By John Watson
Two centuries of dust accumulation and the detritus of a few generations of mice had left the wind-chest congested with debris.
The bar frame, which forms air channels running under the rows of pipes, is composed of wooden components permanently glued together. Each channel has only one opening for its pallet (a valve that is opened by a key on the keyboard) and three or four holes for the pipes for that note.
To avoid soaking apart the entire assembly—and destroying surface evidence in the process—we first used compressed air to blow out the channels. Dust and debris shot out through the pipe holes almost continuously for a half hour.
Where the table board had come unglued from the bar frame, wind would surely leak from one note to the next. Lightly tapping on the table board made different sounds depending on where the glue held and where we would need to re-glue. We used chalk to mark the areas that needed glue.
There is no such thing as completely non-intrusive treatment. Our goal was to stop the leaks as effectively as possible and with little or no loss of original workmanship or other surface evidence.
After much discussion and some experimentation, we decided on a treatment method.
Testing showed that a tiny hole drilled just large enough to insert a hypodermic needle allowed us to inject glue into the separated joint.
Glue spread from each injection site to secure an area about a half-inch in diameter. We spaced the injection holes accordingly, injected the glue and set the clamps.
I have never drilled holes to inject glue. Creating new holes in historic material is normally to be avoided but conservation resists being reduced to simple rules to “always do this” and “never do that.” In this instance, the treatment stopped the leaks. The new holes have no structural consequence and will not be seen.
In short, it was an effective and minimally intrusive treatment.
Conservation of the Tucker organized piano is made possible by a gift in memory of N. Beverley Tucker, Jr.