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Originally Posted by WilliamTruitt
Del, the treble on this little puppy is absolutely gorgeous. Impressive. Is this "Pipsqueak" from your journal article? What changes to the stringing scale (bass and treble) did you make to get you there?

Yes, it is.

The soundboard is original but thinned around the lower third (i.e., around the bass bridge). The board is also cut free immediately behind the low end of the bass bridge. After all this was done a thin coat of coating epoxy was brushed on, most of which was removed before the UV blocking varnish top coat was applied. Most of the bass bridge cantilever was removed and the bass bridge was moved forward about 25 mm. This shortened the speaking length by 25 mm but increased the backscale by the same amount.

The string scale has been radically revised. The original had tensions upward of 200 lbf (90 kgf) through the mid-tenor and low-treble. It's now in the 150 to 160 lbf range. Most of the bass strings are wrapped on Paulello low-tensile strength wire and all of the wire in the tenor section is also LTS wire.

The action is original with new Ronsen hammers using Weickert felt. (I already had these hammers, else I'd have used Bacon felt for this piano.) The action geometry was modified (by moving the capstans and capstan blocks) to give it and overall action ratio of around 5.8:1 (or something close, I'd have to look it up to be sure). The static down weight is a little high but the action has very low inertia -- light hammers, very little key leading -- so it feels pretty good. It's a very quick action.

At the end of the tenor bridge (on the bottom side of the board) I've installed both an auxiliary mass and a short auxiliary rib to ease the bass-to-tenor transition. It's not the most seamless transition I've ever done, but it's pretty good. Especially considering the very short length of the piano.

(Note -- this is more work (i.e., expense) than I would normally recommend putting into a 4' 10" grand. This is my own piano and it was done as an experimental project. It is now for sale and I know I can never get back what I've put into it. Did learn something, though.)

ddf

Last edited by Del; 04/28/17 04:02 PM.

Delwin D Fandrich
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Congratulations Del. Your small grand sounds great, incredibly treble.
How is posible to get your epoxy SB article?
Best,
Lluís
(piano restorer)

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Originally Posted by lluiscl
Congratulations Del. Your small grand sounds great, incredibly treble.
How is posible to get your epoxy SB article?
Best,
Lluís
(piano restorer)

You can get the original version by sending me an email requesting it. I'm in the middle of rewriting it to update some of the technical information. The new version will be available Real Soon Now.

ddf


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Thanks, Del. It looks like you reduced the wire gauge aizes in the mid tenor and low treble, along with the substitution of the LTS wire, likely
type O. I have done the same to good effect.

Will



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Originally Posted by WilliamTruitt
Thanks, Del. It looks like you reduced the wire gauge aizes in the mid tenor and low treble, along with the substitution of the LTS wire, likely
type O. I have done the same to good effect.

Will

Yes, by quite a lot. I pondered this scale for quite some time. The revision I came up with looked much more "normal" for pianos of this size and age. I couldn't (and still can't) figure out why they scaled this piano as they did. With wire sizes as large as they used. It made no sense.

It's sometimes hard to judge a piano's ultimate performance by listening to it in its original condition, but this one just sounded "off." Tight. Restrained. Like the soundboard wasn't able to move. And no wonder. With that much tension it could hardly be expected to move.

This piano was a classic example of why I think it is important to measure and evaluate the scaling of a piano before wading into a major rebuild.

ddf


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Del's little 148 sounds... AMAZING, at least in the Debussy. The treble is sweet; mid-range more than respectable, and the bass -- well, it's THERE which is an accomplishment. Hats Off for a great job and a real hot rod at that.

As to the OP's question, although I like what I've heard and played in the Hailun world, I'd go for the "free" Steinway and keep the case as is. I'm a working musician (no, that is NOT an oxymoron), and every nickel counts.

Good Day to all.


Andrew Kraus, Pianist
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I Make Music that Lifts People Up & Brings Them Together
Rockville, MD USA
www.AndrewKraus.com
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Originally Posted by 12rabidbadgers

I don't yet know the extent of the restoration needed for the 90-year old Steinway M but an initial estimate is close to $15K. I know the soundboard is cracked and this piano has not been used or maintained in decades.


I have done what you are contemplating. I acquired a
90-year old Steinway that had not been played in years, and
had it restored. Like you, I was friends with the owner,
and the owner basically gave it to me. Mine was the slightly
larger Model O.

My thoughts are:

1. Rebuilding a vintage Steinway has greater potential value
than buying a lower end new grand. This value can be in
terms of musical capability, resale, and/or in the
satisfaction of restoring a vintage musical instrument
(e.g., similar to restoring, say, a 1930s car).

