In the workshop of Guus van den Braak not only are small repairs done, but full restorations are also undertaken. Wear develops on pivoting points, felt and leather parts in older and/or much played younger instruments. Timely and regular servicing, lubricating and regulating of those parts will avoid early costly repairs or replacements. The soundboard, bridges and pinblock can survive for decades, but can also crack within a few short years if not properly cared for. Repairs to soundboards or replacing soundboards, pinblocks and bridges, have been performed successfully many times by Guus van den Braak in Amsterdam, Holland and Adelaide, South Australia.
Guus van den Braak places top priority in returning the instrument to its formal and original condition! When cloths, felts and parts are of a lower quality, and are worn or moth-eaten, improvements are made at the same time by replacing the parts, cloths and felts with the highest quality materials. This results in a longer lasting, better performing and sounding instrument.
After reconditioning the bridges, soundboard and cast iron frame, the frame is repainted gold and refitted into the piano (Photo right).
Experience on its own means very little, but experience combined with superior knowledge, high skills and top quality craftsmanship, a first-class workshop set-up with excellent tools and equipment are a must when big restorations are undertaken.
Success is not a matter of luck. It is earned and deserved as work is performed with passion. Whether you are a beginner, advanced or professional player, you can be assured you will receive the best service to suit your budget and piano. You are always welcome to contact Guus van den Braak without any obligation.
Above Left: An eight-foot long Bechstein grand with a badly cracked soundboard and bridges.
Centre: Measuring the old soundboard and planing many spruce planks very precisely together.
Right: The soundboard planks all glued together and shaped to fit exactly into the piano. The curved ribs of various lengths, thicknesses and widths are ready to be glued to the rear of the soundboard after the soundboard is thicknessed identically to the original soundboard.
Above Left: The new soundboard, with ribs in place, is varnished and is ready to be glued into the piano.
Centre: The top surface of the soundboard and internal woodwork is cleaned and newly varnished. The cast-iron frame is repainted in gold and garnished with red cloth. Screws and bolts have been re-nickel plated and all brass polished and lacquered. The piano is fitted out with new tuning pins and strings. The last hand-made copper-wound bass string is being fitted.
Right: The fully restored action mechanism is regulated outside and inside the grand piano.
Above Left: An antique Richard Lipp grand piano fully restored to original condition.
Centre: Old copper-wound bass strings often sound dead. Guus van den Braak makes precision bass strings on his own string-making machine.
Right: Cracked bridges are replaced with new bridges to an upright Wertheim piano. Carving can begin.
Above Left: Carving the notches of the bridges.
Centre: Carving work is making good progress.
Right: New bridge-pins are fitted and the notches are varnished.
Above Left: Carving new bridges on the soundboard of a G.Schwechten (German) upright piano.
Centre: The frame refitted and checking string angles.
Right: Fitting new tuning pins and strings to the G.Schwechten upright piano.
Above Left: Overhaul of the Steinway & Sons model D concert grand for the Adelaide Elder Conservatorium.
Centre: After replacing all damper felts, the delicate dampers are refitted, adjusted and regulated.
Right: Regulating the Steinway & Sons action mechanism after being overhauled.
Above Left: An old discoloured key has been polished to as new condition. If this is not possible, new key tops can be fitted.
Centre: It takes skill to reglue ivory and is not a job for the do-it-yourself handy person. Ivory has an excellent feel on a keyboard and should be respected, valued and preserved, as it is no longer available.
Right: Lead is used to balance the keys, action mechanism and touch. Wooden keys may split due to swelling and corroding lead; corroded lead is removed, keys repaired and new lead is fitted.
Above Left: The decal on a cracked Schiedmayer & Soehne upright piano soundboard, anno 1900.
Centre: A soundboard is made up of many planks, which are planed and fitted one to another extremely precisely, to ensure a strong glue joint that is never to come apart. This requires very high woodworking skills. It is a tricky clamping job, as planks want to "swim".
Right: The new soundboard is thicknessed precisely to the original. New ribs are made and glued to the back of the soundboard.
Above Left: After glueing the new soundboard into the piano, the cracked pinblock is removed as tuning pins were slipping, causing strings to go out of tune.
Centre: The piano with new unvarnished soundboard and pinblock completely removed.
Right: A section of a European Beech pinblock with many laminations. The piano is fitted with this extremely strong and durable pinblock.
Above Left: With the pinblock glued in the piano, the soundboard varnished, the bridges repaired, the frame painted and fitted, it is time to drill holes to fit the new tuning pins and strings.
Centre: Now that new strings are fitted and brought to full tension, cabinet parts are polished and reassembled. The keyboard and action mechanism are restored and can be installed and regulated inside the piano.
Right: The piano restored to its original beauty and if well maintained, this instrument can live another 100 years.