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#3017469 08/24/20 07:24 PM
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Hi everyone!

I just joined here as a new member. I'm getting ready to dive into a big project. By the end of the week, I'm going to be taking possession of a late 1890s Ivers & Ponds upright piano that I plan on refurbishing / restoring to be my new family piano.

I currently own a late 60s spinet piano that my kids have been using for the past 3-4 years for their piano lessons. We are a musical family. I play trumpet in a Big Band. My wife played clarinet and also sings. My kids are 6 and nearly 8. I play , but I tinker around on the piano as my daughters are progressing through there lessons. My wife and I have been wanting to get a better long term piano for our family for a while. Through the research, I really fell in love with the pre-depression era upright pianos. I have been doing a lot of research and learning to understand what it would take to refurbish one of these old pianos, and casually keeping an eye out for the right piano. I've been tuning and performing basic maintenance on our spinet piano since we bought it. It's not really needed any significant work up to this point. It was a church piano that was tuned a couple of times a year before I took possession of it, so it was in decent shape. It could use some hammer shaping work and probably a regulation and key leveling job, but it's still a perfectly acceptable piano for the time being.

About a week ago I found this old Ivers & Ponds piano for sale (free to a good home) by a local musician. He saved the piano from getting destroyed and thrown away 20 years ago, and had visions of restoring it himself. He said it had been painted yellow by the previous owners, and he stripped the exterior back down to the original finish. He never got around to working on the rest of the piano though, and it's sat indoors at his house ever since. Through our correspondence, he was happy to pass this on to another musician that was looking to refurbish it. He even indicated that he passed on giving it to someone that wanted to gut it and turn it into a wine bar.

I go on friday to pick up the piano and bring home. I'm really looking forward to the project. I'm not going to lie, I fully expect this to be a lot of work. However, the type of work that this will take is right up my alley. I am a maker, tinkerer, DIY guy, and I am always looking for new ways to keep my hands busy. The intricate work to refurbish the piano seems like the type of work that I would really enjoy doing. In the end, my goal is to have this thing back into wonderful playing condition, and I want to do it the right way so it will be able to serve as our family piano for the foreseeable future.

As of now, I know there are a few broken strings on the very upper register of the Piano. I can also see there is a hammer shank near the middle of the action that is broken. Other than that, everything needs to be cleaned and I'll need to get into it to see what kind of condition things are in. Obviously there will be a lot of age degradation issues. I may start with key tops first after a good cleaning, but because that seems like a good job that will make an immediate impact and doesn't require a lot of specialized tools. Beyond that, I'll just have to see. Any recommendations for a high level progression?

Here are some pictures (assuming this works):
[img]https://imgur.com/H2NcADP[/img]

[img]https://imgur.com/zt8JvFl[/img]

[img]https://imgur.com/bJmd84D[/img]

[img]https://imgur.com/APx9oY4[/img]

[img]https://imgur.com/AqJZxjA[/img]


I'm restoring an 1890 Ivers & Pond Upright piano
Follow along on my YouTube channel: My Antique Piano

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Hello, markag, and welcome to Piano World!

I looked at the pics, and yes, you do indeed have your work cut out for you, my friend!

But I too have a weakness for old upright pianos. And, I have heard good things about the old Ivers & Pond brand. A few members here have an old Ivers & Pond, and do speak highly of them.

My late mom always used to say, "where there is a will, there is a way". So, If you set your mind to getting the old Ivers & Pond back into playing condition, who's to say you can't. Well, there are many who will say you can't, but only you can decide that for yourself. smile

I have tinkered with several old upright pianos, and have a couple of them now. But I got to the point where I'd rather have an old piano that is playable as is, although nearly worn out. But it is fun working on them, and you can learn a lot by just by giving the repair a try. Every piano I've ever tinkered with, I learned something that help me on the next project.

If I can offer any advice, try to get the piano out of the unconditioned garage and into a better environment, if possible. That, in itself, will help tremendously.

Good luck, and keep us informed of your progress!

Rick


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FWIW - I remember a rather gorgeous I&P upright, fully restored, by a student (or two) at the North Bennett Street School. Very nice sound, look and feel. The veneer was quite beautiful as well. So, yes, OP, LOTS of work to do,but it may well be a very nice piano when you're done. GOOD LUCK.


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Just keep in mind that it will cost more in time and parts than a much newer piano.