2. The potential value can be reached only if you are prepared
to invest an appropriate amount of money into the
restoration. For example, if the piano's woodwork and
finish need restoration but you can only afford to restore
the body, you can still get plenty of satisfaction out of
playing the instrument but its resale will be nowhere near
top dollar.

3. If the soundboard is cracked (mine was), I would recommend
replacing it, not repairing it. The soundboard is the
heart of the instrument, and I would not have high hopes
when the wood is so old and is cracked to boot. In my
situation, the soundboard sounded "leaden" - quiet and
lacking in brightness. Lastly, Steinway didn't introduce
their crowned soundboard until 1937, which means your
prospective Steinway won't have this feature (some debate
whether a crowned soundboard adds value, but in any case
it's been part of Steinway's DNA for 80 years).

4. You didn't mention what kind of wood the piano is
finished in. If it is mahogany or walnut, that would be
a big plus, because back then these veneers were crafted
out of old forest woods - something you cannot find in
today's world. Mine was mahogany, and the ability to
bring that back to life was one of my key decision points.

5. If you are intending to do a full restoration of the
body, including replacing the soundboard, strings, and
restoring the action, I think your budget of $15K is low.
By the way, remember to include transportation costs in
your budget - you'll have two moves, each costing
$300-400.

--

Bottom line, if you have the means to restore a vintage
Steinway to "like new" playing condition, you'll get great
satisfaction out of being able to own and play a great musical
instrument. But, if you can't afford to do the job right,
then if it were me with a $15K budget, I'd look for a late
model used piano of good brand that has good sound and feel.

Feel free to PM me if you would like more details about my
Steinway restoration.

John


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Originally Posted by jcgee88

3. If the soundboard is cracked (mine was), I would recommend
replacing it, not repairing it. The soundboard is the
heart of the instrument, and I would not have high hopes
when the wood is so old and is cracked to boot. In my
situation, the soundboard sounded "leaden" - quiet and
lacking in brightness. Lastly, Steinway didn't introduce
their crowned soundboard until 1937, which means your
prospective Steinway won't have this feature (some debate
whether a crowned soundboard adds value, but in any case
it's been part of Steinway's DNA for 80 years).

Although it is certainly reasonable to replace a 90 year old soundboard, not all rebuilders do this routinely and some think it's better to avoid this whenever possible. A fairly high percent of boards that old need replacement, but this is best determined by an excellent rebuilder as sometimes it is not necessary even for a very old one. Cracks alone do not mean that a soundboard has to be replaced.

I think you are mistaken about Steinway crowning their soundboards as this has been done for a lot longer as far as I know. Maybe you are thinking of when they started tapering their soundboards or introduced some other protocol?

Last edited by pianoloverus; 04/30/17 12:29 PM.
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus

I think you are mistaken about Steinway crowning their soundboards as this has been done for a lot longer as far as I know. Maybe you are thinking of when they started tapering their soundboards or introduced some other protocol?


I am referring to the "Diaphragmatic Soundboard," which Steinway
patented on February 9, 1937. The principal change was
tapering the edges, which results in a crown-shaped soundboard.
I agree I should have been more specific in describing what
I meant, but I was trying to use a generic term instead of
a Steinway-brand term.

John

Last edited by jcgee88; 04/30/17 01:32 PM.

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Originally Posted by jcgee88
Originally Posted by pianoloverus

I think you are mistaken about Steinway crowning their soundboards as this has been done for a lot longer as far as I know. Maybe you are thinking of when they started tapering their soundboards or introduced some other protocol?


I am referring to the "Diaphramatic Soundboard," which Steinway
patented on February 9, 1937. The principal change was
tapering the edges, which results in a crown-shaped soundboard.
I agree I should have been more specific in describing what
I meant, but I was trying to use a generic term instead of
a Steinway-brand term.

John
But I believe that tapering the edges is not necessary to or related to having soundboard crown, and so earlier Steinways also had soundboard crown.

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Yes, pre-1937 Steinway soundboards had crown, but they weren't tapered out to the edges in the 'diaphragmatic' system. Hamburg didn't routinely use diaphragmatic soundboards until much later, and whether it really significantly improves or changes the tone is debatable. Personally I don't really think it makes much of a positive difference (there... I said it....)


