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Hardman 1906 grand upright

  • 1.  Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-02-2018 08:00
    I recently tuned a Hardman grand upright, circa 1906, that resides at a town hall. The case is in good condition. I was told that the action had been rebuilt; hammers had been replaced but don't know what else. Although the piano hadn't been tuned in two years it wasn't too badly off, and the pins were tight. I was told that it keeps its tune well.

    This is a historic piano that had been gifted by an apparently well-known local pianist. It's cared for by "Friends of the Ludlow Auditorium" (FOLA--Ludlow, Vermont) where it resides.

    The piano sounds ... well, not great. Not a clear sound -- "twangy." Many hammers need to be aligned to strings; hammers are worn but not excessively. Let-off is out-of-whack and I had to adjust some notes as hammer was blocking against strings. Blow distance off considerably. My recommendation to client was that piano needs a regulation and hammer reshaping, alignment and mating of hammer to strings, string seating and leveling, etc. I don't have pictures as a rehearsal was waiting for me to finish.

    I didn't have a good look at the piano due to the time constraint but my guess is that the strings need to be replaced. I'm thinking that provided the soundboard and bridges, etc., are OK, then regulation and voicing and string replacement will likely bring this piano up to where it could be, considering its age. Any general thoughts on this? My impression on first looking at this piano was that it used to be a very nice piano, and subsequent research on Hardman pianos confirmed that.

    One other question, and apologize for lack of photos which I can get later. The middle pedal attaches to a rod on the right side of the piano that extends above the action; there's no obvious way for it to connect to the action. Puzzling; I'm told it's "missing a part" and this might be it.

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    Don Dalton
    Smokeshire Piano Service
    Andover VT
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-02-2018 08:37
    Missing part is probably a mute rail.

    ------------------------------
    Larry Messerly, RPT
    Bringing Harmony to Homes
    www.lacrossepianotuning.com
    ljmesserly@gmail.com
    928-899-7292
    ------------------------------



  • 3.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-02-2018 09:19
    Hi, 

    Regarding the rod on the right extending above the action. Look for screw holes on inside side of case, both ends, where a mandolin rail would have been attached...your missing part.

    Deb





  • 4.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-02-2018 11:52
    Replacing treble wire will have negligible impact. Bass string replacement would be where an improvement can be made.  Look for loose sounding board which can be snugged back with a few screws.

    ------------------------------
    Regards,

    Jon Page
    mailto:jonpage@pianocapecod.com
    http://www.pianocapecod.com
    ------------------------------



  • 5.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-02-2018 13:54
    Don

    I would do the regulating, mating, etc., first to see how the pianos sounds. New bass strings will liven up that area, but new treble strings is not going to make the piano sound much different. As Jon said, check for soundboard issues first.

    ------------------------------
    Willem "Wim" Blees, RPT
    Mililani, HI 96789
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-03-2018 05:54
    Thanks for the comments!
    I think the piano sounds "tinny" enough now without a mandolin rail; in any case the customer is unconcerned about it.

    I didn't know that replacing treble strings had little effect on tone, so that's a very helpful bit of enlightenment. In my opinion the bass sounds OK, it's the midrange that's the real problem. I'll look closely at the soundboard. My suspicion is that a good regulation, seating strings, hammer shaping and string mating will go a long way because although the piano has been tuned regularly, regulation has been badly let go.

    ------------------------------
    Don Dalton
    Smokeshire Piano Service
    Andover, VT
    ------------------------------



  • 7.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-03-2018 11:26
    It's been my finding that simply reshaping or replacing the hammers has brought back so much tone for the effort but FIRST inspect the soundboard to see that it's doing it's job well.  A tired soundboard won't respond to new parts very well.  If it's done and worn out, it's loss of resiliency won't be easily overcome no matter what you change.





  • 8.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-03-2018 11:32
    OK, thanks for the advice on the soundboard, as mentioned earlier too. But what would you look or listen for?


    ------------------------------
    Don Dalton
    Smokeshire Piano Service
    Andover, VT
    ------------------------------



  • 9.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-03-2018 11:50
    I stretch a thread across as much of the soundboard as my arms will reach and look for a gap in the middle.  I do this in as many places as I can stretching across the grain.  Some of these old pianos were built with out crown in the soundboard and still sounded great so it's not a final source of information but rather one element in the total picture.  Listen to the piano.  Only experience will help here.  If the sound is still vibrant and alive (loud and clear are two good elements) then it's probably still providing an efficient transfer and amplification of the string vibrations.  Tuning the piano is a great opportunity to listen for failings in the soundboard system.  Certain notes may produce anywhere from a slight to an obvious level of distortion.  Failed glue joints talk at certain frequencies sometimes.  Plucking a string and listening to ring time is another.  I try to pick a note in the upper treble  ........  about two octaves or less down from the top.  Typically this is the least responsive part of the piano and so if this area is sounding good, the rest is probably fine.  Once again, experience is the only source of detail here.
     
