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Hi all,

It's been a few months since I checked in. Earlier this year I was looking for a piano to play with jazz trios in my home when I came across a worn 1954 Kawai K 750 on craigslist. Throwing caution and all due reason to the wind, I picked it up and had piano movers deliver it to Bidinger Piano Restoration.

This was the state of it in late March.

The good
- It's a 7' 4" Kawai made in the lifetime of its founder, Koichi Kawai. (Sorry, I come from the strings world and we really get sentimental about old instruments)
- The case was in decent shape
- It still had original keys and only one was chipped.
- The soundboard was in good shape.
[Linked Image]


The bad

- While the outside had been routinely dusted, the interior was covered in a few decades worth of dust
- The una chorda pedal did not work
- The action was sticky and uneven
- The desk was somehow too narrow and would fall off the lips that hold it in place and scratched the harp.
- The action seemed to have acquired mold or discoloration at some point, but was not too warped.

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]


The ugly

- It was generally out of tune, and 3 or 4 notes were severely out of tune, indicating possible pin block issues. If I was really lucky, this could be solved without replacing the pinblock.


I was not lucky...
[Linked Image]


So, now that Frank had given it a once over, we knew the extent of the project.

The bigger stuff: new pin block, new strings, action work (rebush the keys, new damper felts, file the hammers, front and center rails, comprehensive damper and pedal regulation)

The little stuff: clean it up, lighten the keys, fix the piano desk, odds and ends


I knew this would take a while, which suited me just fine because we had to move into the new home and get the room ready.

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Frank and I went out on our parallel paths; me getting the room ready, and Frank doing the important work of bringing the piano back to life.

The room is 20 x 13 with vaulted ceilings and is open to a staircase on one side. Huge thank you to my partner for suggesting this room become the music room instead of the back room. In case she ever reads this...seriously, thank you!

Living in an endless sea of off-white was not going to work for me. Fortunately we discovered peel-and-stick wallpaper. How hard could it be? Answer - walls are easy and corners are hard.

Along the way, we tried a few different layouts.
[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

Meanwhile, the piano work was underway and Captain Kawai was fighting every step of the way. The pin-block didn’t want to go and was huge. The pedal mechanism had a bent pin. Strings were being custom made and the royal Canadian mail returned the templates to the US instead of sending them to the string maker. I’m sure I don’t even know half of what Frank went through to bring it back to life.

Finally, late last week I got the call to come and see the piano.
[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

Oooh....pretty.

One string broke in the process of coming up to pitch and a new one was in the mail from Canada, so it would be a few more days before the Cap’n could come home.

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Part III - In which the captain arrives at his new home.

New Piano Day!! Hooray!!

In the door
[Linked Image]

I’m always amazed by this part of the job
[Linked Image]

The captain is home.
[Linked Image]

New damper felts
[Linked Image]

No more missing strings
[Linked Image]

Ready to play
[Linked Image]

Yes, yes, but how does the piano sound and play? To quote Gershwin, ‘S wonderful.

I’d describe as rich and even. It’s on the brighter side, but maybe not so much as a new Yamaha. I think the carpet underneath the piano may help. The low end is huge and this piano could easily overpower my double bass.

I did not splurge for new hammers or action during this phase of the restoration and maybe that will be a project an few years down the line. For this round, we focused on regulation and getting a reliable and even touch. The action is a little heavier than I’m used to, but I’ve been playing on a digital keyboard for the better part of the last decade, so that is to be expected.

All in all, there is consistency and quality of sound and playability that far exceeds my skill level. I feel very fortunate to have this piano in our home and to have such a supportive partner and family. And let's not forget to give credit where credit is due. Hats off to Frank Bidinger for the great work. I’m ecstatic.

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Your face says it all! Congratulations! Enjoy your piano.


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Cool story! I remember your post last Winter.

If you haven't visited the "have you named your piano" thread, you should. thumb

Congrats!