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A couple of points:
Originally Posted by jcgee88
… 3. If the soundboard is cracked (mine was), I would recommend replacing it, not repairing it. The soundboard is the heart of the instrument, and I would not have high hopes when the wood is so old and is cracked to boot. In my situation, the soundboard sounded "leaden" - quiet and lacking in brightness. Lastly, Steinway didn't introduce their crowned soundboard until 1937, which means your prospective Steinway won't have this feature (some debate whether a crowned soundboard adds value, but in any case it's been part of Steinway's DNA for 80 years).

I have replaced hundreds of soundboards over the course of my career. Although many brands are included in this list, most of them have been in Steinway pianos. There are many reasons for making the decision to replace the soundboard in any given piano; cracks and loss of crown are among them. But these two factors, by themselves, are no longer the death knell they once were considered to be. I mentioned a possible alternative in an earlier post. If anyone would like more technical information about this process—and the rationale behind it—feel free to send me an email and I’ll send you copies of the two Piano Technician Journal articles in which it was first described.

Steinway soundboards have been crowned—using a technique that has come to be called, ”compression-crowning”—since the beginning. What I think you are referring to here is their practice of “fully diaphragming” their boards. The value of this invention is, at the least, debatable. Most of the Steinway soundboards I’ve replaced were built after the mid-1930s.

ddf


Quote
… 5. If you are intending to do a full restoration of the body, including replacing the soundboard, strings, and restoring the action, I think your budget of $15K is low. By the way, remember to include transportation costs in your budget - you'll have two moves, each costing $300-400.

It is certainly true that replacing the soundboard will add considerably. As will anything done for a purely cosmetic reason. But the $15,000 to $18,000 budget for a complete rebuild excepting soundboard replacement and cosmetics is reasonable. At least in some parts of the country—these prices, like most others, tend to vary with the cost of living in a given area.


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Originally Posted by Del
A couple of points:

I have replaced hundreds of soundboards over the course of my career. Although many brands are included in this list, most of them have been in Steinway pianos. There are many reasons for making the decision to replace the soundboard in any given piano; cracks and loss of crown are among them. But these two factors, by themselves, are no longer the death knell they once were considered to be.


Thank you for offering your prospective, based on your actual
experience. Your position makes sense, provided one is basing
your evaluation/decision for the soundboard on what I would
call "tactical reasons." Tactical reasons being physical
indicators, etc.

I would offer "strategic reasons" that are derived from my
restoration experience. While my actual experience is only
one data point, it is virtually identical to the scenario the
OP described. And, more importantly, I have to live with the
consequences of my decisions. So for me, strategic reasons
proved more compelling than tactical reasons.

First, if the soundboard is dead, regardless of what the
physical reason is (crack, loss of crown, or whatever),
my sense is that any repair will be at best a short term fix.
I have seen numerous subject matter experts state this,
including the irrefutable statement that once old wood has
lost its resiliency, there is no way to bring it back. If
the OP's prospective soundboard is dead - which is probable
because it's 90 years old and hasn't been cared for, just
like mine - then to me it doesn't make sense to spend tons
fixing all the other parts while the heart and soul of the
instrument remains compromised.

Second, as I first started thinking about restoring this piano,
the original owner asked Steinway if they would buy it. They
eagerly responded yes; I'm guessing because the chance to
acquire a "Golden Age" Steinway doesn't come along every day.
Over the phone, Steinway told the owner that for a Model O of
that vintage, they might offer in the $10,000 range. But when
the Steinway guy came out and actually examined it, first
thing he said was, "The soundboard is cracked." He then
dropped his offer to $4,000.

So my conclusion was that if you someday will want to sell
your restored instrument (though I don't), you won't get the
true value of the instrument - even if it sounds great -
simply because of the presence of a crack in the soundboard.
Further, if I were buying a piano, and my tech said to me, "The
soundboard in that piano is cracked," I would run away from
that like Forrest Gump no matter how well someone repaired it.


Originally Posted by Del

Steinway soundboards have been crowned—using a technique that has come to be called, ”compression-crowning”—since the beginning. What I think you are referring to here is their practice of “fully diaphragming” their boards. The value of this invention is, at the least, debatable. Most of the Steinway soundboards I’ve replaced were built after the mid-1930s.


As I mentioned in a follow-up post, I did mean the
diaphragmatic soundboard, which to me gives it a shape that
looks like a crown; Steinway, more correctly, says it
resembles a human diaphragm. Again, I regret the use of my
original imprecise and inaccurate wording.

John


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Originally Posted by jcgee88
Originally Posted by Del
A couple of points:

I have replaced hundreds of soundboards over the course of my career. Although many brands are included in this list, most of them have been in Steinway pianos. There are many reasons for making the decision to replace the soundboard in any given piano; cracks and loss of crown are among them. But these two factors, by themselves, are no longer the death knell they once were considered to be.


