Sunday, November 08, 2009

Seven Varieties

If all weeks could just be like this past one!
Monday was retail, of course. It was just busy (or not slow) enough that it didn't get too boring. I knew it was giving me the opportunity to prepare for the upcoming week.
Tuesday it started with the first set of keys arriving. These were in for new bushings and needed to be finished up and shipped back out on Thursday. Everything went along quite well. Also on Tuesday, I got a special order for four ivory necklaces, so I did some ivory sorting and laminating at night.
Wednesday rolled around with keybushing in the morning and afternoon and evening! I worked it in around shaping and painting ivory and a late day tuning. The call for Wednesday's tuning went like, "We just got a piano for free. It's a white upright. I don't think it's been tuned since it was originally bought in the 80's."

Oh boy.

It turned out to be a 1986 Samick. The tuning record in the piano listed a free warranty tuning in 1986 and a second tuning in 1989! It was nearly a half step flat. I raised the pitch by 'tuning' the first note to the pitch of the next highest note, working my way up the scale. Then I went back and tuned. I'll be doing a follow-up fine tuning this week. At Wednesday's tuning I got to meet two ENORMOUS dogs. One was 11 months old and very pleased to have company. I was smothered in doggie kisses by the time I was finished. I also tuned with a picture of the second President Bush and wife watching from a picture above the gun case adjacent to the piano. The picture looked like it was taken on the customer's front lawn.

While I was at the tuning a box arrived at my house. Keys for new tops. A new customer. I stripped off the old tops and fronts, trimmed the key wood as needed and glued on new Wednesday night.

Thursday morning I finished up the keybushing job and got them packed and shipped. After lunch I did some more ivory painting while waiting to get ready to head for another tuning job. That tuning was a Kawai upright that I had tuned last year. It has extremely tight tuning pins and is really a bear to tune. It's nearly impossible to get a feel for the pin turning. I took several breaks during the tuning to play with the customer's cat. I'd dangle a long strip of felt over the edge of the bench for it to attack. Then I tied the end of that strip to the wire end of a tuning mute while I was using it. Every time I moved the mute along during tuning the cat went crazy. I went home and painted more ivory. I also had two phone calls for jobs in town and an email. Friday morning was free so I got both calls booked for then. The email was from the key top customer. She needed to find a couple replacement key coverings for a 1970's vintage Story & Clark piano. These are weird wraparound plastic coverings no longer available. I had a few and sold them to her - to be shipped with her key top job.

The first job of Friday morning was to solve 'knocking' keys (customer's description) on an old spinet. I knew a lot of the things it wouldn't be as I had worked on the piano and tuned it two years ago. Mrs. J. had thoughtfully put a smidgeon of tape on all the keys that were knocking. It took me far too long, amid a good deal of conversation, to notice that the fallboard (wood part that closes over the keys) had slipped slightly forward and all the sharps (black keys) were knocking on it when they came back up from being played. Whew! Easy stuff and I could go home before heading for my next in-town job. But wait...Mrs. J. decided that she would like the piano tuned...since I was there. Okay, at least there would be some pay for the trip! Once finished I headed for the second job, an estimate, arriving just in time. When this guy had called he had been hard to pin down as to what he wanted. Yes, he needed a tuning, but there were a couple missing bass strings, and well...he didn't know what else may be needed. Less than a mile from my home so I offered to take a free look. Turns out to be a Helpinstil (I think that's a close spelling) piano. One of approximately 100 still around (or maybe total made, I don't know). Built in the 1970's it's a hybrid of acoustic piano (spinet) and electronic keyboard. It folds up for traveling. I went over the immediate needs - 2 new bass strings (he had the old ones but, due to the location of the break, they couldn't be spliced and reused) and tuning. At some point there would need to be additional work like hammer filing, key bushing, regulation. I priced out the bass strings and tuning and he seemed unlikely to bother. I left a business card and headed home to work on that key top job. A tech called needing some player piano parts and I promised to find time to get them together and shipped.

Saturday morning I buffed the keys and got them packed and shipped. 'A' came downstairs to help me with collecting together the player piano parts and packing them up to be shipped next week. Then I painted more ivory jewelry. Around 2 in the afternoon, we decided to tackle some leaf raking. Then I made English pancakes for all of us for dinner.

Today, Sunday, I had a special piano job. Many years ago( in 1972 to be precise), friends of our family purchased my childhood piano. It's a 1961 Baldwin Acrosonic. They had just had it tuned a few weeks ago and ever since their tuner had left, the fallboard wouldn't work right. They had asked if I could take a look at it sometime when we visited. Today was the day. It was a gorgeous day today with temps in the high 60's. Hard to believe having a jacket free day on November 8th! Anyway, my mom and I made the drive while 'A' was at work. Once I'd gotten the piano opened up and a few screws removed I could see what had happened. I just find it hard to believe that this guy did what he did! There are four screws that hold a complicated array of metal linkage attaching the fallboard to the inside sides of the piano - two screws on each end. The top two screws on each end were fine. With the bottom two he had missed the holes and instead forced the screws in to new spots, creating two new holes in the wood. Why? Why would someone FORCEFULLY make new holes. Didn't he realize that he had missed the old holes? Four holes, four screws. Seems like it should have been simple enough! I lined up the screw holes with the holes in the linkage and screwed it all back together in the correct way. Guess what? It works now. Geeze. No charge, they are friends. They insisted on taking us out to lunch, though.

So, another week begins. So far I've got two keytop jobs that will be arriving and that fine tuning at the large dogs/piles of guns/Republican household. But first it's retail again.


dickiebo said...

Attagirl, Deb! Keeping busy keeps you so young-looking! Just 1 month 2 weeks and 2 days to Christmas! Yippeee!

deb said...

Oh my, I must start my shopping!

Kippers Dickie said...

What a lovely long read today.
I'd have been tempted to tune the Samik half a tone down! If it hadn't been played in all that time I don't suppose they would have noticed, as long as it was in tune.
"I priced out the bass strings"..
and simply out of curiosity, what is the price of a bass string (before you fit it). Or is it a trade secret?
A nice read. Glad you are kept busy as it keeps the money rolling in.
Had to read that last line a couple of times though 'dogs/piles'!

deb said...

The Samick is now being used for a young girl's piano lessons so it really needs to be up to pitch.

Bass strings vary in price with size, manufacturer, etc. The two I would need are only $10 - $15 plus shipping (plus my installation labor).


Kippers Dickie said...

It may be cheaper to buy a replacement piano in some cases, that buy a new set of strings. How many in all 7 1/4 octaves....87 or so notes, some with double strings & some triple.
I have never peered into a piano to count the pins.....let me guess..
208 in total?

deb said...

It's not as bad $$wise as it sounds. Not all the strings are copper wound like the bass strings. Most are 'plain' wire. The number varies per piano but 230 is close. Most are plain wire. A total restringing runs $1500 more or less...depending.