Respect for the original

In the 1960’s, -the beginning of the fortepiano revival-, repairers applied their every day practice on the historical instrument thinking that every new development in the course of piano building history was an improvement, and besides, that things are at their best when they are new. Hammers, dampers, strings, tuning pins, leather, felt; in those days the original materials were quite often replaced by modern ones.
This of course caused bad results, and with it, a bad reputation for the historical instrument.
There are always a lot of problems to solve in a restoration, but: the great builders knew exactly what they were up to and used the best quality of materials.
Staying with them and the choices they made is the starting point of every restoration executed in our workshop.

Straightening
a warped piano

Of the majority of the pre-1835 instruments the case is warped. These instruments have no iron frame or bars to withstand the increasing string tension, which in nearly every instance resulted in a twisted case. 
This has a serious effect on the resonance of the treble – the shortening of the treble strings causes a duller, flatter sound: the treble of the piano doesn’t ‘sing’ anymore.

Johan Wennink developed a method for straightening the case. First of all the sounboard is taken out. The piano is packed in a tent and clamped upside down. 
With high temperature and steam and a gradual increase of the pressure the instrument straightens out. In the clamps it is left to dry and cool for a durable result. 
The warping of the case also effects some inner gluing joints. The joints are being soaked, the instrument taken apart and rebuilt using original materials and glue.  

Straightening by using steam in tent
Soundboard in tatters
Restoration Graf Johan checking

Soundboard and pinblock

The heart of the instrument, the soundboard, is taken apart in all its separate parts and rebuilt.
If necessary, the same is done for pinblocks. Everything is built back using the original parts.
If some parts are beyond salvage, the original is carefully copied. 

Broadwood1792 dampers

The strings &
the action

Strings are always renewed. The instrument hardly ever has original ones and since our instruments are used in concerts and recordings reliability is an issue, strings breaking during concerts is unacceptable. 
Where the action is concerned the orginal parts are all kept when not eaten by mice or moths.    

Pleyel-sn9648-1842-Paris-bewerkt

Work in progress

At present we are working on a Joseph Kirckman, London 1806. The instrument is seriously warped, so one of the first actions is to straighten it. The soundboard has been taken out to get to the structure of the instrument. 

View photos in the slider to follow the steps of the restoration process.