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Hubbard English bentside spinet

  • 1.  Hubbard English bentside spinet

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 09-29-2020 19:53

    My latest harpsichord repair and reconditioning project has produced some challenges that I have not dealt with in the past. The instrument is a Hubbard English bentside spinet. It is kit harpsichord built in 1984. The builder did a passable job but the instrument suffered a good bit from neglect and bad environmental conditions. The soundboard had 15 cracks for me to shim, it is warped a bit and I had to repair two nasty cracks on the bridge. You can see the bridge repair on one of the attached photos. The owner does not expect the instrument to be in like new condition. Her late husband built the harpsichord and she is planning to donate it to her church to be used in services on occasion.

    I have a few questions for those of you who may have dealt with similar issues in the past or, I would appreciate anyone's opinion on how you would proceed.

    1. The first question is the most complicated problem. In one of the photos you can see that the small cutoff bar is about 1/2 separated from the soundboard. The soundboard is concave in this area as can be seen in the photo with the straightedge sitting on top. The photo with the sticks on top of the soundboard shows the location of the cutoff bar and the large rib. Another photo shows the soundboard plate in the instruction manual.

    I have been wrestling on how to deal with this problem. As I see it now, here are my options:

    a. Do nothing for now. Let the owner know of the separation and should it become an issue; we can attempt a repair.
    b. Cut an access hole on the bottom and attempt to reglue the bar to the soundboard. I believe this could be done by supporting the soundboard on top so that I can jack up the bar to the soundboard. I probably would use epoxy to ensure the glue joint will not fail again due to moisture content swings.

    There might be other possibilities for this repair but these two are the best I have for now. Any similar experiences to share or thoughts?

    2. The soundboard may have had one coat of shellac when it was built but I believe it would be best to give it another coat or two. Is it sacrilegious to use canned shellac as opposed to using flake shellac? Just lazy I guess; I have a can of Zinsser.

    3. In the picture with the keys, you can see three keys that I have sanded and three that have not been sanded. There was some sort of staining that happened in the past and some of the spots are fairly deep into the wood. I believe that the owner will not be concerned with some light spotting but I wonder if there is any easy remedy to completely remove the spots?


    I'm guessing that originally either a stain or possibly a shellac coating was used on the keytops. Can anyone confirm if a coating of some sort, or stain, was generally used on the keytops of the kit instruments? Would you coat or stain these keys?

    As always, thanks for your help!



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    [Don] [McKechnie,] [RPT]
    [Piano Technician]
    [dmckech@ithaca.edu]
    [Home 607.277.7112]
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: Hubbard English bentside spinet

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 09-30-2020 14:32

    Hi, Don

    If you can get access to 190 proof ethanol (legal in some states at the liquor store, not in some others) the shellac from flakes is incredibly easy and high quality.

    Why settle for canned shellac, which has a shorter shelf life, and which may have ingredients you might not want, when you can make your own very easily?

    Of course the prime rule about shellac is to keep free from water. The 190 proof is a help because it is such a dry alcohol, compared to others. So, when making shellac from flakes, I make sure that the bottle of "Clear Spring" is instantly recapped as soon as I've poured some out, and I also try to keep all shellac except the amount I'm actively using tightly capped.

    I use an appropriately sized mason jar, because the ring and lid arrangement keeps the lid from getting glued to the jar by the shellac, as happens with regular jar lids.

    I get the smallish jar nearly full of the flakes, then pour in the 190 proof ethanol to cover. Then I put on the mason jar lid and tighten the ring quite tight. At that point I can put the jar into a slightly warm water bath in a saucepan, shaking the jar now and then. I end up with a fairly concentrated solution when all the flakes have dissolved. When I'm ready to use the shellac, I pour out an appropriate amount of the somewhat concentrated shellac, and then thin it with the 190 proof to the desired consistency. Of course the instant I have poured out a working amount of shellac, I instantly tightly cap the mason jar again. If the shellac is kept away from contact with humidity from the air, I've had it keep for years. Try that with canned shellac and see what you end up with ...

