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Pre-lubricating rusty string coils on old pianos ??

General discussion about piano makes, problems with pianos, or just seeking advice.

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Pre-lubricating rusty string coils on old pianos ??

Postby Colin Nicholson » 20 Mar 2011, 12:42

This is a subject that has been raised a few times in my tuning career and with fellow colleagues, and would like to share with others if possible.

To be clear first - I am mainly talking about very old pianos with very rusty tuning pins & coils, and ones that the customer has directly approached me (and sometimes pleaded with me) that I try to haul it up to Concert Pitch. After viewing some pianos - there is no hope, hence previous broken strings & very 'crusty' looking coils!!..... but read on....

Firstly, I would never attempt this on a decent piano, but sometimes even then, if the strings and their coils are corroded slightly, they could still snap at any moment. During any tuning, my main priority is to try and preserve the strings - especially the bass strings.

I once watched a tuner starting to tune & pitch-raise an old piano - with very rusty strings, and he prepared a small pot of oil & a brush. Carefully he brushed the oil around the coils, then lightly dabbed the brush over some of the pressure areas - such as the V bar/ agraffes/ pressure bar areas & noticeably just around the upper bridge pins where the bass strings steer away at an acute angle (Knight pianos have this arrangement of stringing in the bass).

After around 20 mins, he then slightly decreased the tension - to allow for any rusty termination points to 'click' - then miraculously, he started to haul it up - all in one go, well more or less.

... even though Reblitz say to release the tension first to hear a 'click' on these rusty coils, I have even broken the string at this point (before adding tension) - then a job left 'well alone' !! - but after watching this method, I then tuned a piano a few weeks later with extremely rusty strings & pins. I didn't use conventional '3 in one' oil, or anything that gave the piano a smell like an old engine in a Ford Cortina!! - but I used some silicon oil....(from RC nitro car suspension struts) - its odourless and seems to have a better viscosity.

In all these extreme circumstances, I have kept well away from the wrest plank openings, and wiped everything clean afterwards...... and never had any broken strings since. Some pianos were on the verge of breaking point, but most of this pre-treatment I feel must have an effect on the rust breaking free from the termination point of the coil, or where there is high friction against the upper bridge pins.

Has anyone adopted this method on old rusty strings, or is there an alernative may to deal with it.... without restringing. I know comments may come flying in here.... "oh, don't do that" !! - but don't forget, I'm talking about very old pianos that an old dear has cherished, and wants a possible pitch raise?

I also feel that if we just go 'by the book' - the combined tension of the string, the friction areas and large build-ups of rust, then suddenly 'clicked' while releasing the tension, then putting the tension on.... does this not have a more sudden effect of particicles of rust breaking free, than to lightly pre-lube it with some oil?

There is also the subject of the string 'losing tension' or the string coils slipping under lubrication - but I'm not on about a concert or final fine tuning - there may need to be another tuning to follow - to then stabalise the tuning.... so I understand that this may cause 'slippage' (is that a term?) - and the piano would then be saved from accumulated bills of broken strings!

Anyone's own experiences on this subject would be gratefully appreciated......

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Colin Nicholson Dip. Mus. CMIT CLCM PTLLS
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Re: Pre-lubricating rusty string coils on old pianos ??

Postby mdw » 20 Mar 2011, 13:58

I sure when I was at newark years ago they said you de tension a little to allow any small rust particle just where the string meets the wrest pin to dislodge. I guess if thats where the string breaks then that would do the job. I am quite supprised sometimes how few do break when you see the condition of some old pianos.
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Re: Pre-lubricating rusty string coils on old pianos ??

Postby vernon » 20 Mar 2011, 21:34

Please don't bother.
If the piano is that duff use your talents on something more amenable.
If it is an old lady then don't raise the pitch.
Try to help, bust a couple of strings and a bass and say that's £60 and I'll have to come back to tune them... your name will be mud..
Bite the bullet and say--it can't be done safely.
There will always be someone out there who will " have a go!" Let them.

Preserve your professional integrity.
Our mission in life is to tune customers--not pianos.

Any fool can make a piano-- it needs a tuner to put the music in it
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Re: Pre-lubricating rusty string coils on old pianos ??

Postby Bob Pierce » 21 Mar 2011, 12:46

If its that rusty don't bother. The strings will break and damage the piano or you!
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Re: Pre-lubricating rusty string coils on old pianos ??

Postby piano heads » 22 Mar 2011, 16:00

Yet again listen to Mr Pierce,sound advice.
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