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Upcoming Baldwin Model G Restoration
#3047603 11/19/20 05:22 PM
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Hi everyone,
Just wanted to introduce myself as I will probably be here a lot. I've been doing a lot of reading but not a lot of posting since I joined a few years ago. I will be totally upfront here - I am a 'mere mortal' and not a Piano Tech – I understand this is more geared toward the professionals and am just happy for whatever wisdom can be lobbed over the fence at me. I pick up what I can from my tech, these forums, and I am going to be reading Mario Igrec's "Pianos Inside Out: A Comprehensive Guide to Piano Tuning, Repairing, and Rebuilding", which I understand to be essentially an updated version of the good-ole Reblitz book. I’m not asking anyone to hold my hand, but I also ask for a bit of kindness and understanding if I use an incorrect term or anything like that.

That said, I have a 1931 Balwin Model G. I got it for next to nothing (as that was my budget at the time), knowing it was a bit of a gamble and it has 0 sentimental attachment. The sound has never been 'stellar' and the pinblock was quite loose (and a few pins were pounded in) but my tech did a CA treatment so I could enjoy it for at least a while.

Well, I'm a few years down the line and, while the pinblock is holding, the sound has deteriorated further and the whole thing honestly just needs rebuilt. The bridge caps are split, the strings are original, and the pinblock is full of CA. The good part is the soundboard does still have a crown, and the action is in good shape - it does have new hammers and knuckles from the previous owner! Based on some QUICK tips from my tech (along with a lot of research), I did do a DIY regulation on the action after I first got it, replaced a backcheck, and replaced a broken button. While my tech said it was a bit heavy on the aftertouch, he was quite impressed with the resulting improvement.

I've gotten a about half dozen quotes for doing all the work (bridges, pinblock, refinish, etc). One shop quoted me a cost that could buy me two similar already-rebuilt instruments, another told me (despite showing photos of the cracked bridges with pins that had shifted) that they wouldn’t plan to replace the bridge caps during a rebuild, and the other 4 or so just told me, while it is a fine instrument, it isn't worth rebuilding considering ROI and lack of sentimental attachment.

So now I have essentially two options:
1) Throw it on the trash heap and buy a better piano
2) Try my hand at working on it knowing, worst case scenario, I can always fall back to option 1 and just be out the cost of parts (which I know could be as high as $1-2k depending on when things go sideways.)

Because I am an engineer who enjoys having a project, and I consider myself to be a very proficient at woodworking, I want to take Option 2 (knowing full well I will very likely ruin it further.)

Anyway, that’s all for now – As I continue with my planning I’ll post questions for any guidance/advice anyone is willing to bestow upon me. Thanks in advance to everyone!

Photos of my Baldwin

Last edited by aapitten; 11/19/20 05:28 PM.
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Re: Upcoming Baldwin Model 3 Restoration
A-Piano #3047605 11/19/20 05:28 PM
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Thank you for the introduction, aapitten! I think you will have an interesting project, and I am sure that lots of people here will be pleased to offer advice as you go along.

Mario Igrec's magnificent Pianos Inside Out isn't really an update on the Reblitz book; it is its own thing, and on a somewhat different scale, in terms of detail. Besides, Arthur Reblitz's book now has its own update, in the forum of the 3rd Edition, comprehensively updated, and very reasonably priced.

Last edited by David Boyce; 11/19/20 05:29 PM.
Re: Upcoming Baldwin Model 3 Restoration
David Boyce #3047609 11/19/20 05:33 PM
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Thanks David! I'm looking forward to a very educational experience.

Would you recommend one book over the other? (I'll likely end up getting both, but at least I can pick one to read first.)


Thanks,
A-Piano
Re: Upcoming Baldwin Model 3 Restoration
A-Piano #3047614 11/19/20 06:02 PM
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Welcome aapitten. I too am a non-tech posing as a tech (but only in front of my own pianos). I have found the techs here very helpful and am always a little surprised no one has booted me from the tech forum yet, but they haven't.

