Toronto Piano Tuning

by Jamie Musselwhite

Toronto Piano Tuning

by James Musselwhite

Frankenpiano!

As frequent readers of my blog know, every so often I take on projects that are a little unusual. Case in point: The following instrument my daughter dubbed "The Frankenpiano".

 

First, Piano 1.

Piano 1 is a Gerhard Heintzman upright grand piano, made in 1910. The exterior had been lovingly refinished by the owners' parents, but the interior had major problems which would require extensive rebuilding to correct.

The Gerhard Heintzman Piano was made by a nephew of THE Heintzman. The brand name was bought by THE Heintzman, and used as a second-line. I have highlighted the THE's, because many people mistake G. Heintzman for Heintzman, but, believe me, there's a difference.

The G. Heintzman is an odd piano. It's insanely overbuilt - wider and heavier than the average piano, but using an open-faced plate (harp) as a kind of throw-back to the older European pianos. Even though the case parts are very thick and very strong, the harp is the opposite, and, like its European cousin Bechstein, is prone to breakage. If a piano plate breaks, the piano is un-fixable... normally.

First, the action and keyboard was removed.

First, the action and keyboard was removed.

Then the piano was put on its back and the keybed was removed.

Then the piano was put on its back and the keybed was removed.

Then the strings and the plate were removed.

Then the strings and the plate were removed.


Now, for piano 2 - This 1911 Heintzman Upright Grand was given to me (for the cost of moving), with the understanding that I would find it a good home. I readily agreed, because it was a fine old piano that I didn’t want to see thrown out. However, it needed to be rebuilt and refinished before a home could be found.

Theodore Heintzman, an expatriate German like Steinway, succeeded in building what was at the time, the ultimate upright piano, but still within the price range of most families. He had shared a workbench with Henry Steinway when they were both apprentices in the “old country”. Henry immigrated to New York, Theodore to Toronto, Canada. For a while, in the early years, it was a toss-up as to who would become the pre-eminent builder.

This piano, although the case looks good at first glance, had giant splits up the sides which damaged the veneer. Therefore, it would be costly to refinish, and the old-fashioned look of the case would make it less re-sellable.

This piano, although the case looks good at first glance, had giant splits up the sides which damaged the veneer. Therefore, it would be costly to refinish, and the old-fashioned look of the case would make it less re-sellable.

The former owner of Piano 2 had tried to start the refinishing process by attempting to strip the old finish by himself. Many Ivory keys were missing or chipped. The Action and Keyboard both needed rebuilding and were quite dirty.

 I removed an discarded the case and rebuilt the back and the belly of the piano.

Before I removed the Bass Strings, I took a paper pattern of them so that they can be rescaled and remade by a professional string maker.

Before I removed the Bass Strings, I took a paper pattern of them so that they can be rescaled and remade by a professional string maker.

 After removing all the strings, I took out the Plate and cleaned both it and the soundboard. The body of the piano was then placed on a tripod, covered with a blanket and then a heater placed underneath. The soundboard was warmed fora few days to dry it out in preparation for the ribs to be re-glued, and the cracks shimmed. Before drying, there were two cracks which basically went from one end of the board to the other. after drying, these cracks opened up and bit more, and few smaller ones, previously not noticeable, appeared.

 After removing all the strings, I took out the Plate and cleaned both it and the soundboard. The body of the piano was then placed on a tripod, covered with a blanket and then a heater placed underneath. The soundboard was warmed fora few days to dry it out in preparation for the ribs to be re-glued, and the cracks shimmed. Before drying, there were two cracks which basically went from one end of the board to the other. after drying, these cracks opened up and bit more, and few smaller ones, previously not noticeable, appeared.

The soundboard was then shimmed, refinished, the plate reinstalled, and restrung.

The soundboard was then shimmed, refinished, the plate reinstalled, and restrung.

I cleaned the keyboard and key frame using a glass bead blasting cabinet

The old key tops were removed, and new plastic tops applied, and shaped by hand. The sharps were cleaned and polished, and the key frame,was re-felted.

The action was fully re-conditioned, with new German hammers and dampers, new springs, and completely cleaned and lubricated.


 

And now for the "Franken" part:

 I removed the soundboard of the Piano 1, and cut off the back completely -leaving only the outer back posts.

The posts were cut down in thickness to act as spacers so that the wider Piano 1 case could be glued onto the narrower rebuilt Piano 2 back.

The Action and keyboard from the rebuilt Heintzman gave me the measurements to properly allign the case parts from the Gerhard Heintzman.

The Action and keyboard from the rebuilt Heintzman gave me the measurements to properly allign the case parts from the Gerhard Heintzman.

Here's the "new" piano, installed in the "old" Case. If you look carefully, you can see the fore-mentioned spacers. You can also see in this picture the re-plated pedals in place, in preparation for installing the new pedal trapwork. You can also see that the back of Piano 2 is taller than the case of piano 1. Even though both pianos were the same height, Piano 1 had an old-fashioned "sticker type action, while Piano 2 had a modern action. I had to raise the back of Piano 2 so that I could use the keybed from Piano 1. The lid was then routered out so that it matched the height of the sides.

Here's the "new" piano, installed in the "old" Case. If you look carefully, you can see the fore-mentioned spacers. You can also see in this picture the re-plated pedals in place, in preparation for installing the new pedal trapwork. You can also see that the back of Piano 2 is taller than the case of piano 1. Even though both pianos were the same height, Piano 1 had an old-fashioned "sticker type action, while Piano 2 had a modern action. I had to raise the back of Piano 2 so that I could use the keybed from Piano 1. The lid was then routered out so that it matched the height of the sides.

Here's the trapwork (the pedal mechanism) installed...

Here's the trapwork (the pedal mechanism) installed...

...and here's the action and keyboard installed.

...and here's the action and keyboard installed.

The piano was then regulated and tuned.

The piano was then regulated and tuned.

Finally, the case parts were all cleaned, and re-installed.

Finally, the case parts were all cleaned, and re-installed.

IMG_5604.JPG

All done. A 1911 Heintzman, inside of the case from a Gerhard Heintzman. Many years from now, when I'm no longer taking care of this piano, some technician is going to open it up and get a big surprise!