Archive | July, 2013

Collard & Collard piano restoration – Instalment 1

25 Jul


Here’s the first episode in the account of the attempted restoration of our grand piano.

First I should mention some resources that have been helpful. As I progress I’ll include links etc to resources as well. First a book that contains a wealth of brilliant information, tips and pictures from and experienced restorer:

“The Family Piano Doctor” by D.B.Wicks. Well worth purchasing if, like me, you are a beginner at restoration.
YouTube is of course an outstanding source of video blogs on various aspects of restoration and piano building. Particularly good on re-stringing is the Youtube “Piano restringing series”. I believe there are 7 in the series. On the subject of stringing, Delacour Pianos in Dorset will make bespoke bass strings from a rubbing.

There really is a huge amount on YouTube, though it takes some wading through promotional and frothy stuff.
Many piano tuners, shops and restorers carry generous helpings of free information on their sites. For restorers of antique instruments, there are several sites listing serial numbers and their age. is quite a good one.

So, to action, in more ways than one. The first job will be removal of the action, keys, dampers and the rest of the playing mechanism. I had hoped to show this step-by-step in pictures but got so engrossed that I took it all out before I remembered. It isn’t a difficult task-just follow these steps:
1. Remove the music stand.
2. Remove the fallboard (the wooden cover for the keys).
3. Remove the main grand piano cover. This is quite heavy and you’re best off persuading someone to help. You will need to unscrew the hinges attaching it to the frame and this can only be done with the cover raised. In my case the hinge screws had come loose from the frame anyway.WP_20130708_036
4. The next job is to remove the action. You will need a table/sideboard/other flat surface to put it on, that needs to be at least as long as the keyboard and about 2-3 feet wide, or two surfaces each 18 inches wide. This is because the action needs to be separated from the keys and each part is the full length of the keyboard.
To remove the action:
a. Remove the bar resting in front of, and occupying the length of, the keys. This in my case just lifted out I seem to remember but there may be small screws to deal with.
b. On top of the keys some 9 inches or so from their front edge and along their entire length is a flat bar that prevents the keys from rising out of their bed when being played. Unscrew and remove.
c. Feel underneath the piano where the keyboard rests at each front end, for two thumbscrews that hold the keyboard and action to the wooden frame. Unscrew and store these.
d. Remove the large wooden blocks at each end of the keyboard. In my case they just lifted out.
WP_20130708_055. WP_20130708_057
e. Remove the action and keys. The basic technique is to grasp the whole assembly at each end and tease it out, a few millimetres each end in turn until the whole thing emerges, keys and action together. Be careful not to snag any of the hammers against the top of the frame as you work it out
f. Place the action carefully on the long table/sideboard.

At this point I could see the dust and other crud that has accumulated in the action, especially under the keys.
Next instalment will include removal of the dampers!

Restoring an antique baby grand

8 Jul

Some 10 years ago we bought an old Collard & Collard baby grand for £200. It has been played occasionally but is out of tune.
Our local Island tuner Ron Bird deemed it un-tuneable and quoted £3,000 to fix it. Not having £3k stashed away, the options seemed to include:
1. Burn it
2. Chuck it away
3. Give it away
4. Fix it myself

1 and 2 Seemed cruel. 3 was not actually an option because no-one would want it. That left 4, which is now my spare time project for the next year or so.

It has proved really enjoyable and instructive so far and I propose to blog regularly on the project as it progresses
Instalment 1. Will follow soon!