I say go for it on your piano. I'm restoring an old upright, and once that's done, I hope to get an old beater of a grand either free or cheap, and start a similar project. I've been doing some grand work on my existing piano, but it's mainly regulation and tweaking. Nothing needs to be rebuilt yet.

Another helpful thing to do, if you haven't already, is to join your local Piano Technician's Guild. Then you can go to meetings and technical trainings, and get to know your local techs. You'll also get access to all the current and back issues of the PTG Journal, as well as training materials on their site.

Best of luck on your project. Pianos are wonderful things and easy to get hooked on!


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First crush: Kawai GL10
Current fling: Petrof III
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Re: Upcoming Baldwin Model 3 Restoration
A-Piano #3047681 11/20/20 11:29 AM
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Do you want to play around with learning some rebuilding things, or is the objective to make the piano sound and play at a high level? That is to say, are you trying to do a quality rebuild, or do you want quality results in the sound of the instrument?


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Re: Upcoming Baldwin Model 3 Restoration
A-Piano #3047683 11/20/20 11:33 AM
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Hi aapitten. Welcome!

This is my opinion:

Looks to me like the soundboard is shot. I don't think you can fix it for $1-2k in parts, not to mention the amount of time it would take. There are other, better candidates for a rebuild than this piano.

If you got the piano for next to nothing well... easy come, easy go as they say.

That's just my .02 though, some of the more experienced techs might have a different opinion.

-joshua



Re: Upcoming Baldwin Model 3 Restoration
A-Piano #3047695 11/20/20 12:02 PM
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OP stated the sound board has crown. One crack doesn't mean the soundboard is shot. The issue is should the crack be fixed, or left as it is. That depends on whether or not it is making a buzzing sound. Often times, it does not. If that is the case, I would leave it as is and not do anything with it. A fix in this case would be cosmetic. It is something that would be done in professional quality rebuild, but not something done to produce professional quality sound and touch. That is one area where those two objectives differ.

I'd also, probably, just leave the bridge and pins as they are. OP, are you sure you have bridge caps on the piano? I can't tell from the pictures if that is the case or not. I see the cracks at the pins. But, the bad ones in your picture were on the non-speaking length side. You could leave them, or try and fix and fill them with chemicals. I'd leave them alone unless they are specifically causing a problem.


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Re: Upcoming Baldwin Model 3 Restoration
A-Piano #3047702 11/20/20 12:27 PM
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In terms of costs:

You are going to need larger sizes of tuning pins. You're going to have to measure what is in there, and then guess at the sizes you'll need. Each box is around $100. You'll probably want a few boxes of different sizes (lengths and widths) in order to get the perfect fit (around $300).

Bass strings are around $300.

Plain wire is around $15 for a one pound coil. So depending on how many wire sizes you have in the piano-I don't know, but you may have around 18 different sizes, so that is around $300.

You may want to rebush the keys, and do some other action work (pining, rebushing, new felts). You're going to need some specialized tools and supplies. A few hundred dollars.

If you want to touch up the case, I'd go over it with shellac using a french polishing technique. This is not expensive, maybe $50.

I would say you are going to at least have to spend $2k for the tools, supplies, and materials. That is more-or-less for the restringing work. If you want to replace bridge caps and install new pinblocks, you're going to need to spend a lot more.


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Re: Upcoming Baldwin Model 3 Restoration
A-Piano #3047720 11/20/20 02:02 PM
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Welcome,

My take is to hire someone to just do the bellywork (new soundboard, new pinblock, new strings) then as time goes by you do all the action work as a learning experience. That way, when you are done you have a decent piano.

If that doesn't fit you budget, then enjoy the piano as is, save your money and find a piano is good condition at a fair price. For example, i just bought a Mason and Hamlin BB with a nice finish, new hammers, BUT, the pinblock is shot. For only $600. All i got to do is install a pinblock, and new strings, and i got a super nice piano. So deals are out there.

-chris

Last edited by Chernobieff Piano; 11/20/20 02:03 PM.

