Going to view a John Ralph Upright Piano...thoughts

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Going to view a John Ralph Upright Piano...thoughts

Post by Luke_rchrdsn » 16 Nov 2014, 09:17

Hi there, I am going to view this piano advertised on gumtree (I am a beginner).

http://www.gumtree.com/p/pianos/piano.. ... 1089099723

Having spoke to the owner she has had it for 7 years, originally buying it from a dealer who had reconditioned the piano. She still has the dealers contact details. From the pictures it looks to be overstrung and an iron frame.

Any thoughts or tips. Price is £200.

Many thanks


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Re: Going to view a John Ralph Upright Piano...thoughts

Post by Gill the Piano » 16 Nov 2014, 15:10

The link doesn't work.
I play for my own amazement... :piano;

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Re: Going to view a John Ralph Upright Piano...thoughts

Post by NewAge » 16 Nov 2014, 16:00

Gill is right, the link you provided doesn't work. However I arrived at the ad by Googling 'gumtree john ralph upright piano'. The following link should work.
http://www.gumtree.com/p/pianos/piano.. ... 1089099723
At a very rough guess I would say the piano dates from the 20-30's and appears overstrung, although I'll leave the experts to provide more information. I see it has a Hydroceel Humidifier fitted, the regular maintenance of which I know little about, but it's purpose is surely to provide a more favourable climate within the piano rather than "to keep strings from drying out" as the ad claims.
The first thing that would alert me to caution is the fact that it isn't tuned, and only an inspection from a piano technician could confirm if it's possible to adequately tune - and more importantly - remain in tune at concert-pitch.
Sure it's cheap, but it could turn out to be a potentially expensive piano if you did take a chance on purchase 'as-is' without a prior professional inspection.
Ask the seller when it was last tuned, and at what intervals. Also if they have a precise record of what was performed when the piano was 'reconditioned'.
I was playing the piano in a zoo, when the elephant burst into tears. I said, "Don't you recognize the tune?" He replied, "No, I recognize the ivories!"

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Re: Going to view a John Ralph Upright Piano...thoughts

Post by Colin Nicholson » 17 Nov 2014, 01:08

Good advice there from NewAge.... best to get it checked over to see if tuning pins are tight, and if it still sounds reasonably in tune within itself..... even if not at concert pitch.

Parts of the mechanism seem to have been refurbished - damper felts/ bridle tapes.... but struggle to see if the hammer butt leathers have been replaced due to the photo being out of focus. The dark brown leathers may suggest they are original & worn. The strings and tuning pins are all original - not replaced - so they will be about 90 years old.

The price isn't bad - OK as a starter piano if it tunes up OK.

The "hydroceel" tube is useful to have (and cost about half the value of the piano!!) - but the seller has advertised it for the wrong reasons (and to prevent strings drying out is not correct - when you actually WANT dry strings) . The tube has two functions, depending on the room conditions for the time of year - it can be a "humidifier" or "de-humidifier".... however, it is of no use without a reference to a digital or analogue hygrometer and/or temperature gauge sitting on the piano (cheap to buy on Amazon). If the room is very dry - e.g. central heating on/ well over 20 degrees - and the gauge reads below 55% humidity (some say 50%) - then you submerge the tube in a bath of cold water - lift it out/ dry it/ weigh it on some kitchen scales - should be about 250g - 500g when the filters have absorbed the water. Then the tube becomes a "humidifier" .... and gives off slight vapour inside the piano to prevent the wrest plank/ mechanism parts drying out too much (not the strings). In the spring/ summer - if the gauge reads over 55% (average is about 65% - 70%) .... then let the tube dry out - weigh it again - should be about 50g dry.... so you monitor the moisture levels by the weight of the tube (as obviously you cannot see vapour). When the tube is dry, it will absorb any excess moisture in the air..... however, if the piano has only had it fitted recently - the rule "prevention is by far greater than the cure" .... may not apply, and it just becomes an ornament.

Few things to note .... there are 2 X 15mm central heating pipes just next to the piano (my eagle eyes again) - running along the skirting board (photo 2) .... just check with the customer that there is not a "working" radiator behind the piano.... if there is, and the radiator is ON (and hot) ---- then either walk away or get the tuning pins checked over. If there is a hot radiator behind it, it will never stay in tune.... even with a hydroceel tube (which may have been suggested to the seller by a previous tuner because the room is too warm). However, if you bring it to her attention now, she could easily turn the radiator off for your inspection. A piano tuner would immediately spot this.... a heater this close will (not maybe) cause irreparable damage. It's also best that you are present with the tech guy. For the money though - it's a good design/ yes, overstrung, under-damped and full iron frame with fully protected wrest plank.... so it ticks all the boxes for design status.

The piano keys are fine.... celluloid key tops.... please never WASH the keys - implying with soap & water.... that will damage the keys and water may leak & swell the keys. Just apply some white spirit or turpentine on a dry cloth to the sticky areas.

Finally - get a professional piano removal team to move the piano (if you buy it) - if the castors are seized and due to it's slight awkward location against the wall, it will need to lifted straight onto piano buggy wheels to prevent damage to the lady's laminated flooring.

Hope that helps......

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Colin Nicholson Dip. Mus. CMIT CLCM PTLLS
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