Sunday, 18 March 2018

Leaving Indiegogo

Hi everyone.

Really shocked to be making this post. After our article came out, we received a further £60 in donations through Indiegogo. This is because we chose 'in demand', which keeps the campaign open so long as we receive at least one donation within a six-month period.

We were overjoyed that more people were interested in supporting the project and had donated their hard-earned money to back us.

Then we got an e-mail from Indiegogo explaining the financial breakdown of our donations. Out of £60, we would only receive £29 - less than 50% of the money raised:

We couldn't believe it when we saw it. They also took around £500 from the original £6,000 we raised, but we covered that ourselves because we didn't want our supporters' money going into the black hole of Indiegogo and bank fees.

We've just written to them urgently requesting the closure of the in demand option, and they responded with a highly inapropriate automated message:

Thank you for contacting Indiegogo's Customer Happiness team! 

This is a family blog, so we won't repeat what went through our heads.

We haven't got a good word to say about our Indiegogo experience and would ask anyone else who wishes to donate in the future to do so directly through PayPal, as the fees are minimal in comparison and the money comes direct to us without any third party skimming.  Sorry for this disappointing news. We will make up the difference ourselves as it's absolutely not fair to the people who have supported us.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Actual IGIHE Interview

Our IGIHE interview came out today, so our Kinyarwanda followers can read the whole thing here.

It's a big deal as IGIHE are a massive news outlet in Rwanda. Our neighbour just texted to say 'well done!' having seen the article.

It was an extremely hot day, just before a major downpour. That's why we also title this piece: Mzungu Having a Meltdown. It's the rainy season at the moment, so basically this:

Désiré is the master of cool composure in front of a camera. We thought this was going to be a written interview at first, then they turned up with a camera and lamps. We're extremely grateful they cut out Marion's 'uuuh, umm...' which formed 90% of the interview, and managed to salvage a few decent soundbites. It's agreed that Désiré should do the talking from now on (he speaks Kinyarwanda, English, French, Lingala and possibly Klingon).

We're throwing out an appeal to our Kinya followers for an English transcript. Keep checking this post. If we get it, we'll add a link.

We're very grateful to IGIHE for the support.

No pressure then, guess we'd better get on with building that piano...

Saturday, 10 March 2018

IGIHE Interview

We had a fun day yesterday with Emmanuel from IGIHE, a Kinyarwanda-language news outlet here in Rwanda. They came to interview Désiré and Marion about the piano-building project. It was an extremely hot day, so we sweated our way through it and showed off our piano in progress alongside the Lirika. 

Lirika's original frame is looking a bit battered and bruised now, but we're ploughing forward. Désiré is currently making the fret boards before mounting the frame onto the new piano and putting in the tuning pins, ready for stringing. 

Fret Boards on Original Lirika
These help to keep the strings in place.

We'll post a link once the IGIHE interview goes live, and try to get an English transcript alongside it.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Ryan Arcand

A sad farewell to Ryan Arcand, a homeless Canadian man who had a soul-deep affinity with the piano. 

Monday, 5 March 2018


Alex, the lovely journalist who came to see our project last year, has written a great article about it.

Hoping to make an emotional announcement next week. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Special Delivery

Look what we just picked up at UPS!

Thanks to EKA, we now have enough wire to string our piano, and hopefully put the original Lirika back together. We have to string the prototype first because if there are any problems with the frame, we'll need to use the old one to recast it. Once the strings go on, we can't take them off again as it's very expensive to order a full set of bass strings and steels.

You might notice we have a 19 1/2 in there. This is because the Mapes American sizes we originally went looking for are a half-size larger in MWG (music wire gauge) in the UK.



No problem with customs this time as, unlike the bass strings, the order didn't go over the import threshold. They would have delivered direct to the door yesterday, but we were out, so went to pick up from UPS today, which is based at Hôtel des Mille Collines, better known around the world as Hotel Rwanda.

Désiré is busy exploring soundboards and hammering in tuning pin bushings. Once the tuning pins are in and the frame is secured to the piano, it will go to Marion's place so that she can string it up. We'll then need to build the keys and use the action from the original Lirika to pull the strings up to pitch and find out what she'll sound like.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

We've Got The Strings!

Pianos as Art

We've done it!

Strings on their way!

Turns out, we were asking the wrong people. Instead of approaching piano wire manufacturers, we should have been asking restorers and repairers, who have been much more sympathetic to our plight. After a couple of months going nowhere, we decided to try one last desperate mail out... and received a flood of helpful replies.

Our heartfelt gratitude goes out to everyone who responded, and in particular:

  • Martin Robertson at EKA, who sold us the strings - they're on their way.
  • Martin Heckscher at Heckscher & Company and Sharon Doughty at Fletcher & Newman, who also offered to source the strings for us and gave heaps of advice.  
  • David at Courtney Pianos, who put us on to EKA in the first place.
  • Rebecca Doman at Abbey Piano Services for offering to help get the wire out here if we hit problems.

And, again, we want to thank Key-Sure, who really did try for us, and who explained the string sizes we needed. Their input has been invaluable.

We're so excited to get the project moving again and start talking about something other than strings.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Play it Again, Sam

Hello everyone.

This isn't the post we were hoping to make.

Key-Sure have tried their hardest, but they've encountered problems sourcing the strings we need. They have been incredibly helpful in figuring out which sizes are required, but they just can't offer a timeframe for when they might be able to get them. Could take a while.

We were in contact with a Chinese company called Helin Taida, who specialise in piano wire, but the problem we keep hitting is that we need a fairly small amount - just enough to string two pianos. That's likely to be between 6-10 kg total, whereas they won't ship less than 50 kg. We don't want to order more until we know this is definitely going to work.

So, it's back to the drawing board.
Once again, we're e-mailing around anywhere that might be able to supply spring steel wires.

We need around 1/2 kg of each of these sizes (to the American standard, diameters in inches), though we are willing to discuss more if there needs to be a minimum order:

13-1/2 - .032
14 - .033
14-1/2 -.034
15 - .035
15-1/2 - .036
16 - .037
16-1/2 - .038
17 - .039
17-1/2 - .040
18 - .041 
18-1/2 - .042
19 - .043

So, the thinnest wire is 13 1/2 (C8) down to 19 (E3), and everything in between.

Those are the measurements Mapes were able to give us.

Please help us get the word out. If you live near to a piano shop, go in, explain the situation, beg - cry if you have to. Let's see if we can find someone with supply contacts who might be willing to help out.
We desperately want to move beyond this.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Key-Sure to the Rescue

Happy New Year!

Woop woop.

Looks like 2018 is going to be quite a year for us. After several months flailing about, trying to find anyone who could help us figure out the size of piano wire we need, and supply it, we have a MASSIVE -

- for Key-Sure Pianos in Durban, South Africa. They have really been incredible. A father and son team, Kishore and Keeran Chotkan, who got in contact with us after hearing about our plight. Kishore told us the size of strings we'd need without a moment's hesitation, then went off and worked out who could supply a full set. 

This is what we always hoped someone could do, but what none of the major suppliers we contacted could accomplish.

We're now at the stage where we're working out how best to get the strings here - what's the cheapest method - and we're hoping this might be the start of a long and fruitful friendship. Key-Sure have over thirty years of experience refurbishing, repairing and maintaining pianos. We've got a lot to learn from them.

[UPDATE: check out our piano string update.]