Miscellaneous

Piano clamps from the Steinway factory, circa 1900. From transportaccord.com

Piano clamps from the Steinway factory, circa 1900. From transportaccord.com

American Felt Co. catalogue, 1914. These clamps have been specifically identified as piano clamps in numerous period publications, including general woodworking publications.

American Felt Co. catalogue, 1914. These clamps have been specifically identified as piano clamps in numerous period publications, including general woodworking publications.

Diderot Harpsichords

Diderot, vol.5, plate no. 17: Music Instrument Making, Tools Used for the Manufacture of Harpsichords.

Howell Piano Factory, New Zealand, 1898. Here is a typical early photographic example of piano factory workers, at their work stations. While the products worked on are relatively apparent, its hard to ascertain precisely what the employees were actually doing.  Otago Daily Times, April 28, 2012 –Geoff Adams.

Archimedean drills found within a set of British piano tools. Not to be confused with bow drills, they produce a reciprocating or continuous motion by sliding the middle handpiece up and down. Archimedes, an ancient Greek scientist, invented a screw which pulls water from a lower body to a higher plane; the drill was actually a 19th century development.

  • The larger drill, made by Hobbies, with rotating counterweights, has a clutch within the sliding center handle which disengages when it is lifted: this creates a continuous motion.
  • The smaller one does not have this feature, the drilling is reciprocal as in a bow drill. Small Archimedean drills are still frequently used by jewelers and small craft workers, where deliberate and precise drilling is controlled by hand.

Demand is such that several sources provide new Archimedean drills.

Antique rosewood brass and steel piano action spring making tool. This tool is no longer available in the U.S., but can be found from Fletcher & Newman in the U.K. and Renner in Germany. It looks like there is a reference to Germany faintly inscribed on this one:

Renner catalog.

Trefz and Co, Philadelphia, c. early postwar. Regulating rack, used to recreate hammer escapement and drop positions with the action out of the piano. This example was made with bird’s-eye maple, which I’ve never seen in more recent examples of this tool.

Damper felt guillotine, from the Weber Piano Company, founded by Albert Weber, in New York, in 1852. At 20 inches long, and 10 inches high, this is a serious felt cutter, larger and heavier than any of the guillotines that I’ve seen produced for the piano service trade. It still cuts very well, without the side effects of repeated sharp impacts on my palms that I’ve received from using other guillotines with a vertical plunger:

This “bass string retoner” was designed to improve tone quality on bass strings by compressing the copper windings against the steel core instead of twisting them! An invention by Lawrence Alnutt, intended for dealers and others in the piano business. I had marginal success, at best, when experimenting with this tool. This invention went nowhere, and therefore is quite rare; beyond the novelty and curiosity factor, it has received little attention, perhaps deservedly so:

Close-up of the manufacturer’s imprint.

The Music Trades, April 12, 1919.

Hand vise, useful for holding very small parts in the field. This example is very similar to the hand vise depicted in “L’Art De Accorder,” written by Montal in 1836, shown on the “Tuning Hammers” page. This was probably made in England.

This hand vise was made around the turn of the 20th century, in the U.S.:

Hoover patent action screw holder.

Patent for this screw holder. Franklin Hoover authored three piano tool patents in this website: this screw holder, a hammer extracting pliers, and a voicing pliers, similar to the later Hale voicing pliers.

Excerpt from text of patent:

Other screw holders found in piano toolkits.

Feeler for checking the glue joints of soundboard ribs (and other things). Spruce handle.

Soundboard shimming tool, very long, with a really narrow blade.

Typical felt knives. H. S. and Co. 1885.

Felt knives from American Felt Co.'s 1911 catalogue

Felt knives from American Felt Co.’s 1911 catalogue

Two French felt and leather cutting knives by Blanchard, Paris; English knife made by J. Tyzack of Sheffield

Two French felt and leather cutting knives by Blanchard, Paris; English knife made by J. Tyzack of Sheffield

Felt knife, J. & J. Goddard c.1920.

Felt knife, J. & J. Goddard c.1920.

Punch for making your own front rail punchings. This tool was included in the 1885 H. S. catalog.

Schley 1905.

Piano hammer clamp.

Thayer backcheck tool.

 

Center pin tools: broach holder/pin vise, pin punch, reamers and burnishers, center pin holders. Rosewood was no longer used for center pin holders after the WWI era.

Another version of a center pin holder, c. 1905.

Tapered action center reamer, rosewood. These and the center pin holders were no longer made of rosewood by 1910–1915.

Three tuning hammers with set screws and detailed steel ferrules, with bead type patterns similar to those of the old C. H. Lang machine shop in Chicago. The hammer on the top has a tip marked American Felt Co., and the middle hammer, has an extremely short C. H. Lang, Chicago tip. The hammer at the bottom was sold by Tuner’s Supply Co. and Tonk Bros. All three hammers have replacement handles which I turned on a lathe and then bored out (not unlike a woodwind instrument) for the internal tube with the extendible shaft inside. The top two are made with Indian rosewood, and the bottom one is made from brown ebony.

Tuners Supply Catalog.

Sheffield screwdrivers with boxwood handles as shown in the 1920 J.& J. Goddard catalogue. Some of the best screwdrivers in the world.

Tool cases:

Tuner’s antique satchel and tool roll, made of Moroccan leather.

“The piano doctor.” My business partner, now deceased, used this to carry his tools. I tried it, but was underwhelmed by the lack of accessibility through the top opening and the lack of space. It was another example of form over function. Besides, I wouldn’t want to invite anyone to make more “piano doctor” jokes.

“Gnome Brand” Tuners’ case. This was included in the 1925 H. S. catalogue, and when I started working on pianos at the end of the 1970s, this case was still available from Tuners Supply (Hale).

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