Thank you for offering your prospective, based on your actual
experience. Your position makes sense, provided one is basing
your evaluation/decision for the soundboard on what I would
call "tactical reasons." Tactical reasons being physical
indicators, etc.

I would offer "strategic reasons" that are derived from my
restoration experience. While my actual experience is only
one data point, it is virtually identical to the scenario the
OP described. And, more importantly, I have to live with the
consequences of my decisions. So for me, strategic reasons
proved more compelling than tactical reasons.

First, if the soundboard is dead, regardless of what the
physical reason is (crack, loss of crown, or whatever),
my sense is that any repair will be at best a short term fix.
I have seen numerous subject matter experts state this,
including the irrefutable statement that once old wood has
lost its resiliency, there is no way to bring it back. If
the OP's prospective soundboard is dead - which is probable
because it's 90 years old and hasn't been cared for, just
like mine - then to me it doesn't make sense to spend tons
fixing all the other parts while the heart and soul of the
instrument remains compromised.

Second, as I first started thinking about restoring this piano,
the original owner asked Steinway if they would buy it. They
eagerly responded yes; I'm guessing because the chance to
acquire a "Golden Age" Steinway doesn't come along every day.
Over the phone, Steinway told the owner that for a Model O of
that vintage, they might offer in the $10,000 range. But when
the Steinway guy came out and actually examined it, first
thing he said was, "The soundboard is cracked." He then
dropped his offer to $4,000.

So my conclusion was that if you someday will want to sell
your restored instrument (though I don't), you won't get the
true value of the instrument - even if it sounds great -
simply because of the presence of a crack in the soundboard.
Further, if I were buying a piano, and my tech said to me, "The
soundboard in that piano is cracked," I would run away from
that like Forrest Gump no matter how well someone repaired it.


Originally Posted by Del

Steinway soundboards have been crowned—using a technique that has come to be called, ”compression-crowning”—since the beginning. What I think you are referring to here is their practice of “fully diaphragming” their boards. The value of this invention is, at the least, debatable. Most of the Steinway soundboards I’ve replaced were built after the mid-1930s.


As I mentioned in a follow-up post, I did mean the
diaphragmatic soundboard, which to me gives it a shape that
looks like a crown; Steinway, more correctly, says it
resembles a human diaphragm. Again, I regret the use of my
original imprecise and inaccurate wording.

John
If the soundboard is cracked but repaired it's true you normally won't get as much money for the piano. OTOH you didn't spend as much money in the restoration.

As several have stated, the diaphragmatic soundboard is not related to the crown and soundboards were crowned before the diaphragmatic soundboard was introduced. I believe there are pianos built today that do not have tapered soundboards but they certainly are crowned.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 05/01/17 01:26 PM.
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It is really difficult to assess the effect of changing the soundboard. To compare before and after properly, one would have to restring the piano and note how it sounds, and then remove those strings, replace the soundboard and compare. Having done that, you cannot go back. Also, you cannot assess the quality of the replacement, either, except perhaps by doing it again.

You can compare with newer pianos, but it is kind of difficult. I sometimes tune a friend's recent Steinway O and then come home and compare it with our 1920 version with the original soundboard and a crack, and I think that they are remarkably similar.


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There is probably more mythology and misinformation surrounding the soundboard assembly than any other part of the piano.

Originally Posted by jcgee88
… First, if the soundboard is dead, regardless of what the physical reason is (crack, loss of crown, or whatever), my sense is that any repair will be at best a short term fix. I have seen numerous subject matter experts state this, including the irrefutable statement that once old wood has lost its resiliency, there is no way to bring it back. If the OP's prospective soundboard is dead - which is probable because it's 90 years old and hasn't been cared for, just like mine - then to me it doesn't make sense to spend tons fixing all the other parts while the heart and soul of the instrument remains compromised.

The physical reason why a piano soundboard becomes “dead” is that it loses stiffness. Stiffness can be built into a soundboard assembly in several ways. Some companies do it by using relatively larger ribs. Steinway does it by drying the soundboard panel to ≈4% moisture content. This causes it to shrink in a perpendicular-to-grain direction. Relatively flexible, flat ribs are then glued to the back of the panel in that same perpendicular-to-grain direction. When this assembly is brought out into a normal—whatever that might be—climate it begins to absorb moisture and the panel attempts to expand in a perpendicular-to-grain direction. The ribs restrain that expansion and a stress interface is built up along the glueline between the ribs and the soundboard panel. In short, the assembly warps. Since “warp” is not a favored marketing term we use the word “crown” instead.

