Erard Restoration

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keira_vyvyanrobinson
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Erard Restoration

Post by keira_vyvyanrobinson » 22 Mar 2015, 22:43

Hi Everyone,
I recently bought a 1905 Erard grand piano which is in need of some work to make it playable. I can afford to spend a bit on it, but if I can't find any one able to restore it, I will need to sell it. So far, I have had a piano tuner look at it and ask around, but she has been unable to find anyone willing to look at it for restoration. Does anyone have any advice about who to approach for restoration, or if not, the best way to sell it? I don't like to think of it being sent to a skip as it is a beautiful piece of furniture if nothing else, and it deserves a proper home. I am based in Surrey.
Thanks.

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Colin Nicholson
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Re: Erard Restoration

Post by Colin Nicholson » 23 Mar 2015, 11:46

Hello Keira

Welcome to the forum. I can hopefully provide some advice if needed.
We see and hear of many 'cases' like this and be lured into buying a piano at auction for very little money.... simply going by the looks only. Grand pianos are very complex pieces of engineering, and have about 12,000 parts inside them to make them work, not just a wonderful looking cabinet with ornate legs. When you buy such an instrument (especially Erard having history & complex parts), you must get it checked over thoroughly before purchase, and have it assessed properly to see if the piano is restorable, playable and tuneable.

Grand piano restorations fall into three categories, depending on their length.
1. Baby grand. 2. Boudoir/ grand 3. Semi-concert/ concert grand

The length is measured in feet & inches/ top lid closed/ measured from the front to back.

The first stage is to contact a reputable piano restorer (not tuner), and make an appointment for your "assessment".... this will cost you around £100.00. The assessment (depending on the company you choose) should spend about two hours on the piano in your home, and partly remove components to check its condition, and if it is restorable or not. The most important part of the assessment is the "tuning torque" test.... this will test the overall condition and stability of the tuning pins (about 215 of them) impact driven into the wrest plank... this is a 3 stage process. If the piano passes this stage, it may be able to be restrung.

There are about 15 stages of the assessment, from the keyboard/ pedals/ mechanism/ soundboard/ structural parts, and so on.

The final report (issued a few days later) can them be used to prove that the piano is restorable, and may be shown to any other piano restorer, unless you wish to stick to the original company who carried out the assessment.

Then the company may offer various payment options/ refurbishment costs.... however, if the general condition is poor (and most parts of the assessment fail), then a restorer may only offer an "all or nothing" approach/ piano taken away/ fully or partly restored.

If the customer and the piano condition contradict in terms, i.e. price difference/ no budget announced/ uneconomical to restore.... then the restorer may simply walk away.

Entering into a restoration agreement may also be a money pit.... and endless amounts of cash dished out for further problems found during the process....

There are plenty of piano restorers out there, but it may be that the piano will need to go to them, not the restorer coming to you.... however, try the assessment first. (We travel throughout UK for this work)....

Certain Erard grand pianos of this age have an "under damped" mechanism, and many of the parts inside (such as the split hammer shanks) are specialist parts, and so some piano restorers prefer not to work on them due to the costs of the minimum parts requirement being higher than a standard roller action. Erard therefore come into a classification of their own, rather like Lamborgini.

Here is a thread I became involved in last year...... http://www.piano-tuners.org/piano-forum ... =3&t=11346

Basically, it's not really down to the fact that the owner could or could not find a restorer (that's just an excuse!).... the bottom line is PRICE, and what they were willing to pay, and whether they thought the piano was worth spending money on. The restoration fees are lost, no gain there.... but you could have a beautifully restored piano that is playable in your home....

hope that helps
AA Piano Tuners UK

Colin Nicholson Dip. Mus. CMIT CLCM PTLLS
Piano tuning & repairs. Full UK restoration service
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Colin Nicholson
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Re: Erard Restoration

Post by Colin Nicholson » 26 Sep 2015, 09:39

Just to give everyone an update on this post.
We were contacted soon after my reply, and in April we drove down to Surrey to assess the Erard for restoration.

The piano was in original condition, but badly neglected and insect damaged throughout. Unable to be tuned due to rusty strings; ivories were mostly damaged/ cracked/ chipped, and a few DIY hammers were glued onto matchstick type shanks to try and fix them to those unique E1 shanks. Key frame felts were non existent .... and generally, it needed a complete overhaul. The customer excluded the cabinet polishing. The dampers partly worked, but mainly the felts were damaged.

