Square Grand Piano Restoration is a very uncommon and highly skilled art form. Or technicians have perfected the ways of turning something that most would view as trash into a stunning, playable piano. In order to help you understand m0re of what we do, we're going to break it down stage by stage!
Pictured above is a set of ivory before and after restoration. The final result was a flawless white ivory keyboard.
A Pianos finish is what usually stands out first when someone looks at piano, and most commonly, the finish is laquer or polyester. However, period instruments like Square Grand Pianos, would have been finished with what is called French Polish. French Polish is a high end alternative to a laquer finish. It is a rare method of finish that greatly enhances the appearance of a piano with a warm, glass-like glow. French polish is truly a dying art form that most refinishers aren't capable 0f offering. French polish, unlike most finishes, is applied completely by hand. It is a combination of shellac and denatured alcohol that is rubbed on by hand, in circular motions. This is a very time consuming and labor intensive process, but it is by far one of the most beautiful and period correct finishes that can be applied to an antique piano. When properly applied, the piano will look as close as possible to how it would've looked when it was first made! French Polish is also the ONLY finish available that adds to the value of your Piano!
(Pictured above is a before and after French Polish is applied to a Square Grand Piano)
One of the most important parts of a pianos finish is the condition of the surface that it is applied to. If veneer or carvings are missing, even a high end finish, like french polish, won't look good! Where most refinishers fail, is their inability to properly repair missing or damaged carvings. We take pride in our ability to save as much of the original woodworking as possible, and when it's not, provide our customers with EXACT matching carvings. All hand carving is done here, in our shop, by our team of specialists. From the smallest carving, to an entire set of hand carved Piano legs, we've got it covered!
When someone sits down to play a piano, one of the first things they see are the keys! Most of the time, Ivory keyboards on antique pianos are restorable! Chips, cracks, discoloration and missing Ivory can almost always be brought back to its original beauty. In the rare cases where the Ivory is too deteriorated or damaged to restore, Faux Ivory is a very nice replacement option. Faux Ivory, unlike plastic, has similar color and texture 0f real Iv0ry. It tends to look better on older pianos, such as Square Grand Pianos, because it doesn't have such a bright white color. Faux Ivory is also a good option if the original Ivory has been replaced with plastic keytops.
The way a Piano action feels and responds to the person playing it, is one of the most important parts of a Piano. The piano is only as good as the action all0ws it to be. Square Grand Piano actions are so uncommon that replacement parts cannot be purchased. While we make every attempt to salvage all working mechanisms, most Square Grand Actions will need some level of new parts to be playable again. No two Square Grand Actions are the same, and all non-working parts are replaced with identical parts that are built by hand in our shop.
There are also different levels of restoration that can be done to Square Grand Actions. When new hammers, shanks and flanges are required, in such cases where the hammers heads are deteriorated beyond restoration, this drastically changes the amount of time and labor required to properly restore the action. All Square Grand Pianos are different and all new parts are manufactured here, by hand, and this part of the process can be quite complex and labor intensive. However, we view every Square Grand Piano as a challenge and an opportunity to give you a unique, hand crafted piece of history!
For years and years, Piano technicians and tuners alike , especially those who are less honest, have sold their customers on the fact that if a soundboard is cracked, the piano is no good. This is simply not true. Cracked soundboards are remarkably common and not a problem to fix. Soundboards are made from Sitka Spruce wood and are designed to allow the wood to expand and contract as the weather and humidity changes. Hence why most older pianos have cracks in their soundboard. Unless there is buzzing happening, these cracks are more or less a cosmetic issue that has no effect on the sound of the Piano. Almost any cracked soundboard can be beautifully restored, with all original decals put back on. In the rare case that a soundboard is is absolutely destroyed, or when a customer requests a new board, we are able to manufacture a new one right in our shop!
Typially when a new soundboard is manufactured we also cap, or replace the original bridges. Most older Pianos will have some form of cracking present at the bridge pins. This can be caused by numerous things such as the wrong grain direction or multiple stresses converging at a single point. Cracked bridges are very common not a problem t0 repair or replace.
Plates and Artwork
Piano plates, also known as harps, can add a great deal of beauty to a properly restored Square
Grand Piano. Many Square Grand Piano plates have wonderful ornate, and often art filled, plates. These plates can be cleaned, when possible, but are most often completely refinished with as much of the original artwork as possible preserved. Any artwork than cannot be preserved, will be carefully reapplied by an exceptionally talented artist here at our shop. Pictured below is a before
and after of a fully restored plate. All patterns are copied and then reapplied with 24ct gold and black lines.
Pictured to the left is a newly manufactured soundboard for a grand piano. The old soundboard was removed, replicated, and replaced.
Pictured to the left are a custom set of Square Grand Piano hammers made here in our shop. We use the every other method when replacing old hammers to ensure accuracy and strike point. Then the rest of the old hammers and shanks are removed.
Square Grand Pianos can be wonderful historical instruments when properly restored. Today's Square Grand Piano was based on a similar design as the Harpsichord. They were very popular in 18th century Europe and later gained popularity in America as well. Most of the Square Grand Pianos you will see today are well over 100 years old and very few people have the knowledge or ability to repair, restore or even tune one. In fact, most piano tuners and technicians will run if you mention you have a Square Grand!
Square Grand Piano Restoration
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