Sunday, 27 August 2017

A Most Unusual Morning

We've had a lovely morning fixing this unusual Dutch Rippen piano. A family brought it with them to Rwanda. It belonged to the owner's grandfather. 

The keys weren't working and it took some getting into. Turned out the instrument had been packed away with a long plastic pole - possibly a damp-prevention method - slotted between the hammers, with the hammer rail pushed forward. We removed the pole, pushed back the hammer rail, and the piano burst into life. Sounds lovely with the acoustics of the tiled room.  

Similar Model from Google Image
The bottom board was quite a struggle to replace as there's a gap through which to see the strings and, presumably, through which sound escapes.

Overall, the piano is in very good condition. A couple of the bridle straps have gone, but that's fixable. It was also pretty much in tune because it hadn't been played. 

A really intriguing design. Quite possibly done to make it look more like a grand piano on its side.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Thank You!

We've just been down to the Post Office in Kigali to send out the rewards to our Indiegogo backers. Thanks so much for all of your support. Songs to follow - once we've built the piano!

Monday, 21 August 2017

Bridle Strapped

It's been a super exciting few days, and this week is shaping up to be a lot of fun.

We started out tuning at a church in Kicukiro, near Nyanza Genocide Memorial, on Friday. It's a Korean-run church called Glory Bible Mission in Africa, with a US-made Kimball piano.

We'll go back in a couple of weeks as it hasn't been serviced in a very long time and needs a second pass. 

Rain stopped play at one point. We had to take an hour's break as the weather broke. We haven't had rain in about three months and a massive thunderstorm rolled in. The sound of the downpour against the tin roof made it impossible to hear the strings, but we were all grateful for the cool breeze.

The pastor's wife teaches piano and we headed over to one of her student's houses afterwards to look at a 1969 Japanese Kawai. The idea was to check it over and schedule a tuning, but on closer inspection, a couple of the bridle straps had gone and one of the hammers was entirely broken - so we kidnapped the action.


It's not easy untangling a Kawai action. Instead of solid wooden pedal poles, it's linked together with thick rubber tubing. Took a little bit of figuring out.

You can see the removed action at the top of this post. Désiré came to cart it off to the workshop this morning. He's working on repairing the hammer whilst Marion is dashing about town trying to find cotton braiding. We've ordered some standard bridle straps online but, as ever, we're keen to see what we can source locally. Bridle straps aren't exactly complicated - just braided cotton with a leather tab - but braided cotton is not something you can find in Kigali. We'll keep searching, but Plan B is in the post, thanks to eBay.

5mm Bridle Strap

We're excited because this is our first proper repair job, and it'll be a challenge for Désiré to see how he gets on with fixing the hammer.

We're off to Chillington tomorrow to take a look at our string frame, which has taken a little longer than anticipated, but should be ready for collection on Friday. 

We then need to pop the original frame back into Lirika so that we can take the string measurements with Hellerbass's swanky tape measure. Then we can order our strings and a set of tuning pins. At this point, it's worth mentioning how incredibly patient Hellerbass have been with us, fielding all sorts of newbie questions. If you ever need to buy piano strings - one or many - look them up.

We're also shopping for tuning pin bushings, which we're likely to purchase from Howard Piano Industries as Steve Howard is someone else who has been extremely patient with our questions. We need two full sets, as Lirika's were pulled out when she was used to create the casting mould. It might be something we can make ourselves one day, but they're so small, fiddly and cheap, it's best just to order them for now.

But all these purchases really feel like progress and we're excited to start building our prototype very soon.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Flip the Flop

We're insanely excited.

These are the world's first piano hammers made from recycled flipflops, thanks to our friends at Ocean Sole, Kenya. 

We have no idea whether they will work, whether they will be durable enough or produce the right sound, and it will be a couple of months before we can test them properly, but it's a fun experiment. We're looking for ways to reduce the materials we need to import from outside the East Africa region.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Pinning it Down

Chillington have been hard at work forging a string frame for us. This is their second attempt. Still some problems with the pins, but this should get fixed in the finish. We hope to be able to collect it next week.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Strung Out

We received this in the post the other day. It's HellerBass's special tape measure for determining the length of new bass strings. It's got a little loop on it to attach to the pins.

The process seems rather complicated, and the forms are in German, so we're relying on friends to help us work out what goes where. Unfortunately, Google Translate reckons stimmwirbelbestellung means 'voting invertebrate order.'

Still, we have time.

We've been quiet whilst Chillington continues to work on the string frame. They made one casting but need to modify the tuning pin holes and recast. They're used to making hulking great agricultural machines, so the fine detail on a frame takes some adjustment.

Both the new and old frames need to be encased before we can take the measurements, because it's based on length between pins and bridge pins. The pins are on the frame, but the bridges (with their pins) are in the case. This means putting the original frame back in Lirika, then building a case for the new one to exactly the same specification.

Once we've got the measurements, we'll put in our order for strings and tuning pins, then sit back and wait another few weeks for everything to arrive. 

Building the first piano will take time as everything is new, but once we've got the process down we should just be able to order more frames and strings very quickly.

Meanwhile, take a look at what someone else has made. It's extremely cool - a fluid piano.