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Re: Upcoming Baldwin Model 3 Restoration
A-Piano #3047728 11/20/20 02:29 PM
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Having looked at the photos, some things come to mind:
Refinish the soundboard using Del Fandrich's epoxy method. No shims. Use epoxy filler.
Consider installing a Wapin bridge pin system. This is the sort and condition of piano which can show real benefit. The patent has expired.
Resurface the bridge caps as per articles by Bill Spurlock. Don't file or sand the pins to length, this loosens the fit to the bridge. Drill appropriately and tap the pins too length when installing.
Have bass strings designed by James Arledge or JD Grandt. Consider having him add a few wound strings to the low tenor, he'll recommend or not (send him scale measurements.)
Go to the Paulello wire web site and calculate strings using the free typogram.
Use the current action to explore action geometry. Make a smooth strike weight continuity. Later you may want to change hammers.
Try to find some LoTorq tuning pins, which will let you reuse the pinblock without crowding the coils and pins.
Clean and lightly bore the agraffes for clean front terminations.

These are upgrades you can do at low cost, and I think you'll enjoy what you learn.


Ed Sutton, RPT
Just a piano tuner!
Durham NC USA
Re: Upcoming Baldwin Model 3 Restoration
A-Piano #3047786 11/20/20 05:44 PM
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I'd go for the cheapest possible solution and then re-evaluate the piano itself and decide whether it's worth investing more time and money into it. After all, it has been with you for quite some time, so at least give it a chance to remain friends.

* Leave alone the bridges, pinblock, soundboard, dampers
* Get a new set of strings and the corresponding pins with a larger diameter
* Get rid of the CA in the pinblock by boring new holes that correspond to the size of the new pins
* Clean the agraffes before restringing. Go through the holes with a thread that is soaked with a cleaning solution for brass
* Even out possible dentures on the underside of the capo bar by sanding it
* Polish all rail pins

The soundboard isn't perfect, neither are the bridges, but it's worth finding out whether both of these components produce annoying, buzzing noise or really unpleasant unclean single strings.

I can guarantee you that the improvement will be substantial to its current state, but happy you won't be - and that's not the acoustic assembly's fault.

The hammers don't look good. Uneven in shape and position and by now the perfect strike line will be different from the straight line the treble hammers are now positioned in. If you conclude that basically the acoustic assembly is good enough for you, I'd leave it at that and focus on the action and hammers. There is your potentially largest leap in sound and playing quality.

The initial costs for restringing are worth a try and won't rob you blind, but enable you to come to an informed decision about whether and how to proceed.

Re: Upcoming Baldwin Model 3 Restoration
A-Piano #3047788 11/20/20 05:50 PM
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Hi and welcome!

You're in a similar boat to me. I picked up a Kawai KG-1C for next to nothing, and I'm not a piano tech but I'm handy. It's in similar or worse condition to yours (mine has partially and not well restrung, had some mismatched universal base strings and the pin block is absolutely covered in CA glue, and clearly not the super thin stuff). Since owning it I've replaced the bass strings, replaced a handful of the wires that were glue covered, replaced the hammers and done some light regulation work on the action. There are things I wish I had done differently for sure - I wish I had done a complete restring with larger pins. I still will probably do this in the future. My soundboard also has a crack, but hasn't caused any buzzing so I've never bothered with it; hopefully you don't need to bother with yours either.

If you're after a return on investment, it's probably not a wise use of your money. If you're excited by the prospect of tinkering with the piano and learning about it, I'd say go for it and have fun. You'll learn a lot, make mistakes and probably be pretty proud of what you do achieve. I would say don't forget the cost of the specialized tools you likely need along the way! It seems like there's always another tool I've got my eye on for the next task.


Kawai KG-1C
Roland FP-30
Re: Upcoming Baldwin Model 3 Restoration
A-Piano #3047814 11/20/20 06:49 PM
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How much time do you have? Are you the type that consistently sees things through to completion no matter what? Or are you likely to get halfway and say: "what did I get myself into here? (That happens a lot...many don't "count the cost").