Keytops are probably a lot harder than you think. Ideally you should remove some wood to make some room for the new, thicker keytops, and then carve out the sharp notches. You will also have to replace all the punchings and cloth under the keys, and level them out. That is a lot of work, and then there is all the rest. I would not expect you to be able to finish this in less than a year. It is a daunting project even for someone with experience.


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BDB is right. However, if you have the time and don't mind the cost, it's great fun. I'm on the second year of my restoration of a 1927 Kurtzmann upright. Action is done, now I'm working on removing strings and plate. It will look very pretty when done, what I don't know is how well it will play. If you're up for the challenge, it's a very rewarding thing to do. Probably more so for us novices than pros that have to do this under time constraints and try to turn a profit.

Good luck!


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markag Offline OP
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I don't have any expectation that this will be a quick project. My wife is predicting 3 years. I would like to think it might be a little sooner than that, but I'm thinking she is probably pretty close.

I'm ready for it to be a long term project with a monumental amount of work. I'm more than happy to put in the time on my side because tinkering with things is fun for me. I'm also not looking at this as a financial investment. I think we would just rather have a full size old upright piano rather than a shiny new black box.

I know this would not be a job recommended to most people. I've been building model cars, RC airplanes, and making my own modifications to everyday objects since I was a kid. I've been doing a lot of research and watching as much content as I can find on piano restoration and repair. Everything I've seen tells me that this will be within my capability from a skill standpoint. I don't have the experience, but I'm willing to go in and make mistakes, and then figure out what I did wrong and fix them. The plan is to just keep plugging away at it and come out the other end with a really nice family piano that we can keep for a long time.


I'm restoring an 1890 Ivers & Pond Upright piano
Follow along on my YouTube channel: My Antique Piano

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Originally Posted by BDB
Just keep in mind that it will cost more in time and parts than a much newer piano.

Indeed. That piano is quite a project, indeed! I think 99 out of 100 people would be pushing that one from the uninsulated garage (pictured) to the scrap heap. I’m not opposed to doing whatever you like, but a reasonable expectation that your first time doing a lot of the needed tech work/restoration (and just from the pictures you can see the needs are going to be pretty comprehensive) will not result in an optimal outcome...or in some cases, even an acceptable one.

Is it at all possible to take on a project piano and concurrently upgrade to a better (current condition) piano than the 1960s spinet? (This is the piano teacher side of me talking now...) The students in your family might appreciate the better tone, dynamic range, and action response. A 20-30 year old 45” studio upright would be a significant step up. No disrespect intended.


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That’s quite an undertaking! I too am concerned about the cost of replacement parts and specialized tools this project would require. Replacing those broken strings alone needs at least a tuning hammer, a coil lifter and probably a micrometer to find the gauge of the wires. You may want to find out if the wooden parts like the soundboard and the pinblock are still functional before starting as those can turn a little repair project into a significant rebuilding work. After all, this piano is 130 years old! I’m interested in hearing about your progress as I am also a maker of sort, but personally I think a little newer piano would be more worth your time, effort and the expense.

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Welcome. I am also starting on the restoration of an old upright but I think I’m starting from a better position. Be prepared to spend a lot in parts. The action in your photos seems to be in need of a complete rebuild. All the whippens, hammer butts, springs, damper levers and dampers - not to mention hammers - need to be replaced. You need to find out if suitable new parts are even available. Often generic parts can be fitted. But you need to know.

Chances are there are dozens of broken flanges that would need replacing, even if you can salvage the whippens and butts.

The rest, pinblock, soundboard, bridges and key set need to be fully evaluated before you even begin.

Lastly, if all seems lost but the casework is irresistible, you can consider using it as a shell for an electronic keyboard installation.


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I think you’d be better off buying a clean, working, antique piano. A little cash up front goes a huge long way.


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Here's my advice:

View this thing as training wheels. You are going to end up doing numerous things twice...first time the way you "figured it might be", second time the way it's supposed to be (after things didn't quite work out as anticipated the first time). I have seen this happen before (and it has been further documented many times right here on PW).

My prediction is that after you have spent many hours getting into this (repeat MANY HOURS) another piano will appear that is in far better reconditionable shape will come to your attention and you will want it...but of course you will be torn since you already invested blood, sweat and tears into this one, and you will be faced with a conundrum.

So, if you start with the conclusion that this is JUST a learning project, one in which mistakes can be made, corrected, and corrected again, with no anticipation of making it perfect, you will be in a better emotional position to take it to the dump when the time actually does come to make a more realistic investment.

