Amateur Piano Restoration!

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mk1jones
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Amateur Piano Restoration!

Post by mk1jones » 12 Mar 2017, 10:36

I recently acquired an old 1915 61 key overdampened upright
IMG_1987.JPG
. It had been stored in a barn for several years, i didn't expect much, but only have a small house and it fits and looks wicked in my living room. I also thought it would make a nice little project. I totally new to this so am having to learn as I go along l, but am finding it really hard to get responses from any technicians in my area regarding anything!
I have started to restore the parts can
IMG_1944.JPG
I have also tuned it to a certain degree. (Required serval pitch raises, but now holds tuning.... for now)
The action seems to be ok, the whole thing seems a little sluggish but playable.
One of the main things I'm confused about is that the keys have no bushes at all. Either on the balance rail or front rail. Is there any reason for this? Or have they been removed at some point? And also, what would be the cost in having them rebushed?
Sorry if any of this sounds stupid or I've posted this in the wrong place. Any help would be grealy appropriated.
Thanks

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Barrie Heaton
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Re: Amateur restoration!

Post by Barrie Heaton » 12 Mar 2017, 11:16

Spring and loop pianos very often did not have key bushings to save money (pretty box with strings in comes to mind )

As to the sluggish part that will be because it has been stored in a barn don't dry the piano out too quickly it will make more problems for you. Protec CPL and a small brush would be your best option on the centre pins for the sluggish notes

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Colin Nicholson
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Re: Amateur restoration!

Post by Colin Nicholson » 12 Mar 2017, 11:31

Might be best you buy some books about pianos/ resto work / regulation etc. and read up on the dreaded spring & loop/ over-damped actions - most technicians don't touch them these days, and won't enter into any kind of technical data unless you pay them.

1. Piano Tuning, Servicing and Rebuilding by Arthur Reblitz (advanced)
2. Haynes Piano Manual by John Bishop
3. The Family Piano Doctor by Don Wicks (ideal for beginners)

Unless you intend to re-loop the hammers/ new costa springs on the levers, I wouldn't leave the action hanging without support from the keys (capstans).... in a few days, the weight may snap the loops or break the spring ends.
Each day, put the keys back so the loops are partly slack/ less risk of breaking.
Don't rebush the keys - meant to be un-bushed for that period.
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mk1jones
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Re: Amateur restoration!

Post by mk1jones » 12 Mar 2017, 12:48

Thanks guys. Feel like I've got more info now than from weeks of searching and emailing. I understand that it's never going to sound or play amazingly, just looking for things I can do to improve it.
So the keys would have never been bushed, is that right? Would bushing them be the way to minimise any side to side movement of keys? Or is it just something to live with on this piano?
Also, forgive me if this is fully idiotic. Do these actions have bridle straps? Or not? I keep seeing them coming up in searches and different people putting differing importance on having them.
Thanks again.

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Re: Amateur restoration!

Post by Barrie Heaton » 12 Mar 2017, 17:19

You could bush them but a wast of time. You can turn the bat pin to take out some of the play.

they don't have tapes (bridle straps) as the action is a spring and loop. The loops are very fragile and as Colin pointed out to you leaving the keys out for to long time may cause them to fail . Getting a tuner to work on them will be changeling

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Colin Nicholson
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Re: Amateur Piano Restoration!

Post by Colin Nicholson » 12 Mar 2017, 18:50

If you post 2 photos of one piano key, top & bottom (centre chasing "bushing" and front "bushing" areas) rebates, I'll be able to see if they were bushed or not. If the centre crowns (chasings) have side slots [some don't] or signs of old glue/red cloth remnants (and showing signs of lighter wood where the cloth was), and if the bottoms have a recess square/ glue & cloth remnants, then they may have been steamed out. It is rare for the bottoms not to be bushed, but is likely for a spring & loop. If the keys rattle side to side much, it may be possible to glue in some 0.9mm felt, but would require a lot of easing later.

Also, if you measure the slots width ways (left to right), tops should be about 3.5 - 4mm, bottoms about 4mm to allow for the pins. If about 1.3 - 1.5mm bigger, then they may have been previously bushed. Can't tell by a photo this measurement, should be done with verniers.

TIP: If not previously bushed and rattle side to side/ collapsed one side.... then a combination of turning the bat pin (front) and/or wetting the wood to swell it to get tiny amount of friction for tops and about 1/8" wobble for fronts.
Keys should drop onto the centres in slow motion, evenly and a smooth movement. If too tight, then ease keys.

As Barrie says, this action is pre- bridle tapes, and the undercarriage levers & jacks are suspended by the springs hooked onto the cotton loops instead of tapes - when either the action or keys are removed. They stop the jacks from becoming dislocated under the hammer butt leathers, and under the weight of the hammers (and possibly dampers if not regulated) - they can easily snap when very old. If the action and keys are not disturbed, the springs are usually fine. The long springs (about 72mm in length) are difficult to get hold of, and have to be custom made. Loops are easy to replace.

