|Project by Mark A. DeCou||posted 04-16-2007 02:48 AM||4788 views||1 time favorited||23 comments|
This was a challenging and stressful project. Now that it is behind me, I can add this project to my list of odd, unique, and crazy items that I have tried to build over the years.
Why the stress? First off, I wasn’t completely sure that I was up to the challenge. I went to the home and shot some photos and emailed them to my fellow lumberjock friend Duand Kohles and asked if he thought I could do it. He said to “go for it”.
Secondly, I had to cut off the existing leg from the piano, as it was glued in place. Thirdly, the only other man in Kansas that was called to do the job declined it, saying it couldn’t be done. After he heard I was selected to do the job, he called me to sort of “interview” me to get his impression of my abilities. After all, I had never worked on a piano before. I was probably naive, (I was) and so I came across that way on the phone.
After talking with the man on the phone I offered to let him do the color matching and finishing, as he said that it was his expertise. In addition, I suggested that he repair the second Steinway that had been damaged in this move, it just needed some joints reglued, and any repairman could do that. The customer later told me that the other repair man was convinced after talking to me on the phone, that making a new leg still couldn’t be done, and that they would be sorry they hadn’t just had him repair the old leg with glue and repair the finish.
Whew, that’s some pressure, I had to prove him wrong.
Basically what happened is that there were two Steinways in this family and when the company the husband worked for transferred him, the moving company broke one of the legs off of this piano. The other piano the leg was also broken off, but it was at the joint and was just glued back on.
On this piano however, the leg snapped in a really rough fracture line. The moving company was pretty desperate to make this upset customer happy, as nothing else seemed to be working, and they eagerly agreed to let me do the job, if I said I could do it.
Whew, that’s some pressure, I had to help them out.
The walnut Steinway piano was built in the late 1940’s or early 1950’s, and was a cherished family heirloom. The woman that bought the piano new in New York had died, and left it, and the 2nd one, to her daughter a very accomplished player, who was absolutely devasted by the leg being snapped off.
Steinway told her that they didn’t have any of the leg blanks available in either their Kansas City, New York, or German factories, and that the “master” carving blanks had been destroyed (why? who knows). Steinway also said that they did not have any names of people that they could recommend that could carve the leg, and told the customer that it couldn’t be done.
Whew, that’s some pressure, was I really up to this challenge? I was starting to wonder.
During the months that passed from the time the leg was broken and the arguing insued over the repairs and compensation with the moving company, the family was becoming quite desperate and insisted that they did not want the broken leg repaired, but they demanded it be replaced.
The moving company flew an executive in to meet with them, and he assured them that he would make sure that whatever they wanted, it would be done and paid for by the moving company. But, the customer family had to find the craftsperson themselves that could do the work, and the moving company would pay after the family signed an affidavit that they were completely happy with the repair work.
A couple of days after the Exec’s visit, the family decided to have family portraits taken and were relaying the sad saga of their heirloom piano to their portrait taker, Trey Allen, in Wichita. He listened to their sad story, and since he had photographed several of my furniture pieces over the previous months, he suggested that they call and talk to me about the project. Gotta love a photographer like that! And, he takes great photos too.
So, I got the call, took the job, and did the work.
I was more nervous about matching the existing color of the yellowed finish than I was matching the carving and shape of the leg, so the other piano repairman was hired to take my raw walnut leg and side wings and make the finish match. He however, refused to cut off the old leg, or install the new leg (remember, he said it couldn’t be done). After seeing the final product with the “expertly matched” finish, I should have agreed to do the work myself, but I didn’t know then what I know now. Next time something like this occurs, I will do the finish myself.
Here is a photo of the leg installed. The new leg is on the left side as you look at the photo.
The carved wings that are natural in color have been installed, but the wings were not yet stained to match the leg that had already been stained.
What happened, is that after I glued the leg in place, the side wings that I had made in my first attempt, were not quite right. Most people would have glued them on and headed out for home, but not me. I headed back the 1.5 hour drive to my shop, and spent another day making two more wings that fit better, and then I went back to install them. During that day I was gone, the other repairman had been out to do the first coat of stain on the installed leg, and so the natural wood wings looks sort of strange in this photo.
I don’t have any photos of the completed finish by the other repairman. Someday I will stop by the family’s house and take a photo for my files.
For the good photos and reference for the work, credit goes to: www.treyallen.com
Thanks, hope you enjoyed the “saga.”
-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan - www.decoustudio.com