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Paint over cracks in grand Soundboard
#3002661 07/14/20 09:01 PM
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In different piano rebuilding shops where I have worked, many had methods of 'painting over' a severely cracked soundboard. For grand that still had worthy crown in the board, but with 6, 9 or even 12 cracks in front of the treble bridge, after properly spreading & shimming the cracks, in order to hide all the visible crack lines (shims never stain up the same as the surrounding wood,) they did some kind of 'color blending' process. I'm posting this to research everyone's favorite and most-successfully-crack-hiding process.

The process that seemed to render the best result of a newer, uncracked-looking board was one rebuilder who (after shimming) painted the entire board with a coat of grey or white primer, then followed with a coat of ochre-colored semi-transparent stain, hand-brushed to make it look like natural grain.The finished result looked like a nice, yellow-orange soundboard with zero cracks or shims showing.

I remember asking if that kind of paint effected the soundboard resonance, and he demonstrated over many rebuildings that the board lost none of it flexibility or output.

I'm working on a Mason Hamlin BB from 1927. Board still has good crown (it has that massive 'tension resonator') and I'm an excellent soundboard/rib repairman and 'shimmer' but I usually just let the shims & plugs show and most customers are fine with that. In this particular case, I'm investigating a better disappearing act. cool Let me know your preferred process, thanks.

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Re: Paint over cracks in grand Soundboard
freelife #3002668 07/14/20 09:37 PM
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I put in a new board and ALL the cracks are gone.
-chris


Chernobieff Piano Restorations
"Where Tone is Key"
Lenoir City, Tennessee U.S.A
www.chernobieffpiano.com
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Re: Paint over cracks in grand Soundboard
freelife #3002696 07/14/20 11:50 PM
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Seems like buying a car with cracks in the cylinder head. Still drives nice. ISO 500 HP she only makes 250.....................(For now).


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Re: Paint over cracks in grand Soundboard
freelife #3002701 07/15/20 12:36 AM
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I leave the cracks alone. Too much work, too little reward.

Re: Paint over cracks in grand Soundboard
freelife #3002720 07/15/20 02:14 AM
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Originally Posted by freelife
I'm working on a Mason Hamlin BB from 1927. Board still has good crown (it has that massive 'tension resonator')....
The tension resonator will have zero influence on soundboard cracks.


JG
Re: Paint over cracks in grand Soundboard
Supply #3002860 07/15/20 08:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Supply
Originally Posted by freelife
I'm working on a Mason Hamlin BB from 1927. Board still has good crown (it has that massive 'tension resonator')....
The tension resonator will have zero influence on soundboard cracks.

Yes!
Leave those resonators alone; they do not do what the add dept. says.
If there is a rattle, find it and just snug it up.

We must have found one of your friends faux grained soundboards.
It was really well done and really had us fooled...until we tried to clean it.
Then we laughed until we cried.
We had seen TSP move dirt around before but not the grain itself.


I know of a tech in Austria who is using a tanning bed to give his shim stock a proper patina.
Applying this to a mounted soundboard could be complicated, but should yield a correct surface.
It certainly piques my curiosity.

Craig


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Re: Paint over cracks in grand Soundboard
freelife #3002899 07/15/20 09:46 AM
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As a potential customer, I'd never buy a piano that had that done to it. And I would be leery of any seller offering such a piano but who didn't divulge what had been done.

Last edited by Pianosearcher; 07/15/20 09:50 AM.
Re: Paint over cracks in grand Soundboard
freelife #3002940 07/15/20 11:20 AM
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I struggle to think of any honest reason for concealing a repair im this manner, and would walk away instantly if I discovered it in a piano I was purchasing.

Re: Paint over cracks in grand Soundboard
freelife #3002978 07/15/20 12:52 PM
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Early in my career I got a piano in the shop and found the soundboard was painted. Didn't realize it when I bid on the piano. Surprise!

My approach to shimming is to match the color of the shim wood to the color of the soundboard. You want the shim to be the same or slightly lighter than the board, but never darker. I have a wide range of shim wood available to accomplish this. Then during the finishing process I can further adjust the color as needed by adding finish stain to the shim. I can make most shims disappear with is process. This is basically the same process violin restorers do with violins.


