Proposal for the rebuild, along with design modifications, of Beale grand model BG7 s/n G5070191

An overview image of the piano

While this piano is stylistically somewhat different to the Steinway model B, particularly with respect to the iron plate, it is essentially a blatant copy of the model B design. The scale is almost identical, with the bass/treble break between notes E20 and F21. It also shares the same shortening of the treble scale as it decends down to the break note of F21. However, the one thing that Young Chang (the Korean manufacturer of the piano) failed to copy was the plate section sizes of the model B. This is indeed a happy accident, since the model B plate is far too light for the production of good tone. The plate section weight of the BG7 is considerably heavy than the model B, and as such, will almost certainly allow for a properly rebuilt BG7 to be tonally superior to a similarly rebuilt model B. Since this piano also has the same scaling problem as the model B with its lowering tension towards F21, it should be fitted with a six note tenor section for notes F21 to note A#26. This will involve the design and manufacture of a new tenor bridge, along with the relocation of the six agraffes for these notes (to keep the hammer striking scale correct with the shortened tenor scale).

An overview of under side

As can be seen in the above image, this piano has a real bass corner cut-off (the Steinway B has something which I could only describe as a 'Claytons' cut-off - it looks like a cut-off but it likely will have little beneficial effect), which is also a welcome departure from the model B design. Overall, this soundboard has generously proportioned soundboard ribs, and the soundboard still has very good stiffness, despite the fact the piano was built in the early 1980s.

Image of Bechstein model C (7'4") grand, being fitted with a new tenor bridge design

The above image shows Robert Curry's model C Bechstein, during its rebuild a couple of years ago. The model C has the same scaling problem as the model B, so we designed this 12 note tenor to rectify the poor scale design.

Image of Bechstein model C (7'4") grand, with new tenor bridge fitted up, just prior to re-stringing

The above image shows Robert Curry's piano once the tenor bridge was fitted. This piano now has a very even tonal character between the bass and treble sections, along with much improved tuning stability. I am proposing to fit a similar bridge design to the BG7, but it will need only to be a six note tenor section. The model B scale isn't in quite the same league as the model C Bechstein when it comes to poor scale design.

A closer view of the soundboard

The soundboard ribs for this design have very good depth, which is one reason why the board still has a high degree of stiffness. This board will allow a fine sounding piano to result from the rebuild, once the scale is sorted, the capo and counterbearing bars are hardened and a quality set of Abel cold pressed hammers fitted.

An internal view, showing the heavier plate design

The heavier sectioned plate fitted to this piano will allow for a good sustaining tonal quality to be realised. Furthermore, the web under the strings immediately in front the first few treble agraffes in the second string section makes it very suitable for shifting the agraffe position of the bottom six note on the long bridge. This will allow us to keep the strike ratio of the tenor bridge notes at the optimum. Some pianos, the model B is an example, don't have a sufficiently wide web to enable the repositioning of the agraffes. So the tenor bridge design modifications I am advising for this piano couldn't be applied a model B to correct its string scale.

The original action

The action is a standard Schwander design, and while the action and keys are showing some evidence of moisture exposure, the action parts remain in quite good alignment for a piano of its age which hasn't had a major service since new. The key sticks have a good depth to have satisfactory stiffness (thereby avoiding key saturation during heavy playing). The shanks and flanges might best be replaced along with the hammers. The hammer tails have a lousy shape, so that alone is enough to condemn the hammers, if we are serious about building a decent piano from this otherwise good shell. We have valued this piano with a 'shell value' of A$8,000, and we estimate that the rebuilding work, including the plate, soundboard and case refinish, will come to A$42,00 to 48,000. While this sounds like a significant overal cost, it will be relative cheap when compared to the cost of buying a standard model B Steinway, a piano which I predict this piano (when rebuilt) will comfortably out-class. The piano would need to be purchased from the current owner, Tony Strong, before any rebuilding work could commence on the piano.

An image of the recent Overs rebuild of the 1992 Steinway D at St Chapter Hall in Sydney

After fifteen years service in a tertiary institution, this circa 1992 concert grand (rebuilt by Overs in 2007) was in a much poorer condition than the Beale, which is quite tidy for its age. The rebuilt Beale (which could be renamed "OVERS - BEALE") would be returned to the same showroom condition following a rebuild.

First published 28 June 2011
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