Refurbing an old piano with carbon fiber

[Chris] picked up a baby grand. Of course for a complex mechanical device made out of wood, it wasn’t in the best shape. He’s doing his best to refurbish this $350 piano and turn it into something that plays and sounds like a $200,000 concert grand

The 1941 Kimball baby grand piano [Chris] picked up for $350 was a complete mess when it arrived in his house. After cleaning up the wood and replacing some felt the piano looked much better, but [Chris] wanted to make it play better.

After picking up a set of hammers from a 1909 Steinway, [Chris] tore apart the action on his Kimball. The Steinway hammers were removed from their shanks, carbon fiber shanks glued into place, and the entire assembly put back into the piano.

With new felt, new hammers, and light weight shanks on every key, [Chris] has a remarkable piano that is most likely better than new. Not a bad result for a $350 piano.

You can check out [Chris]‘ build video after the break along with a little [Mozart] (we think) after the break.

Comments

  1. nah! says:

    Still shure needs finetuning, sounds a bit honky tonk like

    • Niru says:

      Yes. I think the only thing one would hope to gain, is a quicker follow-on due to less mass in the hammer shank.

      The hammers, themselves, brand new, probably need a voicing, (which I would assume this guy knows – if you’re replacing hammers, that’s a pretty hardcore thing – ) and that would mellow-out the harshness of the tone. But there’s also a break-in period for new hammers. If you soften them up too much in the initial voicing, then they might remain too squishy. So we’d probably want to really judge how this piano sounds after a few weeks of break-in.

      The other issues would be – often pianos this old need new strings, and often, the hinges, pins, (etc) need refurbishment as well – and it sounds like he did not do any of that.

      Aside from all that, I think this is a very cool mod.

  2. Guille says:

    The piece is “Sonatina In C Major, Op. 36 No. 1, Allegro” by Muzio Clementi. The video link is bad, by the way. Best regards.

  3. nutcase says:

    here’s a good link:

  4. noouch says:

    Reading the title I was hoping this was going to be a carbon fiber body build or something. Still, a nice use of the material.
    Makes me want to buy and restore a grand piano tbh…

  5. juliansr says:

    piano ~ 350$

    88keys @ 1 sqft CF(15$)material per key ~ 1320$

    i suppose this is the automotive equivalent of hopping up an old car.

    most of the money ends up under the hood.

  6. nicholas says:

    for 350$ could have bought an E-piano to fit under there. I met a German musician once who had done exactly that to an upright piano fited speakers and wheels and used to go out to play. Quite interesting .

  7. echodelta says:

    Century old hammers? Unless unused they have to go too, like the strings and other packed felts. Hammers wear out more than anything on a piano. Hammer sets come in different weights, what do you want. Glueing that shank to the head will be a source of joint breakage, at least clicks.

  8. proflt says:

    Would have been nice if he did a before and after piano sound to hear the difference.

    The feel of a piano key under your fingers compared to an electric is well worth the time and effort for this hack.

    I’ve been debating if i should pull my piano apart and replace all the paper shims to level my keys out. New hammers are far from my list of piano things to do. New strings would be my first big purchase. However i have a slight crack in my sound board…it was free…and i dont want it to crack more. been meaning to super glue it or epoxy it so it wont crack anymore. Anoter unfinshed project ;)

  9. Galane says:

    I wonder when we’ll see carbon fiber hammer shanks as a top of the line option on new pianos, now that this guy has done it?

  10. M says:

    Oh man, I grew up playing on a Kimball upright. I can’t watch the videos during work, but I hope they didn’t compromise that unique feel too much. I’ve never played another piano I liked as much. The modern ones all feel the same.

  11. Ed McMorrow RPT says:

    I am a piano technician, The Steinway hammers have a shorter distance from the bore hole to the strike point than the Kimball has. Thus you have altered the geometry of the hammer strike point relationship to the string. Also the escapement adjustments may not allow the action to be properly regulated.

    Wessel, Nickel & Gross make carbon hammer-shanks for nearly all the different piano actions common to the world. They have been available for about three years. They are used in new Mason & Hamlin pianos.

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