    These old instruments are continuing to age and our approach to saving them has to change with them.  What used to be a good thing to do to them 20 years ago, isn't necessarily a good thing to do anymore today.  It's painful to watch after almost 50 years in the business but times are what they are and the market to work on them is what it is.  Communicate the hazards of such "updates" to the owner prior to the work being done.  There isn't any time table for parts failure and the glue in these things has already exceeded anyone's expectations by decades.
     
    Lar
     
     





  • 10.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-03-2018 12:41
    One way to hear if it's the hammer or the soundboard is to listen to how long the string sounds with the string being plucked and the being hit with a hammer. If you play the note and the sound dies after about 5 seconds, and then pluck the string and the sound dies in 5 seconds, then you know it's a soundboard issue. If the sound with the hammer lasts 5 seconds, but it lasts about 15 or 20 seconds when it's plucked, then the soundboard is good and you should work on the hammer.

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    Willem "Wim" Blees, RPT
    Mililani, HI 96789
    ------------------------------



  • 11.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-03-2018 21:41
    Very generous advice.
    Thanks to everyone for pointing me in the right direction.

    ------------------------------
    Don Dalton
    Smokeshire Piano Service
    Andover, VT
    ------------------------------



  • 12.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-20-2018 12:02
    Update to 1906 Hardman upright:
    I visited the piano today to look at the soundboard; my general question was, is the piano worth putting work into? It badly needs regulation and it could use keytop replacement but other than that it seems in good condition. Before I looked at the piano I timed the sustain on our Baldwin baby grand, a very nice piano, and I came up with about 14 seconds sustain on C4. This was until I could no longer hear the sound at all; I used a stopwatch. I timed the sustain on the Hardman using the same criteria and here's what I came up with for sustain: C3: 20 secs; C4: 15 secs; C5: 14 secs; C6: 7 secs.

    Looking at the soundboard, I didn't notice any separation at the rim but I did notice about 2" long separations of soundboard from ribs; I counted 10 of these and there might be more underneath the accumulated dust. There's a photo of a typical separation. I noticed a separation of the frame at one place, shown in another photo.

    The unisons were disappointingly off in the melody section considering I tuned this not long ago. The piano resides in a large auditorium on the second floor, and I'm wondering if a Damp-Chaser system makes sense for it. There are people downstairs in town offices who might monitor it, or that might be arranged by the volunteer group that minds the auditorium.

    Input is welcome. My take is that the piano is a very nice instrument and worth keeping up. As I mentioned before the action was rebuilt some years back (don't know exactly when) and new hammers installed, which have some wear but not bad.






    ------------------------------
    Don Dalton
    Chester VT
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  • 13.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-20-2018 12:52
    Only you can decide if it's worth restoring or not. Hardmans were very good pianos, in my opinion one the best.  Unless you're going to replace the soundboard, i wouldn't put any money on top of an old board, and in turn, depend on 100 year old glue that already shows signs of deterioration.
    Neither the sustain test nor the thread test is a reliable indicator of soundboard condition because they don't inform regarding the internal forces and glue integrity. More important is observation and listening. Your observation has already revealed a problem. Listening really requires the string frame removed, but you have to know what a well made board is suppose to sound like for comparison.
    If you do proceed with a new board send me the rib scale, i'd love to add it to my database.
    -chris

    ------------------------------
    Just Looking through the Go-Bars
    chernobieffpiano.com
    grandpianoman@protonmail.com
    Knoxville, TN
    865-986-7720
    ------------------------------



  • 14.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-20-2018 14:04
    My guess is that the organization won't have enough money for restoring the piano, but let's say that they did, or they were considering it. I'm not qualified to do the work and wouldn't offer it myself, but how many thousands are we talking, ballpark, for restoration?

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    Don Dalton
    Chester VT
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  • 15.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 01-06-2019 15:37
    Chris C. wrote: "...you have to know what a well made board is suppose to sound like for comparison."

    What does a well made soundboard sound like?

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    Terry Farrell
    Farrell Piano Service, Inc.
    Brandon, Florida
    terry@farrellpiano.com
    813-684-3505
    ------------------------------



  • 16.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 01-06-2019 21:38
    You make soundboards and you don't know?? Hmm....

    Chernobieff Piano Restorations

    Chris Chernobieff ( pronounced chur-no-bif )
    Lenoir City, Tennessee 
    email: chrisppff@gmail.com
    Follow on:  Facebook
    phone: 865-986-7720









  • 17.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-20-2018 13:17
    You may need to twist the bass strings.  It helps to get rid of some of the muddyness in the bass. I wonder when the hammers were changed if they bothered to mate them to the strings. That is critical to cleaning up the sound.

