Tuesday, 30 May 2017

70kg of Joy

It's a girl! 

70kg (11 st) of string frame.

[NB: later revised to 67kg]

This is Lirika's frame being turned into a mould at Alex's workshop as I type.

This weekend, it looks like we might be casting our very own frame.

Back of Frame

A frame is still a long way off a full piano, but it's one of the two biggest parts we needed to figure out. We can't start working on anything else until we're sure we can make the frame.

Interestingly, it seems that the frame might not have been the heaviest part! The back board of the piano weighed an absolute ton. At least the same, if not more, by the feel of it.

This is the back board, with the soundboard and thick wood for the tuning pins.

It feels really emotional to see Lirika like this. Just over a week ago, she was a fully functioning piano. Hopefully she will be again.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

All Strung Out

Well, we have 15 days left on our fundraiser. Please help us out - we really, really want to build pianos. We've also added a short introduction page to our team, so you can see us all with our cheesy grins.

The past couple of weeks has given us a lot to think about. The frame has safely been delivered to Alex and we'll be looking to try to cast our own frame in the next couple of weeks.

There are a few things that are proving complex. Strings are a big one. We're still looking for a string company to work with. We're in contact with a couple of places, but mostly waiting on quotes and replies. Some suppliers charge a standard international delivery fee which is more than actual postage costs. We're trying to see if we can find somewhere that will charge us the actual postage cost, plus a nominal amount for packaging. Try to keep prices within the realms of possibility.

One day it might be interesting to cost up a stringing machine, someone to teach us how to use it, and wire supply, to see if we could install one at Alex's workshop and save long-term on the postage and import costs, but for now we just need two complete sets of strings - one for our prototype and one to put Lirika back together.

One of the mistakes already made is that we should have taken rubbings of the strings before removing them. There's a great website that explains how to take measurements. Of course, all of this would be a lot easier if we just knew the string spec for a 1968 Lirika. All of her strings are labelled and there to be measured, but we're also trying to track down the once-upon-a-time Belarus Piano Co., apparently now owned by Muzinstrument-Borisov, to see whether they have the records. Unfortunately, the e-mail on their contact page bounces.

Failing that, we will measure what needs measuring and take rubbings on the floor.

Many other things have been on our mind, but we'll talk more about those soon.

All That is Left of Lirika

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

In The Frame

Latest update from Désiré's workshop today - Lirika's frame is out! Next stop, Alex's forge to see if we can replicate it.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Lirika's Journey

This morning Désiré came to take Lirika to his workshop. He'll be taking the frame out to give to Alex to see whether we can forge our own. Whilst Alex is doing that, Désiré will be working on the action to see whether we can build one. 

We're now 50% funded on our Indiegogo campaign, but we still need your support. Please help to spread the word. You can find more video diary entries on our YouTube channel.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Kigali Music School II

Had a really great day at Kigali Music School today. We mentioned before that they have a 1924 Heintzman that's in need of a little love, so Marion dropped by to teach manager, Bonani, how to tune the piano.

The instrument is in pretty good condition considering her age. Started by wiping the dust out from the inside. This is the water after one pass of the sponge!

But looking sparkly afterwards. Under all of that dust, each of the keys were numbered.

She's a bit of a difficult piano to tune because she has very high key buts - the part that connects the key to the hammer. You can see the stems along the bottom. Because of this, the action is very high, so when you get to the treble section it's extremely difficult to get the tuning dampers in so that you can listen to the strings accurately. Still, we pressed on and she now sounds wonderful.

Finished up with a DIY patch on a bridle strap. A few of the keys have crumbling straps just because of the age of the instrument. C8 went completely, so Marion crafted a makeshift hook using cardboard, sellotape and superglue. It'll hold until we can replace it properly.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Past The Point of No Return

Well, that's it. No backing out now. Yesterday Marion took the strings off Lirika, our template piano. She's going to need a new set to play again.

Speaking of which, we're searching for a string company to work with as we'll need to import a couple of sets, and more if we go into production. If anyone has a recommendation, drop us a line.

Naked Lirika
All Strung Out

We're jobbing for donations at Kigali Music School tomorrow. 

There's still time to donate to our Indiegogo campaign, and we really need all the support we can get. Among the prizes are a very limited number of original Lirika tuning pins which we'll be turning into pendants with the help of a local jeweller. 

Saturday, 13 May 2017

It Begins - Welcome to Our Video Diary

We're getting everything prepared to start the project. In our first Vlog, Marion starts to take apart our template piano, Lirika. You can follow along with future updates here and on YouTube.

Last Wednesday our friend Fidele dropped by to give Lirika a last play. He taught himself to play keyboard at home and had never played an acoustic piano before. It is such a different experience, and always raises a smile. Often the only places people have seen real pianos are in church, and many people don't realise that they don't require electricity to work. 

We're starting a little early on this project as two people have already made enquiries about ordering. We still really need help paying for the prototype, but we feel that we stand a good chance of building a sustainable business once we have something to show. 

Monday, 8 May 2017

Kigali Music School

Just been to take a look at the piano at Kigali Music School. It's an upright Heintzman from Toronto, Canada. Built in 1924 it's looking pretty good for almost 100 years old!

Thanks to Launzo Music for telling us the age.

Going back to tune her soon, and working on a few small details such as the key covers, missing dampers and dust.

Proceeds from the tuning are going to our Kigali Keys project to build pianos in Rwanda. Please help us spread the link to our Indiegogo campaign.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Forging Ahead

We've just reached the £2,000 mark on our Indiegogo campaign. There's only one month left to go, so please, please help us spread the word and raise donations.

Today we were really lucky to have a visit from Chris Nicholson. Chris is a classical guitarist and music therapist living in Rwanda. He's the regional representative for Musicians Without Borders, which works in conflict-affected areas to build peace and reconciliation through music. He's just returned from working in Azerbaijan and Kosovo. 

Chris Nicholson

He came to check out the Kigali Keys project and we went on a tour of the foundry. This will be the birthplace of our first string frame, where Alex will purify recycled iron to pour into the mould we make from Lirika.

We had a chat to Alex about the amount of iron that would be needed. This is one of the most difficult points - whether the forge will be large enough to melt the amount of metal needed for a piano frame. Doing some nifty calculations between kilograms and stone, we reckon it'll be okay. Everything rests on being able to forge a solid string frame. Without it, there is no piano.

Alex Explaining the Process
The metal goes into the hole in the top, then it's heated until it melts. Chemicals are added to purify the iron and make it strong. Then the whole thing tips forward and pours the molten metal into a mould on the floor.

On Monday, I'm heading over to Kigali Music School with Chris to meet the director and take a look at their piano. We're exploring the possibility of teaching students how to tune.