Professional Piano Technician serving the Tampa bay area. website: mckaigpianoservice.com
Re: Paint over cracks in grand Soundboard
Craig Hair #3002989 07/15/20 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Craig Hair
Originally Posted by Supply
Originally Posted by freelife
I'm working on a Mason Hamlin BB from 1927. Board still has good crown (it has that massive 'tension resonator')....
The tension resonator will have zero influence on soundboard cracks.

Yes!
Leave those resonators alone; they do not do what the add dept. says.
If there is a rattle, find it and just snug it up.

We must have found one of your friends faux grained soundboards.
It was really well done and really had us fooled...until we tried to clean it.
Then we laughed until we cried.
We had seen TSP move dirt around before but not the grain itself.


I know of a tech in Austria who is using a tanning bed to give his shim stock a proper patina.
Applying this to a mounted soundboard could be complicated, but should yield a correct surface.
It certainly piques my curiosity.

Craig

Yet Alfred Dolge says they're adjustable and I've never heard of a mechanical connection that doesn't need occasional adjustment.

Steve

Re: Paint over cracks in grand Soundboard
Bill McKaig,RPT #3003059 07/15/20 04:24 PM
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Originally Posted by gwing
I struggle to think of any honest reason for concealing a repair im this manner....

Because, unconcealed, customer and their friends see a board with lots of (shimmed) cracks and, not being piano techs, immediately assume it's a big defect that affects the piano's sound output. Piano tech can reassure cracks do not automatically equal reduced resonance or sound quality, but customer still prefers to not see all those cracks.

Originally Posted by Bill McKaig,RPT
My approach to shimming is to match the color of the shim wood to the color of the soundboard. You want the shim to be the same or slightly lighter than the board, but never darker. I have a wide range of shim wood available to accomplish this. Then during the finishing process I can further adjust the color as needed by adding finish stain to the shim. I can make most shims disappear with is process. This is basically the same process violin restorers do with violins.

Yes, Bill, this is what I too have done till now, tried my best to match the shim color to the board, and further adjust by adding stain to each shim. Never quite made the shims 'disappear,' can always still see the lines without looking too hard. I can certainly do this again, and try to hide even better, but still thought it was worth asking about the 'painted soundboard' approach.

Originally Posted by Chernobieff Piano
I put in a new board and ALL the cracks are gone.-chris

A smug, self-touting and useless reply, to be sure. There are obviously many rebuilding jobs where installing an entire new board is prohibitive and non-indicated. From the answers so far, it would appear here no one has used, or can advise about, the full-board 'paint-over' method, and that's fine. If it's a non-starter, I'll just revert to Bill's (above) method. But I have seen it done, heard that the sound was not compromised, and thought it was worth investigating with y'all smile

Last edited by freelife; 07/15/20 04:32 PM.
Re: Paint over cracks in grand Soundboard
freelife #3003074 07/15/20 04:47 PM
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I see nothing wrong with painting a soundboard. It would just take a lot for practice to get it to look natural. As for my method, I did refinishing for many years so I got really good at repairing veneers and color matching. For the shims I've used different types of spruce as well as cypress and cedar. I've also filled cracks with colored epoxy. All of this is cosmetic and does not effect the functionality of the board.


Professional Piano Technician serving the Tampa bay area. website: mckaigpianoservice.com
Re: Paint over cracks in grand Soundboard
freelife #3003134 07/15/20 08:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Chernobieff Piano
I put in a new board and ALL the cracks are gone.-chris

Quote
A smug, self-touting and useless reply, to be sure. There are obviously many rebuilding jobs where installing an entire new board is prohibitive and non-indicated. From the answers so far, it would appear here no one has used, or can advise about, the full-board 'paint-over' method, and that's fine. If it's a non-starter, I'll just revert to Bill's (above) method. But I have seen it done, heard that the sound was not compromised, and thought it was worth investigating with y'all

Apparently I hit a nerve and was not intending to.

Your statement behind your practice is disturbing .

You said:
Quote
Because, unconcealed, customer and their friends see a board with lots of (shimmed) cracks and, not being piano techs, immediately assume it's a big defect that affects the piano's sound output. Piano tech can reassure cracks do not automatically equal reduced resonance or sound quality, but customer still prefers to not see all those cracks.

So the idea that you're putting forth is to fool people that are ignorant? How about educate your customer!!!