However, you as an engineer (you didn't identify just what kind of engineer you are 😁) are probably better equipped to do this than most. For instance, if I said to you: "you will need to figure out in advance some system so that after removing the cast iron plate, you can put it back EXACTLY where it was",(repeat EXACTLY)...you will be able to figure this out with having your hand held throughout.

I do not advise going to the extent of restringing of you are going to re-use a pinblock that has been CAed. Better do research on how to replace the pinblock and do that. It's not that hard once you understand the principles behind the process.

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


Peter W. Grey, RPT
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Re: Upcoming Baldwin Model 3 Restoration
A-Piano #3047859 11/20/20 11:45 PM
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@A-Piano: I'm basically doing the same as you(not a tech). I'm also luckily in that there's a tech near me who has been kind enough to offer advice and help. So I read this thread with interest. I'm doing it purely for the fun of it and fully expect to fail. The advice given so far is good and should be considered imo. If wasting money and time is a huge concern I would just dispose of the old piano and find one closer to what you want. If not and your wood working skills are good, I would focus on the pinblock, if it's not inset into the case like in my situation, and reuse what's still good. Fixing loose bridge pins actually helped a lot of nasty false beats in my example, but not all tone issues.

I wish you luck and enjoyment in your endeavors!

Re: Upcoming Baldwin Model G Restoration
A-Piano #3047877 11/21/20 01:41 AM
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Wow! I didn’t expect so many responses, thanks everyone! I’m going to try to reply to everything here. Sorry in advance for the length.

As a general statement, there surprisingly are no ‘buzzes’ or other sounds like that. It just sounds ‘dull’ or ‘dead’ when you play. The bass is just not there and nothing really ‘resonates’ regardless of octave. I really noticed it when I went to visit my parents and played their 1950’s Acrosonic spinet I learned on. The SPINET sounded better than this 5’5” baby grand, especially in the bass end (and it too is in original condition.)

I added some more photos to the album (At the end) to show the WORST of the bridge cracks. Also to show what I believe to be a cap.

Piano411 – The objective is mainly to play around with learning some rebuilding with the (optimistic) hope of making things sound better than they do now in the process. As far as the pinblock, based on the info I have from my tech, I think a replacement is in order – I’m not sure it is even worth trying to save. We are pretty confident there is some delamination going on in there based on the patterns the pins were loose.

At this point in the game, while I don’t disagree the action needs work, I had convinced myself that I would not touch it for the time being and focus on the belly (circling back to that later). Based on the lack of 'resonance' and just sounding 'dead' I had assumed that is more related to the belly than anything. Or am I incorrect?

I don’t disagree that, after doing the action, I would have more into it. My thoughts were something along these lines:

Pull the harp and address the bridges first and, if I don’t totally fail there, go to the pinblock. My thoughts were that they were the two areas I am most likely to totally fail. If I can get them out of the way early that means, if I do fail, I can cut my losses early (especially if the failure occurs in bridge removal/recapping, which petrifies me.) My gut says if I make it past the bridges and the pinblock I will probably have at least a PLAYABLE piano (sound quality may not be there, but functionally playable). Going back to the Agile project management technique of 'Fail Fast, Fail Often'.

My ‘tentative’ estimates are based on the following pricing from Schaff:
1) 5 Ply quarter sawn maple pinblock $385 - $228 if I go for Delignit
2) Bridge pins - $13/ carton. I’ll figure $50 for a few different sizes
3) Bridge Cap Material (if I don’t have someone do the bridges or go for epoxy) $145.
4) Tuning Pins $95

So that works out to be about $700. I THINK that is enough for me to then make a go/no go call to proceed forward with strings, wire, etc.