    There's another benefit of the 190 proof with the flakes: shellac is extremely non-toxic, and ethanol is the least toxic alcohol to be breathing or to get on one's hands.

    Of course the 190 proof is far too concentrated to drink without diluting. And it is flammable, though not as bad as something like gasoline.

    I use dewaxed flakes. You can choose the color you want by which flakes you buy; but if you wish to make a colored shellac, adding a small amount of powdered aniline dye is very easy. It instantly dissolves, and it has nothing to ruin the clarity of the shellac. This is the brand I favor, on amazon. It comes in many colors. The one I've used the most is golden walnut.

    https://smile.amazon.com/J-Mosers-Finishes-Alcohol-Soluble/dp/B00865YN6I/ref=sr_1_11?dchild=1&keywords=powdered+aniline+dye&qid=1601490161&sr=8-11






  • 3.  RE: Hubbard English bentside spinet

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 09-30-2020 19:15
    Thanks Susan, I have 190 proof Everclear so I will get some flakes and experiment. Have you used golden walnut on soundboards? I am wondering if that might be too dark and was thinking blonde or orange flakes would be better. I also will want to coat the natural keys at least. The sharps seem to be cleaning up well without taking finish off.

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    [Don] [McKechnie,] [RPT]
    [Piano Technician]
    [dmckech@ithaca.edu]
    [Home 607.277.7112]
    ------------------------------



  • 4.  RE: Hubbard English bentside spinet

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 10-01-2020 01:20

    Hi, Don

    The?? darkness of the color will depend on how much of the powdered dye you add to the shellac. I think you'll find that a little can go a long way. I think you'd have fun going through the different colors of that J. Moser brand on offer, buying two or three which sounded promising, then making test patches on scrap wood to see what you get. I used French Polish, and ended up with a very glossy and rich color. For a soundboard you'd probably want a lot less dye.

    The golden walnut is very rich, and since the celesta I was refinishing had a red oak case, it picked up a lot of red color too. For a couple of the panels which had been horribly beat up, I used more dye and repeated coats till the color was very dark. That celesta, which once had belonged to the Seattle Symphony, was the most beat up instrument I had ever seen.

    I'll be interested in what you end up doing.






  • 5.  RE: Hubbard English bentside spinet

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 10-01-2020 06:33
    Don-
    The soundboard has a nice aged color.
    Why not give a thin coat of blonde shellac, and then tone the shims with a touch-up marker?

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    Ed Sutton
    ed440@me.com
    (980) 254-7413
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  • 6.  RE: Hubbard English bentside spinet

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 10-01-2020 12:12
    Hi Ed, Yes, I am leaning towards blonde. What marker (brand and color) would you use for the shims? I worked on my courage and sanded the natural keys more than my first attempt. They are much lighter but I have removed all of the stain marks. I'm thinking blonde or orange for the keys.

    ------------------------------
    [Don] [McKechnie,] [RPT]
    [Piano Technician]
    [dmckech@ithaca.edu]
    [Home 607.277.7112]
    ------------------------------



  • 7.  RE: Hubbard English bentside spinet

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 10-01-2020 13:21
    Don-
    I don't think my answers would be the best. I would use whatever was in my touch up box.
    If you join the Facebook Harpsichord group you will get some generous answers from fine builders like Owen Daly and Bill Jurgenson.
    Someone was posting about key making a few weeks ago, quite comprehensive.
    You could also get some opinions about wire, as there are several kinds available now.
    I'm not sure about shellac on keytops, especially since lots of folks are cleaning keys with alcohol.
    It looks like a fun job.

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    Ed Sutton
    ed440@me.com
    (980) 254-7413
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  • 8.  RE: Hubbard English bentside spinet

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 10-01-2020 14:08

    Yes, shellac is not water resistant, so I don't think it would be good on keys. Just wax and lightly buff, perhaps, as if they had keytops?