Looks like the piano is insect damaged? (back touch felt eaten away!)
Common for hammer cushions and damper lift rod guide bushings to be eaten away, resulting in clicking and rattling noises of metal on wood. Left bushings look that way.
Make sure you check for any living maggots before they hatch or could be an episode of Green Mile.
This may be of interest >> http://www.aatuners.com/insect-damage.html



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Re: Amateur Piano Restoration!

Post by Colin Nicholson » 13 Mar 2017, 01:43

Just another couple of things......
You might find that you'll make the piano play worse than it did before you took the keys out, and so you'll have to undo any mistakes before you make improvements. It's quite common for a DIY enthusiast to strip the whole key frame/ vacuum out old washers etc, replace the centre rail washers with anything available on Ebay..... then discover the mechanism won't work properly, and the hammers start having a party in there, bouncing all over / blocking against the strings, and not checking properly.

Did you measure the key height before you took the keys out?
Are all the washers the same thickness as before?

As the back touch baize (black) looked all eaten away, I suspect the original centre rail washers were similar?
If you put in new felt washers/ felt rails / front thick baize washers etc.... they must be replaced with the EXACT same thickness materials as before. The centre rail washers look quite thick? .... and are normally 1mm.
Also, any paper or card washers under the felt washers should be kept and replaced.
When you put the keys back, they may resemble a Mexican wave and be at a different height, so back to the drawing board.
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Colin Nicholson Dip. Mus. CMIT CLCM PTLLS
Piano tuning & repairs. Full UK restoration service
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Tuition ~ Accompaniment ~ Weddings
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mk1jones
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Re: Amateur Piano Restoration!

Post by mk1jones » 13 Mar 2017, 18:10

I have replaced the felt along the back, made sure it was the height of the original (parts that hadn't been eaten away). I've keep all the washers and felts that I have taken off, and used some of the paper washers when putting the keys back on to level the keys. I will try rotating the pins to try and minimise some of the keys side to side movement. From the look of the keys, they have never been bushed, there is no reminence of bushings or glue and the holes don't seem wide enough to fit even the thinnest bushing in.
Just one more quick on. Is there a way to easily increase the speed the key returns? Or is this more of a job for someone who knows what they are doing? I'm sure it's clear I don't really know what I'm doing, and don't want to mess around with the action too much and do something to make it unplayable. Like I said previously, I'm not expecting it to play and feel brilliant, but it is now quite playable and is nice to teach my 5 year old son on, plus I think it looks pretty cool.

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Re: Amateur Piano Restoration!

Post by Barrie Heaton » 13 Mar 2017, 20:55

mk1jones wrote:I have replaced the felt along the back, made sure it was the height of the original (parts that hadn't been eaten away). I've keep all the washers and felts that I have taken off, and used some of the paper washers when putting the keys back on to level the keys. I will try rotating the pins to try and minimise some of the keys side to side movement. From the look of the keys, they have never been bushed, there is no reminence of bushings or glue and the holes don't seem wide enough to fit even the thinnest bushing in.
Just one more quick on. Is there a way to easily increase the speed the key returns? Or is this more of a job for someone who knows what they are doing? I'm sure it's clear I don't really know what I'm doing, and don't want to mess around with the action too much and do something to make it unplayable. Like I said previously, I'm not expecting it to play and feel brilliant, but it is now quite playable and is nice to teach my 5 year old son on, plus I think it looks pretty cool.
Most of the slowness of the action will come from friction in the action some of this
Protek CLP Lubricant will help and
Teflon Powder on the leather where the jacks come into contact you can put some Protek on the balance and bat pins

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Re: Amateur Piano Restoration!

Post by Colin Nicholson » 14 Mar 2017, 02:42

If you buy the Reblitz book as I suggested/ and get the stuff Barrie has recommended (trade/ account only for F&N, so contact a local piano tuner to get you some), this book covers most stuff you mention - chapter 4/ minor repairs & cleaning.
...... did you measure the key height before removal?

For slow movement/ poor repetition:-
1. Strip action (not dampers/ but remove rail & wires)
2. Repin or Protec (or both) hammer flanges, jacks and levers
3. Replace all springs and loops/ leathers
4. Reface hammers
5. Ease keys


The book covers rusty parts / slow returning or seized parts/ weak springs / worn and sluggish parts etc.
There is no easy quick fix for a slow action or one-spot fault - loads of things it could be combined, it's a very long job and requires an experienced technician with the proper tools really.
The book also covers regulation.
A piano of this design, condition and age will obviously present problems and often the springs bond to the loops over years and lack tension - so removing things will be risky. The general "movement" of these jacks is not always good, and later became obsolete.
Any slow/ poor performing mechanism can only be examined closely and tested by a technician, then fixed - this kind of thing can't really be diagnosed on a forum..... just general advice.
It's like saying you want your car to go faster. If it's been in a barn, your guess is as good as mine :)


Best to just enjoy the piano best you can and tinker away!
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Colin Nicholson Dip. Mus. CMIT CLCM PTLLS
Piano tuning & repairs. Full UK restoration service
http://www.aatuners.com
Tuition ~ Accompaniment ~ Weddings
http://www.pianotime1964.com
Member of The Guild of Master Craftsmen

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