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MMD > Archives > June 1996 > 1996.06.07 > 02Prev  Next

Historic Restorations
By Craig Brougher

On the subject of historic restorations, recently I restored an Ampico Fischer upright with a nameboard that folds double and pushes back, exposing the hinge just over the keys. This kind of a case requires an extra half-inch that was subsequently taken out of the piano action, leaving very little adjustment for the piano action, itself.

They used half-thick damper felts, for example-- unobtainable today, unless you decide to just make them yourself, but the bass dampers were also shallow to match and those you cannot make yourself. Better just to use a matched set. Replacing the dampers sets the damper wires very close to the spring rail, too. The damper spoons then have to be bend far forward to lift the dampers.

The biggest problem was the modification (thinning) of the main piano action rail molding which sets all the parameters for adjustment, anyway. It places the jacks too far forward under the butts, and the let off screws barely touch the jack toe before the backchecks begin to touch the catcher buckskin. In other words, this is a trapeze act whose swings are too short.

What to do? The best you can hope for is to get the piano initially set so that the hammers will check short of the strings and will not bobble, but without any latitude of adjustment, how long should one expect this idealistic regulation to last? There is a fix, but it requires an action modification, so I would have to say that a history buff would not appreciate it, but a music lover would.

I think that on this subject, we should value good tradeoff sense and balanced judgment. Factories made mistakes, and changes, even within a model year. In all, I have never run into two pianos exactly the same in my life. Who's to say that some modification wasn't experimental, was taken home by some employee, sold after awhile, re-purchased and restored? I personally know of two instances of this happening.

As in automobiles, the most important "historical" features, and the features graded at auto shows seem to be those which are of an outward appearance. There is no way to tell what valves, cam, and rings the guy used. Are his bearings babbit? "Forget bearings. We'll look at the spark plugs and judge them." Whatever the eye can see is what the authenticity advocate is most interested in. When they start complaining that something has changed from original because the hammers aren't bobbling or blocking the strings anymore (like that particular piano was supposed to do), then they've got the problem-- not you.

Craig B.

(Message sent Fri 7 Jun 1996, 16:39:40 GMT, from time zone GMT.)

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