  • 9.  RE: Hubbard English bentside spinet

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 10-02-2020 10:34
    Ed & Susan, I ordered some blonde shellac flakes as I think it might be best for this board. I have some yellow and brown aniline powder so perhaps I can make a mix with the shellac to coat over the shims.

    Ed, which Facebook Harpsichord group are you referring to? I belong to one and have looked at posts on two others. For the most part, these three groups are about performance and makers showing there work. I have not seen posts from someone like myself looking for technical information so I have been hesitant to post questions. I did post a question on a makers post once and did not receive a reply.

    I am giving a shot at reaching out to makers individually rather than any list. We will see how that goes. Might anyone know the status of Ed Kottick? He no longer has a website. I hope he is well and just decided to retire.

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    [Don] [McKechnie,] [RPT]
    [Piano Technician]
    [dmckech@ithaca.edu]
    [Home 607.277.7112]
    ------------------------------



  • 10.  RE: Hubbard English bentside spinet

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 10-12-2020 17:40
      |   view attached
    Update on the keys for this project: I decided on tung oil to protect the keytops and I am pleased with the results. Attached is a photo.

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    [Don] [McKechnie,] [RPT]
    [Piano Technician]
    [dmckech@ithaca.edu]
    [Home 607.277.7112]
    ------------------------------



  • 11.  RE: Hubbard English bentside spinet

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 10-02-2020 20:17
    The group I follow is called HARPSICHORD-CEMBALO-CLAVECIN-KLAVECYMBEL.

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    Ed Sutton
    ed440@me.com
    (980) 254-7413
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  • 12.  RE: Hubbard English bentside spinet

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 02-26-2021 16:02

    After just posting about a clavichord in this community list, I remembered that I never finished the thread I started about this bentside spinet. I did the best I could with this instrument but there is still a problem with the tonal quality where the bridge was badly damaged. This is the same area of the soundboard where the soundboard is concave and also where the separated cutoff bar is located. While I was able to reglue the cutoff bar well, the bridge was too badly damaged to get a good glue joint with the soundboard.

    Attached are six photos of the cutoff bar repair. I routed out an access port on the bottom to gain better access to the cutoff bar. The blocks with large screws are my jacks for register gap expansion. I just added the extra length so I could use them to clamp the cutoff bar to the soundboard. The rest of the photos are self-explanatory.

    There was a separation between the bass cheek and the case that I could not easily close as can be seen in two of the photos. I do not think it will separate much further considering the method used to attach the cheek to the case. As best I could, I filled the gap with West System G/flex epoxy mixed with fairing filler. It should hold.

    Three of the photos show a keyframe adjustment that was necessary. Note in the photo showing the jack alignment to the keys. Just a bit off! You can see in the other photos how I managed to shift the keyframe just a bit to get better alignment.

    This instrument should have ideally had a soundboard replacement but that was not going to happen. I did my best, got it up and running and the folks at the church where it now resides are happy to have it. It works well enough for continuo playing.

    Best,
    Don



    ------------------------------
    [Don] [McKechnie,] [RPT]
    [Piano Technician]
    [dmckech@ithaca.edu]
    [Home 607.277.7112]
    ------------------------------



  • 13.  RE: Hubbard English bentside spinet

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 10-12-2020 21:28

    Looks fine. I'll be interested to see how it holds up under use.






  • 14.  RE: Hubbard English bentside spinet

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 10-12-2020 21:36
    Me too! It looks and feels good so I have hope the finish will last.

    ------------------------------
    [Don] [McKechnie,] [RPT]
    [Piano Technician]
    [dmckech@ithaca.edu]
    [Home 607.277.7112]
    ------------------------------



  • 15.  RE: Hubbard English bentside spinet

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 10-12-2020 21:44
    I’ve used tung oil, and it is pretty tough stuff. More resistant to things than French polish/shellac, in my experience. And looks good.
    Regards,
    Fred Sturm
    University of New Mexico
    fssturm@unm.edu
    http://fredsturm.net
    www.artoftuning.com
    “All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone. ” Blaise Pascal