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Congratulations! That’s a fantastic story! Both the piano and piano room look great! 🎊🎉🎈

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Holy cow!!! Great story and fantastic looking piano!!!!

It's been a long time since I've played any piano other than my own (5'8"), seeing your photos really makes me want to go and find one to play somewhere...

Re the sound, "rich and even" -- I bet it sounds great! Esp. because
Quote
The low end is huge

That's the best part of a bigger piano!

I'm playing this piece right now that has a section where the LH thunders down the bass in octaves while the right hand pounds out some nice chords on top.... I bet your piano would sound amazing for that part!!!


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What a great story! The piano looks beautiful! I really like the design of the plate . . . really adds character. Enjoy!


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What a beautiful piano and a great story! Congratulations!

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👍👍

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Peter W. Grey, RPT
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Gorgeous. Thank you for sharing this


Enjoying the journey and the delicious music.
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Thanks for sharing and congratulations.
As a help in keeping tabs on current market pricing for the work involved, and for the benefit of those who are thinking of taking on a “project” piano, would you mind sharing roughly what you spent and how long it took to have a professional complete the work?


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That is a nice looking piano, congrats.


When you play, never mind who listens to you. R.Schumann.

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Congratulations! A great piano story indeed!

Enjoy! smile

Rick


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Thanks for telling the story, and for the wonderful photos! Beautiful piano.


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Oh my what a gorgeous piano!


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Congrats! I am always happy to see another piano restored.


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Originally Posted by Dave in Denver
Congrats! I am always happy to see another piano restored.

thumb


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“If it sounds good, it IS good.” ― Duke Ellington!



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Hi all,

Thanks all for the warm feedback. We are having a blast and playing every day.

Originally Posted by Music Me
Your face says it all! Congratulations! Enjoy your piano.
That's my better half, not me, but thanks!

@terminaldegree I'm about $11K in at this point including the piano and the project took 3 months, although shipping delays from Canada and summer breaks contributed to that. It probably could have been a 2 month project otherwise.

Here are my thoughts for people that are considering buying a project piano based on my experience:
1) At the end of it all, you are likely to have a great-sounding piano like new for far less than a new piano of similar size would cost. The larger the piano, the greater the savings.
2) There is probably a recently restored piano or a piano that needs less work available on pianomart for similar or slightly more than your all-in cost if you want something faster, or from a local dealer if you want something lower risk.
3) If you are the sentimental type as apparently, I am, there's a special feeling from restoring an older instrument that is not unlike rescuing a puppy.

In short, it seems an economical and satisfying way to buy a large piano. At least, it was for me. smile

Last edited by phobucket; 07/14/21 11:07 AM.
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Wow, I would say you haven't spent very much! Good for you!!


Started piano June 1999.
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Originally Posted by phobucket
I'm about $11K in at this point including the piano ...

Wow is right. My guess would have been closer to twice that amount, even without any work having been done to the action and hammers.

Larry.

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Originally Posted by phobucket
Part III - In which the captain arrives at his new home.

New Piano Day!! Hooray!!

In the door
[Linked Image]

I’m always amazed by this part of the job
[Linked Image]

The captain is home.
[Linked Image]

New damper felts
[Linked Image]

No more missing strings
[Linked Image]

Ready to play
[Linked Image]

Yes, yes, but how does the piano sound and play? To quote Gershwin, ‘S wonderful.

I’d describe as rich and even. It’s on the brighter side, but maybe not so much as a new Yamaha. I think the carpet underneath the piano may help. The low end is huge and this piano could easily overpower my double bass.

I did not splurge for new hammers or action during this phase of the restoration and maybe that will be a project an few years down the line. For this round, we focused on regulation and getting a reliable and even touch. The action is a little heavier than I’m used to, but I’ve been playing on a digital keyboard for the better part of the last decade, so that is to be expected.