(This, incidentally, explains why the voice of so many pianos changes throughout the year.)

Without writing a book on the subject the short answer is that over time the wood fibers making up the soundboard panel change shape—they compress slightly over time due to a phenomena known as compression-set. Being thinner this process seems to develop more rapidly in post-1930s instruments (thinner wood, less structural support). As this process continues the physical, and musical, characteristics of the soundboard change. Over time, and under the right (wrong?) conditions, the tone will become increasingly percussive and the decay rate will increase—i.e., what we call “sustain” will decrease. This is usually diagnosed as a “dead” soundboard. Particularly after the hammers have been voiced down to deal with the initial, percussive attack sound that develops.

But, and here is the important point, the soundboard assembly is not dead because it has lost crown, it is dead because its mechanical stiffness has decreased over time. One way to deal with this is to replace the soundboard assembly and start over. But, given the availability of modern materials, it is not the only way.

The process I have described does just that without altering crown in any way. (Please note: there is no way to permanently restore crown in a flat, compression-crowned soundboard assembly.) Essentially, the process turns the top of the soundboard panel into a very thin—typically less than 0.25 - 0.5 mm into an epoxy-reinforced composite layer. The articles I have referred to in an earlier post describe this process and explain how and why it works. It process has now been in use for something over 40 years. It is being used by several rebuilders around the country with good success.


Quote
Second, as I first started thinking about restoring this piano, the original owner asked Steinway if they would buy it. They eagerly responded yes; I'm guessing because the chance to acquire a "Golden Age" Steinway doesn't come along every day. Over the phone, Steinway told the owner that for a Model O of that vintage, they might offer in the $10,000 range. But when the Steinway guy came out and actually examined it, first thing he said was, "The soundboard is cracked." He then dropped his offer to $4,000.

I have heard many variations of this story over the years. It is almost enough to make me wonder if there might not be a pattern involved. We must also keep in mind that the Steinway company has, for some time now, been working hard to convince its customers that compression ridges in soundboard panels and the subsequent cracks are not defects. They are features proving that the soundboard is working as it is supposed to work.

ddf


Last edited by Del; 05/01/17 09:17 PM.

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Thanks for the thoughtful comments John. The M is indeed mahogany.

After much handwringing, I ended up going with the Hailun. As much as I wanted to bring the older piano back to life I had too many unknown variables like finding a local restorer I trusted, not knowing how much $$ it would be until they started working on it, and not knowing how it would play or sound until they were done.

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saludos for joining the ranks of the pioneer consumers going with Chinese pianos. are you getting a solid warranty from an established, reputable dealer with the piano ? a brand new piano sometimes takes a while to hit its stride, technical support often very helpful.

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Originally Posted by 12rabidbadgers
Thanks for the thoughtful comments John. The M is indeed mahogany.


You're welcome! I hoped my comments helped.

I would have loved to have seen you bring a 90-year old
mahogany Steinway back to life. It's a pretty amazing
feeling. On the other hand, I really didn't sense you had
quite enough budget to do a restoration you would
be proud of, and it made more sense to me to do what you
ultimately decided.

Originally Posted by 12rabidbadgers

...I had too many unknown variables like finding a local restorer I trusted, not knowing how much $$ it would be until they started working on it, and not knowing how it would play or sound until they were done.


I stood in your shoes and know exactly how you feel! My biggest
fear was that mine wouldn't play or sound "like a real Steinway"
after spending all that money restoring it. My piano tech of
20 years advised me not to proceed; while he didn't actually
examine the piano, he thought it was just too big a risk.

Based on your stated budget, you wouldn't have had enough
money to re-finish the mahogany case. I had budget to
do this step, but the decision was exquisitely difficult.
The original finish had darkened and cracked so much, you
couldn't see the grain. The restorer looked at it and
was extremely hesitant to predict how it would turn out.
In fact, he suggested that we just paint it black. No way
was I going to do that to old growth mahogany, and I
decided if I went forward I was going to have them do their
normal mahogany stain.

In the end, I swallowed hard, sent them a lot money, waited
a year, and hoped for the best. When I got it back, the
result was so wonderful it brought tears to my eyes!

Good luck with your new piano!


John


1922 Steinway Model O, restored by Steinway Restoration Center, 2016. PianoDisc, installed 2017.
Joined: Sep 2016
Posts: 1,145
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Joined: Sep 2016
Posts: 1,145
John, as you noted, you weren't quite in the same shoes. from the vintage steinway grands in my experience, would surmise that the potential ceiling of O's is appreciably greater than M's, which was the potential rescue project.

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