As far as the case – I do plan to address it. Undecided if I’m going to strip it all the way down or just resurface. My soundboard is definitely shellac, but the case is definitely lacquer. Unfortunately some moron cleaned it with something that turned the outside somewhat hazy and the inside almost opaque. Just this week I experimented with spraying the music tray with a heavy coat of lacquer thinner and then just let it dry. It actually looks really good. There is still some checking and some scratches underneath, but it is glossy again. A bit of polishing SHOULD get rid of the remaining orange peel. Would you still recommend shellac OVER the lacquer?

Heavypiano – that’s a fair assessment on the soundboard, I assume you say that due to the split? That is the worst one on it and, as some other people pointed out, it does still have crown to it. Since there isn’t any buzzing I was debating between shimming or just leaving well enough alone. Honestly, this is one of the areas I haven’t done my homework yet so I haven't formed much of an opinion.

Chernobieff – That was actually my goal (paying someone just to do the belly), but the quotes for belly work only were still approaching $20-$40k depending on the shop. Please tell me if I’m missing the boat here, but I think I can buy a ‘good shape’ piano for $10-$15k. Or am I totally off? (And of course something like your deal would be awesome!)

Ed Sutton – I’ll look into that method, I am not familiar. Thank you. I have researched the Wapin bridge pins and I guess I felt, even with them, I would still have issues with the existing bridge caps unless I totally filled them with epoxy and re-drilled. Perhaps I’m mistaken. Given all the other mistakes I'm likely to make in this process, I'm not sure Wapin vs non-Wapin will be the make or break decision for me. :-P

OE1FEU – It is funny you say that. I have no sentimental attachments but I do tell everyone he is my pet and his name is Baldwin. :-P As mentioned in one of my earlier replies, my concerns with the pinblock are that we think it is delaminated inside, so my tech (and therefore I) are leery of repining since it may just do the same thing all over again. You have a good point with the cleaning – that probably isn’t a bad thing to do at all. That said, it quickly runs into a case of ‘might-as-wells’. If I’ve got the strings off for cleaning, they need replaced. If I’m replacing the strings, I doubt the current pinblock will take kindly to that much movement of the tuning pins, so I should do that. If I’m doing that I might as well address the bridges….. and it keeps going and going.
In the 2-3 years I have been playing this piano I have heard exactly 0 buzzing and the only unpleasant string was a universal bass string replacement (Which subsequently broke and nearly killed me while I was playing). So that issue resolved itself. Haha

Tyson Armstrong – I’m not really looking for an ROI here. I mean, I’d like to cut my losses earlier than later if it becomes apparent I will never be able to have this piano functional again, but I just want to learn and, if in the process I can, come out with an improved piano.
You are so right on the tools – and unfortunately there aren’t a lot of ways to improvise. I’m optimistic that, using the plan I outlined above, focusing on the pinblock and bridges first will allow me to help manage that a bit.

P W Grey – I should have sufficient time to devote. I just got done studying for a certification for work and was spending 2-4 hours every day working on it for 2 months. I also have time on my side as I won’t be in a rush and, if I start after the upcoming holidays, it should give me a good indoor project to keep me busy while COVID sorts itself out. Having time to wait should help with not ordering ‘wrong things’.

As far as sticking with it – I will admit I am currently stalled out on an old Allen church organ which I am rebuilding as a virtual organ – that is mostly due to the amount of ‘laptop work’ I need to do now to program my microcontroller and layout circuit schematics. I spend my entire day on my laptop for work. I enjoy getting my hands on something ‘real’ after-hours. Other ‘Big Projects’ I have successfully completed including rebuilding the engine and drivetrain of my old 1971 MG, completely flipping a foreclosed house, redoing the musical controls on
my University's Electronic Carillion,
rebuilding two University radio studio's from the ground up (for fun) and, after this, my next (hopefully) planned project is to build my own 4-seat airplane from a kit. (I have a wide variety of interests).

To be fair, my degree is Electrical engineering but I tend to be pretty heavy into the mechanical projects when I’m not working – I almost double majored but that was just too much work for 4 years.

In your specific example – I’ve actually already thought through that problem and have a plan (it involves marked spacer blocks inserted in positions under the plate referenced from the case and/or using a large caliper to take measurements where necessary.)

