Tag: Boosey and hawks

Hawkes & Son Elizabethan Vibraphone Restoration Project (ref#1805)


Here is another opportunity for someone. This is a Hawkes and Son Elizabethan vibe part done restoration project which needs to go to a good home for completion.  Sadly the previous owner has passed away and I was approached by his widow initially to see if I were interested in the project and then for advice on what to do with it, so here we are.  Ideally it would be nice for there to be sufficient funds raised to enable a donation to be given to the charity “Action for Pulmonary Fibrosis” after covering costs.

As can be seen from the images, the note bed has been sanded back, but looks like it still requires varnishing.  The trolley and resonators have been shot blasted and powder coated.  Two of the resonators were damaged during the shot blasting procedure, replacements were made but they still require fitting.

The instrument range is F3-F6 and the condition of the bars is to be expected for an instrument of this age.  The pitch marked is A=439 whereas modern instruments are going ever higher in pitch and are now typically A=442 Hertz (Hz).  In contradiction, most of the music tech I look at* is tuned to A=440Hz which in this case is more obtainable and much more relevant if you want to actually play with other musicians and not sound sharp.

*I do not have the time or inclination to peruse the world of music hardware, and I certainly do not claim to be an expert.   However in those areas in which I am interested and through my experience of working for or talking to commercial backline providers, the oscillators in keyboards and synthesizers seem to be set to A=440Hz.  Admittedly in most cases this can be adjusted very easily, but it often requires some menu diving.   There are good reasons why certain percussion instruments are tuned to a slightly sharp A standard, but when applied universally, these arguments are nullified.  Personally I would prefer to see the musical pitch standard return back towards 432Hz from whence I suspect presumably started and for which many instruments were originally developed, but there is fat chance of that ever happening!

And finally we have a load of bits.  Be aware that some items in the photos below actually shouldn’t be there because they are not off the instrument, but most are.  It must be said that it looks very organised with all the small items in their own bag.  Most of it will be self explanatory as to where it goes.  Some items will be unique to this instrument.  Some things will have been added according to the whim of previous owners and some will be included by accident.  If you like jigsaws and fancy a vibraphone when it is complete, then this could provide you hours of fun.

If you are interested, send me an email and we can discuss the price.

Boosey Piano Glock (Job No: 1061)

This is the third and final keyboard Glock I have in for repair, and is the newest. The mechanism inside is the same as the last one (1008) with one modification. The case also has a couple of minor changes, but the had stopped doing the sign writing.


In the picture above you can see a horizontal wooden bar, this is one of the case modifications. The key I am pressing has lifted the hammer and the felted bar it rests on can be seen. This stops the spring bouncing and therefore work hardening. I have however had to remove the thud it makes as it lands.

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The above photos show the strip down stages prior to cleaning. Below are all the bits.


After cleaning the case, an interesting feature was revealed:


Therefore the other two were made earlier, the earliest being Victorian!
Alongside the mammoth and mundane task of cleaning, I undertake the repairs:


Whilst they were glueing, I started the reassembly, cutting lots and lots of felt washers:


After cleaning and polishing the keys look great, the far keys have just been rudimentarily cleaned.


With all the keys cleaned and repaired, the keyboard bed re-felted and fitted firmly, the mechanisms can be cleaned and fitted ready for setting up.

Boosey Piano Glock (Job No: 1008)

Keyboard Glock number two, a more modern instrument than the first instrument (981) with better mechanism and better construction, even including sign writing on the inside of the keyboard lid. I get the feeling that this instrument was made at the height of Boosey success.

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First of all, everything needed a very thorough clean. Some minor repairs to the keys were needed, and the case which is dovetailed needed to be separated, cleaned and glued. The lids also needed repairing having split down the length.
The mechanism needed new felts as the old ones were moth eaten, and de-burring (even 100 years ago no one seems to bother removing swarf!). This removal of burr (tiny bits of metal, on the edge of holes or saw cuts) means that the mechanism now slides freely. Attention to detail is high quality, but actually its the little things that make for a nice playing instrument.
So the designer has come up with a better mechanism. The key is now just a lever, the only striking that occurs is between the hammer and the note. The hammer is mounted on thin brass sheet which provides the spring to enable the hammer to rebound off the notes. Double hits are prevented by adjusting the bend in the brass spring.
The whole hammer mechanism is reversed to play the front row of notes, but everything else remains constant. The momentum of the hammer can be adjusted at the end of the brass spring by altering the height of the fulcrum. Where the spring rests on the key it is screwed through a slot, this is where the burr was which created drag.
Finally notice how the fulcrum of the key is further back because less movement is needed at the inside end of the key. This increases mechanical advantage which equates to musicians as “feel”

Boosey Piano Glock (Job No: 981)


Keyboard glock to be refurbished.

Like most things, it needed a thorough clean, including the ivory keys. These were cleaned wish full fat milk and toothpaste. Only partially successful, but they probably haven’t been cleaned for a few decades.
20130426-030438-PM.jpg Then I started repairing the key guides and hammers.
20130426-030733-PM.jpgThe case also needed extensive repairs.
This is the oldest of the three keyboard Glocks. Obviously the ivory keys are replaced by plastic on the later versions, but also the mechanism is simpler on this. The keys have shaped hammers at the end which flick a hinged plate attached to the note frame, this plate has the striking hammer, which falls away from the note under gravity. Simple and not very effective; it’s a bit noisy as the key hammer comes into contact and flicks the playing hammer, which in turn falls back onto the key hammer.
A further problem are the differing length of keys. The compound effect of different lever lengths, lever weights and fulcrum points is a lack of consistency across the keyboard.
All this doesn’t alter the fact that it was a beautiful instrument with lovely old steel round top bars.

B&H vibe tuning (Job No: 1070)

A set of vibe notes in for tuning.

On the graph, the X axis are the notes – this vibe goes from C to F.  The Y axis are the cents above and below the zero line which is at A=440 Hertz.  The fundamental pitch is the blue line which is generally flat (to be expected as the instrument is marked A=439Hz).  However the red line is the 2nd Harmonic, and as can be seen it goes from massively sharp in the lower octaves of the instrument, to massively flat in the higher notes.

To bring the notes into tune both of these lines should read zero.