Mid April, the piano was shipped up North, and we started restoration on 29th April.
Due to the costs of the hammer shanks, about 50% of them were replaced, and fitted to 88 new hammer heads.
We made all the repetition springs by hand for the levers, and wound eyes on 192 treble strings. New bass strings/ cast iron frame re-gilded / pedal lyre refurbished / complete keyboard refurb.... and we tidied up the fallboard area. Some of my colleagues made by hand a special shank extracting tool, but it only worked for the treble hammers, and a local friend made some wooden key bushing wedges for the 'chasings' .... every scrap of felt, cloth, baize and leather was replaced with new (inc. all 5 rails)/ buttons for set off & jack buttons, new rollers and all hammer shanks were fitted with new catcher leathers.... a massive task!.... about 500 hours.


Piano was completed at the start of August, but still needs a few pre-tunings.

I am travelling down to Surrey tomorrow to finally check it over, and hopefully give it a more finer tuning.

Anyone interested in seeing some of the work, see the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4--2PK-uy5c

and also a detailed blog on my website.
AA Piano Tuners UK

Colin Nicholson Dip. Mus. CMIT CLCM PTLLS
Piano tuning & repairs. Full UK restoration service
http://www.aatuners.com
Tuition ~ Accompaniment ~ Weddings
http://www.pianotime1964.com
Member of The Guild of Master Craftsmen

Gill the Piano
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Re: Erard Restoration

Post by Gill the Piano » 26 Sep 2015, 17:42

Lovely to see an instrument restored to life again!
I play for my own amazement... :piano;

Model V
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Re: Erard Restoration

Post by Model V » 28 Sep 2015, 14:41

I shudder to think what this must have cost the customer, and it probably wouldn't have been "cost effective" in one sense.

However, what a wonderful thing to see this piano brought back to life in this way. It's so good that there are owners out there with the passion and commitment (and bank balance) to enable such a thing. Not to mention restorers prepared to keep the business alive and so well respected.

MV

PS: Have you been paid? :wink:

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Barrie Heaton
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Re: Erard Restoration

Post by Barrie Heaton » 28 Sep 2015, 20:35

Nice one Colin

Will you do a vid of the piano being played when the piano is settled in
about 18 months.

Did the modern hammers give you much grief or was the weight close

Barrie
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Colin Nicholson
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Re: Erard Restoration

Post by Colin Nicholson » 29 Sep 2015, 08:05

Thanks for everyone's kind comments.
Drove through thick "Yorkshire fog" .... 7 degrees outside, and arrived at 12pm to glorious sunshine & 22 degrees.
Piano was laden with tutorial books which was nice to see, and I believe the customer's husband is now learning the piano!

One or 2 hammer flanges to re-pin....not sure why, but new pins were very tight - could have been the storage versus new shanks settling in. One of the children (aged 6) asked "Mr.... what are the bits of paper for?" .... so we had a quick hammer travelling lesson!

Not sure if I will be called back or not.... long way to travel (225 miles) .... perhaps train next time. They may choose to use their local tuner now.... who previously walked away. Pitch for middle C was about 511, so pulled everything up back to CP and attempted a ET tuning, but not quite ready yet - some chords & octaves sounded slightly out, and if I had time, I would have tuned it again on the spot - but its fine for now.

Barrie.... new hammers caused a few teething problems initially - mainly spacing. The bass cut is not as steep as the original - previously they were bored almost like straight-strung and struck across the strings at an angle, but now, they are all in-line with their strings.... some shaving to do of the 'tails' .... well, these don't have normal hammer tails - same as uprights with a square back.... some fettling sorted them. Weight is fine, but some of the bass rep springs may need a bit more tension when the piano settles down. A few of the split wedge dampers (under the strings) had started to bed themselves in properly, and dropping prematurely - so sorted that out.... thankfully fitting the grub screws upgrade allowed me to do it. I'm not sure how they would have adjusted threaded wires up or down back in 1904?

Pity we lost the ivories.... they were in bad condition, and loads of DIY celluloid repairs! I weighed up the extra costs to have a spare set of ivories fitted, but was declined. Certainly a challenging restoration, but one we enjoyed doing.... a mere 607 hours of labour :)

Another happy customer!


Colin
AA Piano Tuners UK

Colin Nicholson Dip. Mus. CMIT CLCM PTLLS
Piano tuning & repairs. Full UK restoration service
http://www.aatuners.com
Tuition ~ Accompaniment ~ Weddings
http://www.pianotime1964.com
Member of The Guild of Master Craftsmen

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Barrie Heaton
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Re: Erard Restoration

Post by Barrie Heaton » 29 Sep 2015, 20:58

Colin Nicholson wrote: Pity we lost the ivories.... they were in bad condition, and loads of DIY celluloid repairs! I weighed up the extra costs to have a spare set of ivories fitted, but was declined. Certainly a challenging restoration, but one we enjoyed doing.... a mere 607 hours of labour :)

Another happy customer!


Colin
Pity about the ivory's

That is one of the drawbacks of repairing a piano that is going across
the country you have no idea who is going to mass with it

Barrie
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