    ------------------------------
    Jeffrey Gegner
    Tipton IN
    765-860-5900
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  • 18.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-20-2018 14:09
    One of the things I noticed on my first visit was that some hammers weren't aligned properly to strings, so my suspicion is that there might be problems with mating as well. I did not check this but since they're around the corner (almost) I can look again.

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    Don Dalton
    Chester VT
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  • 19.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-20-2018 15:02
    You are getting many fragmentary responses from people based on their experience and what they imagine from your descriptions.
    Wouldn't it make sense to refer this question to someone in your area who has experience rebuilding old upright pianos, someone who could examine the piano first hand? Someone who might be ready to do the work and offer some kind of warranty or promise of a result?
    If the piano is used for performances, a new piano could probably be purchased for the cost of honestly rebuilding this piano. In my experience, it is very rare for a rebuilt old upright to perform as well as a contemporary larger studio vertical piano, especially if the old upright has stickers or abstracts between the keys and the wippens. Many people who "rebuild" old uprights have no idea of what rebuilding a piano really entails.

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    Ed Sutton
    ed440@me.com
    (980) 254-7413
    ------------------------------



  • 20.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-20-2018 15:55
    Absolutely if the client were considering rebuilding then I'd have someone look at it who could do an accurate assessment and then do the work. I want to give them ballpark options and an assessment at this point. I know it needs regulation and hammer alignment/mating. But what I don't want, and this is the purpose of my inquiries, is for them to think that if they just do that and tune it up, then everything is good-to-go. It's an old piano and so I'm being careful and I don't want to lead them down the wrong path, and I'm consulting with the good people here so I get on the right path myself.

    A ballpark figure for rebuilding would be nice for them to know should they decide to have someone qualified look at it.  My guess is we're talking thousands of dollars. They may decide that it makes no sense to do more work on the piano and buy another instead.

    The piano has some historical value and I don't know how much that will weigh in the decision-making process.




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    Don Dalton
    Chester VT
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  • 21.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-20-2018 16:33
    Note that I'm not charging for any of my work involving the assessment of this piano. I'm doing this as a courtesy to the organization, and naturally to help get my name out there as well.  Since I'm just starting out I've done a great deal of free work, including refurbishing the action and a complete regulation and tuning for the local library. And I've literally spent hours with clients doing "free" regulation work, while charging them just for tuning.

    The only thing I'm selling them is regulation work, but I don't want to mislead them if the best course is a new piano.

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    Don Dalton
    Chester VT
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  • 22.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-20-2018 18:13
    Let's say that they decide to get the piano regulated and then play it until it dies. Would it make any sense to install D-C system at this point?

    ------------------------------
    Don Dalton
    Chester VT
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  • 23.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-20-2018 19:32
    My opinion, they say the piano holds tuning well, not sure a DC system would be worthwhile now.   The piano, except for some neglect, sounds like it is doing well enough. If the ribs on the back are loose, not a hard fix, same with glueing up the edges if they are loose.

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    Jeffrey Gegner
    Tipton IN
    765-860-5900
    ------------------------------



  • 24.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-20-2018 19:41
    While you could perhaps learn a lot from working on this instrument, it will mostly be learning about the problems and limits of working on an old upright piano. New hammers and damper felts, for example, mean very little in terms of real restoration of playing function. Old action parts are almost always in sad condition, and repairs of old upright actions are more difficult that repairs of grand actions. For example, what is the condition of the hammer butts and the let-off regulating screws? You won't get near the quality of regulation you'd get on a 30 year old U-1, for comparison.
      Clever use of CA glue might stabilize the soundboard in its current condition, but that is hardly museum quality restoration.
      If the intention is to really care for this instrument as an historic artifact, it needs an endowment and a museum quality environment. I have seen schools pay for restoration of historic instruments, then leave them in auditorium foyers where they are soon destroyed or degraded. Or do they really just want to spruce up the old piano and keep it as a decoration until it looks so grubby they can throw it away?

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    Ed Sutton
    ed440@me.com
    (980) 254-7413
    ------------------------------



  • 25.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-20-2018 20:40
    I understand that the action had been rebuilt, and the hammer butts and catchers look pretty good to me. New-ish bridle straps--these stand out. The let-off screws that I adjusted so far (since the letoff was zero on some keys and hammers were blocking against strings) seemed to be easy to work. I would say that the action is in good condition, and most of it has been rebuilt in the not-too-distant past (10-20 years ago?)

    The piano does has stickers up from the keys which appear to be original. The keytops need replacement and I wonder if they'd be ivory? Key bushings need some profelt and cauls overnight but other than side-to-side movement, not bad.

