook will be attached.

More frame screws and a special widget sequentially stored.

Laudable old-school woodworking on a similar workshop creation.

It's easy to whip up a board with holes in it if you have the tools.

Holes, beautiful holes. A sanctioned monstera deliciosa cutting that I shoved into my 'jungle'. I could not possibly love its leaves more.

Here is the first monstera leaf native-born to my garden. Very exciting.

Redfern. If the theme is 'a screw loose' I'm right on topic.

A hammer sitting forward can have many causes. There are so many moving parts in each note from the key up through the action's components. There could be one cause or several. This piano is young and in good condition. Diagnosis is usually quite straightforward. In very old pianos (and ones that are midget-sized, poorly-made, neglected, abused) action malfunctions are more likely to be multi-faceted and repair may not be feasible.

 On this occasion the cause is one of many variations on gossypiboma (gauze in the patient). A foreign object in the piano. There is what appears to be a pill at the rear of a black key. It's one of the simpler and more obvious obstructions, but it is still not something that can be resolved by the client.

It proved to be a teensy Lego hairbrush, bristles downward. I had no idea there was teensy Lego hair, there wasn't when I was a kid.

A client is able to rethink his entire room because the piano has been moved to receive significant workshoppy work within the home. It went back along the same appropriate wall. I had the client's ear just enough to affirm his instinct to centre the piano on the wall this time (further from rear windows and glass doors). It was also positioned further out from the wall than it had previously been. Sensible. The piano lid needs to be able to be fully opened for servicing. Positioning uprights hard up against walls leads to lack of ventilation behind them. Anything else could be anywhere else, but the piano should be right here.

Every piano of this type that I look at screams Rorchach.

I'd like to think that this picture frame was a rightly-pensioned-off piano.

Continuing the gossypiboma theme. Another mystery not-at-rest hammer on a grand this time. The abnormal symptom (with both the Lego hairbrush piano and this one) was that the affected hammer could not be persuaded to sit at rest. Ensuring that the offending hammer was held down while extracting the action (normally a two-handed job) was a heck of a challenge.

Underneath the rear of the key we find the cause. Two tiny brass screws have sprinkled down (one in the shadows). The piano had just been moved so the screws may not have been in a position to cause problems before. A grand piano is transported on its side with the legs and pedal lyre removed.

My aim is to be able to scoop the screws out without having to remove the action from the keyframe.

Success with one of the more dental of regulation* tools, the repetition lever spring adjuster. I call it the 'spring tickler'. The screwdriver denotes the location from whence the screws came. So where have they come from? The lid hinge had its complete set of tiny screws.

On the rear of the music rest I find two replacement screws have been fitted. They are identifiable due to being slotted rather than Phillips. Mystery solved.


Fortuitous. Two days later I tune a piano with missing screws in its music rest. 

I recall that those little screws extracted from the guts of that corporate foyer baby grand are still floating around in my kit. If I can find them we'll see if they might fit.

VoilĂ . It couldn't be a better outcome. It's as though one piano has bestowed a kindness upon another.

Screw tightening is the first step in piano regulation. This is not often heeded assiduously. The screws envisaged for tightening during regulation are generally within the action mechanism itself, but screws to check can extend even to the large frame screws that opened this blog instalment. Tiny screws in music rests, hinges and fallboards can easily become loose or be stripped out of their holes. Loose screws (and foreign objects) can be the cause of many a mysterious sympathetic vibration.

I was in a mutually-consenting open relationship with my neighbours' cat. Then those neighbours moved. We didn't miss the neighbours (they were pretty shady) but we miss the cat. My housemate and I dubbed him Paul, honouring a scene from Family Guy. I just keep finding photographs of him. It's about time one of them made the blog.

Clawing my carpets and sofas was Paul's vice. Grr. Plenty of chastising and eviction, but I refused to get one of those hideous carpeted cat tree clawing things for someone else's cat. This wall piece (seen in a piano room) is the most tasteful of such devices that I have seen. It would appear that the cat scratches on it.

Paul singing. I was surprised at the number of my mates who didn't know the song being parodied. This seemed not to diminish their enjoyment of this cartoon at all. Such is the mastery of the moggy. 

A client has had to improvise a means of reading sheet music at the piano. The music rest is gone.

Ten out of ten for creating interim solutions.

The Caped Regulators (tipped off that this was the client's issue) bring resources.

It was not known whether the hinges were in situ or not. My partner in piano pampering had fashioned a rest with a stand. Finding the hinges intact they were reused.

It's a win. With functionality restored we sense that the client probably won't bother requesting (and forking out for) a 'proper' replacement part.

That moment when a client muses over Percy Grainger's clunky musical instructions and I ask if she's heard of Blue-Eyed English. No? Google it, I tell her, and learn of his obsessive determination to avoid all Latin-rooted language. She penned 'Blue-Eyed English' at the top of the page. I expect her to do the homework I have set. Just kidding, but it's nice that I've retained a bit of my education as quirky trivia.

It's enough to give you the schits.

* Regulation is restoring the optimal relationship between the many precision moving action parts to permit maximum energy transfer from player to instrument - bizarrely fiddly-diddly adjustments. A piano action is a complex machine comprising wood, felt, cloth, leather and metals. Even paper and cardboard are legitimately used in piano adjustment.


Pianos: A good bollocking

Pianos: Punching above our weight

Pianos: Tales from the golden submarine

Pianos: Stools and tools

Pianos: Punchings, scratchings, rodents and rust.

The Piano Team: Strings, scrubs pants and fireplace fodder.

Easter Monday