That's my .02 but it is also backed by 45+ years experience in this field. You may take it or leave it. I could be wrong (I was wrong once...☺).

Peter Grey Piano Doctor

Edit: Remember that there is a REASON why the last guy never finished. You'll eventually learn that reason.

Last edited by P W Grey; 08/25/20 11:57 AM.

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I appreciate the concern and the advice. I've got some of the same concerns myself, and I'm keeping my expectations in line. I have a vision that this thing will turn out beautifully and sound great when all is said and done, but I'm aware I've never done this much work on a piano before.

I'm not starting from square one. I've been working on my spinet piano for the last 4 years. I've done some basic regulation adjustments on it, i've been tuning it 2-3 times a year. I've got tuning equipment, micrometers, routers, table saw, inciators, lots of hand tools, etc. Also, I'm an engineer by profession, and have experience designing and building one off prototype components for drivetrains where precision, accurate measurement, and fine adjustment are absolutely necessary. I've also grown up building models, RC airplanes from stick and tissue, doing woodworking with my dad and working on cars. This is going to be a mountain of work, but I feel that I will be capable of completing it eventually... and when I say eventually, I recognize that it could be years before it's done.

I have considered that there were probably reasons why the previous owner didn't finish the job. But in my mind, it's kind of like the saying "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." If I just keep plugging away at it little by little, then eventually i'll end up with something I'm proud of, no matter how it turns out.

I've had a dream to build a factory 5 AC cobra kit car in my garage... I told my wife that rebuilding this piano will probably be much cheaper than that smile


I'm restoring an 1890 Ivers & Pond Upright piano
Follow along on my YouTube channel: My Antique Piano

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You have admirable skills and determination. Just be prepared to spend at least $2,000 to $3,000 on parts alone. Then consider the value of your time and labor (probably 400 hours) and then decide.

My dad used to tell me, “Here’s a rock. Why not smack your head now and get it over with?”


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Go for it.

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


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I like the old uprights that are somewhat playable as you work on them. Breaks the monotony of working on an old hunk that you can't make any music on till you reach a certain level of repair.

Thing is, here lately, I just play the thing as is and not worry about the restoration or reconditioning. smile

Good luck!

Rick


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I hope this video can help you, but the components could be very expensive.
I have just polished the keyboard pins and it took me almost 20h work...


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Tibetan Bhuddist monks work sometimes for days building up a sand mandala only to have it dusted in the wind right after finishing the job.

Regardless of the outcome (good or bad sound, functional/disfunctional playing) of your efforts with this piano, perhaps it represents a mandala to you and it seems you need to finish it anyway.

I would say go for it and enjoy the ride and the view.

My 0,2 cents. smile


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A very interesting project, markag! I've just subscribed to your YouTube channel and look forward to following the progress you (and your piano :-) are making. Best of luck – and, maybe at least as important: have fun!


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First thing I would do is make sure it can be tuned otherwise what's the point unless you plan to put larger pins in. Since you have another piano to play you won't end up in the position I always did that whenever I started another project in my action all my playing would have to stop. I tinkered with an 1880's or 1890's Gildemeester & Kroger for quite a few years and really enjoyed it but over this past year I decided I would rather spend my time learning to play the piano not learning to fix it all the time. It was a hard decision but I don't have space for two pianos and I came to a point that there was so much that needed to be done. It had also reached the point that some of the pins were loose and once it was more than just one or two I figured it was a trend and I really couldn't justify having the amount of restoration done professionally that it would need. There was a period of time though that I had gotten it back into OK enjoyable to play for my skill level condition and that lasted for a few years so I don't regret the experience at all. I've come to the end though and just had my "new" piano moved in this past Sunday and the old one is partially disassembled on the porch with pieces being kept for future projects. Because of all the practice on the old one I'll be in better shape to do lots of care for the new one myself.


I'll figure it out eventually.
Until then you may want to keep a safe distance.
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Markag- Welcome to PW. I would call the I&P similar to a barn find automobile. It can be restored but the parts and labor invested far outweigh what that particular upright would ever be worth. I don’t have that eye on cars, pianos, or houses. I really can’t see the restoration results in my minds. All I see is the labor, time, and mouse carcasses. I haven’t seen dead mice in a pianos but certainly seen evidence in old cars and unclean labs.

Best Wishes on whatever you decide to do. FWIW, you might just read and study the Piano Technician Forum. I would also caution proclaiming that you’re a DIY person who intends to restore a piano yourself. It might not be well received. Read and learn.


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