I’m glad to hear you say I should just replace the pinblock. In my mind, that was a no-brainer, but I was starting to doubt a bit based on some of the feedback of just repining and/or restringing. I’m honestly not SUPER worried about doing the pinblock. It’s a lot of precise holes and precise woodfitting. I’m currently just contemplating if I make a jig to allow me to drill it using a drill press while it is installed in the piano, or if I just mark it and do it on the bench. :-D

D.P. That is VERY lucky you found a tech to do that. I’m hoping mine will provide guidance, but he also doesn’t do rebuild work, so his knowledge there is a bit limited. I did at least determine the pinblock is not attached on the back side (I wedged my head under it on the keybed and could clearly see a gap – less sure on the sides. That is going to be a tough one if it is!

Last edited by A-Piano; 11/21/20 01:48 AM.

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A-Piano
Re: Upcoming Baldwin Model G Restoration
A-Piano #3047919 11/21/20 08:35 AM
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Frankly, I'd probably go for the airplane and just find a better piano that doesn't need so much work.

😁

Peter Grey Piano Doctor

Edit: Nice work on the bells!

Last edited by P W Grey; 11/21/20 08:36 AM.

Peter W. Grey, RPT
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Re: Upcoming Baldwin Model G Restoration
A-Piano #3048061 11/21/20 05:02 PM
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Originally Posted by A-Piano
... if I do fail, I can cut my losses early (especially if the failure occurs in bridge removal/recapping, which petrifies me.)

Hi A-Piano, you might want to consider a bridge matching service. I'm sure the cost of using the service is justified compared making one yourself - especially for the first time.

Basically remove the offending bridge, send it to them with some money and get a perfect replacement in the mail.

Just a suggestion.

Edited Or you might contact Baldwin directly. They may be able to provide a whole new bridge. (if they still do that sort of thing)

Last edited by WBLynch; 11/21/20 05:05 PM.

-Bill L. - former tuner-technician
Re: Upcoming Baldwin Model G Restoration
A-Piano #3048094 11/21/20 07:07 PM
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It looks like you have a very thick bridge cap. The bridge and the cap are both horizontal. That means you could do a chemical treatment without impregnating the bridge body itself, if you wanted to. Because have done this kind of thing many times before, I don’t believe you are not going to get any acoustic benefit from dealing with those cracks. Many people believe this is source of false beats. I’m not one of those people. I can show you a piano with a crack in nearly every pin, which has no problems what so ever with false beats. But, if it makes you feel better, then treat the cracks or recap the bridge.

Since the pinblock is in the plate, if you leave the strings in the plate when you remove it, you can custom notch the bridge with the strings to the new cap. This can greatly improve the feeling of how the piano tunes. The better control you have over the tuning, the more resonant the piano will sound. So, if you are up for it, it is probably best to custom fit a new cap to the piano. Don’t just copy what is already there.


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Re: Upcoming Baldwin Model G Restoration
A-Piano #3048114 11/21/20 09:18 PM
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Many Baldwins from this era had flat-sawn maple caps. They move more with humidity changes and present a less hard face of the wood to the strings. This causes the tone to go dead. Epoxy or CA will not cure this problem.

The quality of the bridge is far more important to tone than the condition of the soundboard.

Also, you will need to shape the V-bar to a true V-shape to produce the full benefit of the intended pivot termination the design is based on.


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Re: Upcoming Baldwin Model G Restoration
A-Piano #3048124 11/21/20 10:32 PM
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Joined: Feb 2017
Posts: 3,425
I just looked at the photos again. The hammer hanging job is terrible. I would not be surprised if some of your tonal issues are connected to this fact. If they could strike an accurate hammer line in general, I doubt they could get strike point correct, and I suspect they did a poor job in the regulation and voicing dept's as well. The bridges really don't look that bad to me.

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


Peter W. Grey, RPT
New Hampshire Seacoast
www.seacoastpianodoctor.com
pianodoctor57@gmail.com
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK0T7_I_nV8
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