I took a slightly different path with the 218 and got help. I asked Boaz Kirschenbaum of Cherry Tree Pianos to recommend a configuration and perform the necessary surgery. Boaz is also a fan of Ray Negron’s Ronsen Piano Hammer Company products and together we decided on a set only this time made with Bacon felt. This felt, made by America’s oldest felt manufacturer, is much softer than most anything else used today and requires that the tone be “built up” through the careful application of lacquer. That is not a bad thing as it leads to a very specific piano tone. Boaz also wanted to include a Stanwood Precision Touch Design upgrade that was going to give us complete control of the up and down weight. All in all, it seemed like it was going to be a great piano. There was a catch though…
The catch was that Boaz lives in Martha’s Vinyard Massachusetts and the piano was in Washington DC and time, logistics and money prevented us from moving the piano all the way to his shop. We planned on showing it at the Piano Technicians Guild convention in Chicago in July and there just wasn’t time to do all that moving around.
NOT TO WORRY!! We decided to ship the action to Boaz’s shop, and ship the toothless piano to Chicago and mate the two up there. I know this sounds risky but we had a certain degree of confidence. We were pretty sure the results would be really good and figured we could do any necessary tweaking there. Slightly nerve wracking but reasonable.
Well, to cut to the chase, everything went fine. The Bacon felt needed quite a bit of lacquer, which was expected, but we had to do more than we expected at the show. But what a result! The 218 is, in the words of a very prominent concert technician in Los Angeles “a fabulous recording piano”. The sound is clear, colorful, rich and singing. It doesn’t knock one over with power, but seduces you with richness. It’s a piano that begs you to keep playing it.
A very interesting side note was the result of the Stanwood work. Part of the touch analysis is a detailed recording and charting of the up and down weight of every key before and after the work is done. The “before” chart showed amazing evenness and consistency so the PTD work resulted in an evening out and refining of the touch rather than a major correction of problems.
It’s a really beautiful piano. Thanks Boaz!