Apologies for the cliffhanger!!
It's been so long since we last posted.....time flies by so fast!! The biggest update for now is likely the fact that we have left Thailand for 23 days already! That means the Estonia is currently sitting quietly and alone in the house, wondering why we need to study piano so far away from her... Here in Indiana, we are surrounded by herds of Steinway Ds....
which are frankly boring, but in a good way! We're also enjoying Baldwin, M&H, and Steinway COFFINS
in the practice rooms...no offense, but they are really abused! ....and the worst part, we still continue to abuse them...
Now back to the Estonia, our pride and joy. The real question is...did we ever manage to finish what we started? Honestly, we don't even know!
We'll just go by what we initially wrote over a month ago....it's not easy to pick up writing from so long ago! Note: many super-exciting stuffs we wrote are no longer THAT exciting as of now, but we don't want a boring finale, so here goes....
Now...where we left off, was the preparation for the restringing!
We got in touch with a professional piano technician (frankly who, together with our piano teacher who sold it, are both Uzbekh...) to take care of the restringing works, with us assisting him in whatever ways we could. The plate preparation began with the wooden bushings installation...which came with a new problem; making them fit! Sounds like an easy job, but it's not when the bushings we purchased were 1 mm (in diameter) too big!!! They ruined the plate earlier, too!
We initially thought of ordering a new set of bushings that would be a better fit for the Estonia plate, but they are very hard to find. Local woodworking shops could custom-make new bushings, but the high cost, unsuitable wood type, and time limit made this option less preferable. After some more searches, we realized this is a very normal adjustment work regularly done by piano rebuilders, and it seemed like one of the easier tasks for them. By then we had a few days before the technician comes in and start killing us one by one! (He certainly is NOT someone to be messed with!)
We took a step back and re-inspected the bushings we had again, and with nothing to lose, we started looking for ways to down-size them. We had the idea of mounting the bushings on a drill machine and sand them off in a similar way to a lathe. The problem was, there was nothing on earth that could fit the bushing holes tight enough to make a good spinning axis! We couldn't produce more than a few bushings per one sanding 'session'. We had to persevere working on them, with the help of masking tapes, and lots of positive thoughts!
We masked the tapes on a suitably-sized screwdriver shaft, to increase the diameter to a good tight fit with the bushings, mounted it on the chuck, and worked our way with 100 grit sanding block.
The tough and time-consuming part was getting them out of the taped rod. We could sand 14 bushings at most (and not often!), in a time span of around 20 mins! So as you can imagine, it's a painstakingly tedious job!
A few days later, the technician came in to start the restringing work. With the slow bushing works, we prepared them section by section, just to cover what the technician could do for the day. All was going pretty well, and he was just finished with the 2nd high-treble stringing, when he notified us of an issue. He pointed out that the Capo D'astro bar is putting too much tension on the strings, and the angle of the string from the bar to the bridge was too steep, potentially causing bad sound and short sustain. In other words, he suspected the down-bearing to be too much.
Since all the wooden plate supports were installed correctly in their original places, there is no way this could result from any error in the mounting of the iron plate. We suspected that this was the Estonia plate design itself, and that it shouldn't be a problem, but we followed our tech's advice anyway. He then proposed a solution of raising the height of the rear duplex bar to even out the angle.
Here is a shot of the angle, measured with a down-bearing gauge:
There is a gap of around 1.5 mm, meaning there is a good amount of down-bearing...but could that have been too much? We don't know...
So, we glued thick cardboard on the underside of the bar, cut to shape, then test fit. We painted the cardboard part the same plate color.
Gluing the cardboard:
Now in place:
It did reduce the angle, but before anyone yells at us for this, yes, there was a problem with the new fix, too!
So, once the down-bearing of the high treble was adjusted, and the piano was tuned to some extent to inspect the tone, the problem that came up was...they still sounded pinched, and the sustain decayed quickly, particularly in the highest section! We re-inspected the down-bearing to see if anything was wrong with it....and after a lot of research into this subject, we learned that the raised bar height introduced the worst problem -- a negative downbearing!!! The angle of the strings going through the Capo d'astro up to the bridge wasn't a problem, but the section after the bridge angled upwards slightly. The string's pressure therefore rest pretty much on the front edge of the bridge, and halfway into it, the string contact was lost. To our untrained eyes, this "half bridge" contact seems like a big issue, so we'd appreciate anyone in the know clarifying this.
The negative bearing is greater on the upper capo d'astro section:
A little less on the lower section, but it's there...
Now, going fast forward, when the restringing was complete, we consulted with the technician, and he agreed to let us reverse the process and get rid of the negative bearing. What we did was simply reduce the rear duplex bar height, but it was by no means simple! We started by releasing the string tension in the capo d'astro section to an extent enough to be able to push the rear duplex bar out. Then we removed the glued cardboard, and, together with the front bars, polished to a shiny brass color! Putting them back wasn't very easy, but we managed after a while.
Here is the result! And we did it all ourselves, just to be able to brag about it!
The tech gave us the tools, and along the process, we got to go through some of the final steps of restringing.
Now...after this fix, it frankly didn't sound like a big tone improvement either! And this scared us quite a bit! It wasn't after we pitched up the entire treble section, however, that it started to sound pretty decent! Our technician ensured us that once the strings start settling in with the tension, the sustain quality will improve. This could take up to a year for a piano that will never get tuned for two school semesters...which we are of course away for the whole time anyway... Missing her a lot already!
As of then, the piano had been settling down for few days, and after several tunings, she started to hold tune with a nice clear treble!
Another big disaster avoided! Next section will cover the restringing progress from start to finish! And don't ask what color those felts are....they're red, but the camera obviously didn't pick it up! We'll go into that later on...