That may be the problem you want to avoid, because soundboards have a limited lifespan. They suffer cyclic damage hence the cracks. And i have shown that the glue/rim joint is compromised as well in many cases. A new board is functioning at a 100% and at least the factories offer a warranty of sorts. Crack repairs are a little risky. You can put several thousand dollars on top of a soundboard of unknown dependability.

That's what customers are scared about when they see crack repairs. Imagine for a moment you do a great job and don't disclose the crack repairs. And somewhere down the line a tuner notices the cracks and points it out to the owner. Did you know about these?

No thanks not me.

-chris

Last edited by Chernobieff Piano; 07/15/20 08:17 PM.

Chernobieff Piano Restorations
"Where Tone is Key"
Lenoir City, Tennessee U.S.A
www.chernobieffpiano.com
grandpianoman@protonmail.com
Re: Paint over cracks in grand Soundboard
freelife #3003148 07/15/20 08:49 PM
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I wonder if the owner who discovers the cracks would have the right to sue? Just a thought


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Re: Paint over cracks in grand Soundboard
Chernobieff Piano #3003160 07/15/20 09:23 PM
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The customer already saw & knows about the cracks. I already explained to her, totally up front, what effect that may or may not have on the piano's sound, with only shimming and not installing a new soundboard. No one is trying to fool anybody. She simply cannot afford the extra multi-thousands of $$ to drop in a brand new board, all the bridge repositioning, etc.

This is why you hit a nerve, Chernobieff. You simply didn't take that into account (even though it's rather obvious that some piano owners simply cannot afford a new board,) and then made as assumption I was planning to not disclose the cracks.
Perhaps you are unwilling to work on a cracked board and will only do full soundboard/bridge replacement, and those customers who can't afford it, too bad, you're happy to lose them. And that's fine. But many rebuilders (myself included) also take on the lesser-cost rebuilds where full soundboard/bridge replacement is not an option. That's why simply suggesting to "put in a new board and ALL the cracks are gone" sounded kinda pompous.

Re: Paint over cracks in grand Soundboard
freelife #3003180 07/15/20 10:57 PM
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If you and the customer are in agreement, then i see no problem. If you do a decent repair (as Bill described) you shouldn't have to do any Faux work. I have a lot of spruce and other species laying around , you would be surprised how much color options you have with just the wood alone. Amber colored shellac works well as a stain when you get the wood color close if you're trying to match the old finish. If your removing the finish and refinishing then wood selection is all you really need IMO. Crucial to really dry out the shim stock to help with the invisible joint.

-chris


Chernobieff Piano Restorations
"Where Tone is Key"
Lenoir City, Tennessee U.S.A
www.chernobieffpiano.com
grandpianoman@protonmail.com
Re: Paint over cracks in grand Soundboard
Chernobieff Piano #3003274 07/16/20 09:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Chernobieff Piano
If you and the customer are in agreement, then i see no problem.

Except you might still wonder why this cover-up painting is being done as it is internal to the piano not a cosmetic that is readily visible. Clearly there might be an economic need for repair rather than replacement of a soundboard but why then go to extra cost to hide evidence of those repairs? Might it be to mislead buyers when the piano is later sold?

Quote
If you do a decent repair (as Bill described) you shouldn't have to do any Faux work. I have a lot of spruce and other species laying around , you would be surprised how much color options you have with just the wood alone. Amber colored shellac works well as a stain when you get the wood color close if you're trying to match the old finish. If your removing the finish and refinishing then wood selection is all you really need IMO. Crucial to really dry out the shim stock to help with the invisible joint.

-chris

Last edited by gwing; 07/16/20 09:02 AM.
Re: Paint over cracks in grand Soundboard
freelife #3003317 07/16/20 11:43 AM
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Always look at both sides of the soundboard, front and back (or top and bottom in grands)
.


JG
Re: Paint over cracks in grand Soundboard
gwing #3003355 07/16/20 01:25 PM
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Originally Posted by gwing
why then go to extra cost to hide evidence of those repairs? Might it be to mislead buyers when the piano is later sold?

I think in the case of rebuilders I worked for who did this full-paint crack hiding, it was indeed done to fool prospective buyers that the soundboard was "sound."

In this case it was simply a customer who noticed the cracks, thought the were going to be cosmetically visible after shimming, and asked if there was a way to make the soundboard look like one flowing, crackless grain, without installing a new board. That's what caused me to remember what some past rebuilding shops did, and ask about the process here.


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