    Honestly, I'd say it's a good piano but the tone bothers me a bit; no doubt this has a lot to do with the hammers as I recall that some hammers were missing the third string of a tricord, for example. CA glue on some bridge pins? Might be worth testing that. I think the biggest problem with this piano is that it's been tuned every year or so but not regulated. As far as I can tell they have an interest in caring for the instrument, otherwise they wouldn't be asking me to elaborate on the regulation issues I found and provide pricing.

    My take is that I could improve the tone by some hammer/string work, and I could improve action by regulation. The piano was recently played at a Christmas event; it's playable, but if I hadn't gotten to it first (to "tune," but more than that) then it wouldn't have been.

    As usual, the comments here are most enlightening. Thank you!

    ------------------------------
    Don Dalton
    Chester VT
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  • 26.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-20-2018 22:13
             In most cases, pianos are only worth their musical value . At best, it's a risky endeavor to put any, any money in an old upright piano unless it has sentimental value. They deserve better. I always ask the customer; what else do they have that is 100 years old they expect  to work every time they need it. Of course the answer is, nothing. I also add, if you rebuild a model T Ford, can you depend on it for a family car?
    Just my opinion. 

    Sent from my iPhone





  • 27.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-21-2018 07:52
    Re: Ed's comments, what exactly was 'rebuilt' in the action? Technicians, and especially customers, have varying definitions of 'rebuilt.' Sometimes they even call it 'restored'---when only hammers, dampers, and bridle straps were replaced.

    I don't like to recommend putting hundreds of dollars into a piano with 100 year-old parts still in it.

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    Cindy Strehlow
    Urbana, IL
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  • 28.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-21-2018 08:08
    For example, Don says the let-off was "zero" on some notes and hammers were blocking.
    I would expect that a real rebuilding of an action would include fine regulation.
    Don's description leads me to think some one "popped off and replaced" the hammers, probably with generically pre-bored hammers.
    When you have really rebuilt an action, with painstaking attention to geometry, regulation, voicing and touch response, you begin to develop a serious understanding of what it really takes to rebuild a piano.
    Putting new parts on the surface is not rebuilding. Most of the work of rebuilding is not directly visible. It can only be "seen" through a critical assessment of the action performance.
    Old upright actions do not rebuild easily. In many ways they are more difficult to rebuild than grand actions.

    ------------------------------
    Ed Sutton
    ed440@me.com
    (980) 254-7413
    ------------------------------



  • 29.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-22-2018 08:48
    Sometimes we forget to tighten the screws that hold the let-off rail in position, and it later shifts, which could possibly result in the symptoms you report.

    Best wishes,
    Linds Scott

    Sent from my iPhone




  • 30.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-22-2018 08:57
    Thanks Linda. Since letoff varied so widely, from zero (or less!) to 1/2", and since blow distance was way off as well, I wonder what went on. Was the action rebuilt by someone else and then dropped in without any fine adjustment? Or was regulation just neglected since action was rebuilt? Everything is off: key height, key dip, hammer alignments, etc. Yet the action itself isn't in bad shape, wear-wise.

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    Don Dalton
    Chester VT
    ------------------------------



  • 31.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-21-2018 08:42


    Sent from my iPhone

    On Dec 20, 2018, at 9:12 PM, Tommy Black <tommyblacka440@gmail.com> wrote:

             In most cases, pianos are only worth their musical value . At best, it's a risky endeavor to put any, any money in an old upright piano unless it has sentimental value. They deserve better. I always ask the customer; what else do they have that is 100 years old they expect  to work every time they need it. Of course the answer is, nothing. I also add, if you rebuild a model T Ford, can you depend on it for a family car?
    Just my opinion. 

    Sent from my iPhone





  • 32.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-21-2018 10:19
    I'll pass on the gist of the comments to the client. In a nutshell they should be careful about putting more money into the piano because of its age.

    My guess is that since they had the action rebuilt, they expected the piano to last a while. It's a mystery to me why the regulation on this is so poor and why it hadn't been caught sooner. The best that I can tell, regulation and hammer shaping/string mating will bring this piano up to as good as it can be, considering the years.  That's my honest opinion and I base it on what I've been able to tell from the work I've done so far, and from the way the piano sounds. The client will have to decide if money is best put toward a new piano.












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    Don Dalton
    Chester VT
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  • 33.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-21-2018 21:16
    Since it did ok at a recent event the piano might just need extra TLC and service twice as often as usual for a while.


  • 34.  RE: Hardman 1906 grand upright

    Posted 12-22-2018 14:11
    I'll be modifying my proposal to recommend that before they enlist my services for regulation, etc., they have the piano assessed by an experienced restorer. I have someone in mind for that and have contacted that person, who is highly-qualified.

    Good advice all around!

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    Don Dalton
    Chester VT
    ------------------------------