All in all, there is consistency and quality of sound and playability that far exceeds my skill level. I feel very fortunate to have this piano in our home and to have such a supportive partner and family. And let's not forget to give credit where credit is due. Hats off to Frank Bidinger for the great work. I’m ecstatic.
Any chance we can hear in a video what the piano sounds like? 11K including the piano with all the work done thus far seems like a steal! One question I have for you is why does the pinblock have that reddish hue to it? Is that a stain?


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Originally Posted by Jethro
Any chance we can hear in a video what the piano sounds like? 11K including the piano with all the work done thus far seems like a steal! One question I have for you is why does the pinblock have that reddish hue to it? Is that a stain?

Hopefully, I'll have a "real" pianist coming over to play it soon and will capture a recording. I'm not worthy of recording at this point although the courses on Open Studio are helping.

I wondered the same thing about the old pinblock but forgot to ask. It did have some other peculiarities in that it was extra large and needed additional custom work to replace it. Also, it had been chiseled along the edge of the bass strings when it was originally assembled, which was odd.

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Thanks for answering my question!


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The Cap'n received his first post-move tune up today. Brian Lee gave it the once over and we spoke about the strengths of this piano, namely, its tone and voicing, hammers, and overall condition, as well as areas for improvement which mostly focus on the action. Some of the jack stop felts are worn and causing clicking if the note is played fortissimo and some repetition springs are weak.

Currently deciding if we will replace a few whippens for the most serious offenders, or bite the bullet and upgrade them all at once.

Aside from that, the tuning has two handed voices with all of the extensions sitting just how I like them. Clusters are also blending well.

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Quote
the tuning has two handed voices

What does that mean?


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Glad to hear it’s coming along. Are you brave enough to post up a recording since the tuning? I’m sure some of us would love to hear it!


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Originally Posted by ShiroKuro
Quote
the tuning has two handed voices

What does that mean?

I suspect that is jazz-speak for phobucket's satisfaction with the way chords with extensions (e.g. ninths, elevenths, thirteenths) are sounding when open-voiced in two hands.

Larry.

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Larry, thanks for the translation! grin

So I guess that means that, 1) it sounds great and 2) the tuning is really nice.

Awesome!


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Thanks, Larry and ShiroKuro. That is exactly what I mean. smile

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I love experimenting with these sort of chord voicings!


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I stopped by a piano store to level set my exuberance about Cap’n. I wanted to get a sense of whether I should continue down this path, and if so, what areas of attention should be the focus. (The short answer is keep practicing.)

At the store, I was able to play several smaller Yamahas and Kawais as well as a 6ft Seiler, a Kawai GX6 and a 1970s Steinway D. All three of these pianos were wonderful and unique.

The Steinway sounded lush with a delicate action. The Kawai had a strong low end and the action felt lively and crisp. The Seiler fell somewhere between the other two in sound and feel, although the low end was not quite as thunderous.

I rushed home to play my piano again while the touch and sound of the others was still strong in my mind. I’m satisfied with the tone. The sound just makes me happy. It’s not a 9ft Steinway, but it felt comparable to the GX6 and I favored it to the smaller pianos.

When it comes to the touch, the Steinway D was like a ballerina, and the Kawai GX6 an Olympic fencer. The Cap’n, on the other hand, is the barroom brawler. Notes strike with great force and then the action continues in motion, bouncing along until it regains equilibrium. He’ll need more work to reform his ways.

I’m going to get 100 hours or so of practice in before I make any changes to the piano. Hopefully that will help me refine my request and maybe I’ll even be brave enough to make a quick recording or two.

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A few friends came over for a session last night and I got a chance to grab a quick clip of someone far more skilled than me playing the Captain.

I was super happy to have the first test run of “jazz trio in my living room” and equally excited to get some positive feedback on the piano from a better player. In short, the action is fine. I just need to practice the h*ll out if it.

Quick clip recorded on my phone.
[video:youtube]1954 Kawai 750
[/video]

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