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Julius Bauer 1882 Grand

Currently in my shop, I am rebuilding a 6' grand piano made by the Julius Bauer Co in 1882. This piano is unique in that it has no thick bottom support beams bracing the cabinet, a full perimeter plate, and soundboard ribs on both top & bottom. In this first photo, taken right after it arrived in my shop and prior to any disassembly of the original parts, you can see the top-mounted ribs under the old strings (and several layers of dirt.) Very rare. I have only seen ribs on top of the soundboard on a couple other instruments in my 40 years as a piano technician. One was an 1880s Steinway, the other was built by the A. B. Chase Co.

The concept in sandwiching the soundboard between both bottom & top ribs was to hold the soundboard's crowned shape for longer, and indeed this 130+ piano still has retained more good crown than many grands half its age. The improvement must have not caught on widespread in the industry, though, because most piano makers never adopted it.

 

 

I will post more photos as the rebuilding job progresses :-)

 

After removing all the strings & dampers you can more clearly see the "ribs-on-the-top" design.

 

This Bauer's design continues to present surprises. As you can see, the plate is a "full-perimeter" plate, meaning that it extends to touch all sides of the inner rim. In most grands, the plate spreads out to the front (over the pinblock,) and all along the right-hand "S" curve of the rim to the back, but the cast iron usually ends at the point where the back curve straightens out to become the straight left-hand side, and there's a long gap in the metal till you reach the front left-hand corner over the pinblock, like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But this Bauer plate has a continuous cast iron bar that connects that "gap", so it touches the "full-perimeter." Interestingly, this 6' Grand has no thick wooden cross-beams under the soundboard, bracing & holding the rim in it's S-curved shape (like the more modern piano shown here,)  so it is assumed the full perimeter plate in this Bauer grand is, in part, bracing the rim in place of wooden beams. This is further confirmed by the fact that the outer edge of the plate is not just a thin perimeter that sits on top of the soundboard. On the Bauer, the outer rim of the plate is a 6" deep "wall" of cast iron, bolted to the rim all around, as well as bolted down to the board.

So, as I've done for 40 years, I removed all the strings, dampers, and all the plate bolts visible from the top, which should then allow me to lift the plate up & off the board and out of the piano. But it wouldn't budge. Even lifting with my crane & hook, it just wanted to lift the whole cabinet up with it, as if it was stuck or there was one bolt I missed still holding it down. Turns out there were quite a few bolts still screwed in...under the soundboard.

That 6" vertical wall of iron that forms the outer rim of the plate, has "tabs" on the bottom, small extensions in the plate's casting for a dozen bolts to screw the plate to the cabinet perimeter just under the soundboard:

 

Never seen anything like it in 4 decades of piano rebuilding!