Cost of action overhaul

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allegrotj
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Cost of action overhaul

Post by allegrotj » 12 Oct 2010, 21:25

Action Overhaul Cost

Could someone possibly help me to esabish what amount one can reasonably expect to pay for a professional and good quality overhaul involving the list below to the action/keyboard/damper assembly (incl parts and labour) of a 100-year old Bechstein Model B grand piano in the UK. Any guidance would be appreciated.

Work :

disassembly
refacing hammers (NOT replacing or recovering)
fitting new set of leather rollers
recovering felt and leather work where required
re-centering flanges
cleaning all hammers, levers, wooden parts, keys and keyframe, cleaning action screws
polishing ivory keytops
overhauling damper-lever assembly
recovering damper heads
recover hammer-rest rail
adjust, check and grease repetition springs
Burnishing of jacks and recentering where stiff
Rebaising of keyframe – new front-touch felts and cards
New felt key-bushings
Clean, overhaul, refelt and adjust pedal assembly

Reassembly

Regulation; Set-Up; Stretching of strings; Tuning

Thanks for any information.

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Barrie Heaton
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Re: Cost of action overhaul

Post by Barrie Heaton » 12 Oct 2010, 22:52

First why stretch string if you have not restrung ?

If I was doing it, I would insist on new hammers, shanks and flanges and maybe new bottom sections, if I were keeping the bottom section new rep springs NOT grease them up

An action of that age you may have to redo the balance pin holes as well

Price about £5K +

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allegrotj
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Re: Cost of action overhaul

Post by allegrotj » 12 Oct 2010, 23:08

Thanks Barrie - I am afraixd the list sadly represents the work carried out and will need to be redone, this time by a different restorer. I need though to establish a reasonable figure to base my negotiations with the culprit restorer on, hence my query. I need to confirm whether your suggested c. £5000 excludes or includes the new hammers, shanks and flanges, etc. as you suggest?

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Colin Nicholson
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Re: Cost of action overhaul

Post by Colin Nicholson » 13 Oct 2010, 13:11

Barrie, I think the above member may be referring to "stretching the strings" regarding a pitch-raise to Concert Pitch? The restorer has probably not worded this right. I myself also thought that strings should only be "stretched" (using that term) during a re-string, but there is no mention of new strings, wrest pins & voicing/listing cloth?

Totally agree also - should have new hammers/ shanks & flanges, and if fitting new damper felt, why put them back on old rusty strings! - Full monte needed I think, and even respray the cast frame - job lot. Never heard of greasy rep springs.
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Re: Cost of action overhaul

Post by allegrotj » 13 Oct 2010, 13:39

Barrie and Colin

I should have mentioned that the piano was restrung, hence the stretching of the strings. That part of the work with the keyboard and frame restoration was done well. It is the action overhaul and the regulation work that have been done badly, hence my enquiry about a reasonable sum I may claim as compensation/contirubtion to the remedy work that needs to be done excl a conversion kit - new hammers, shanks, flanges and introduction of capstans. The tied action, the original hammers, shanks and flanges have remained. The hammers were refaced - not recovered or repelaced.

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Re: Cost of action overhaul

Post by hammer man » 13 Oct 2010, 16:34

To be honest a piano of that age will require new hammers and shanks. Providing the instrument is in good condition I would also recommend the conversion from the tied action to that of the modern action. It is not an easy repair and would require an experienced technician who could re-calculate the key ratio and action spread.
From the description of the work carried out I would guess the member has paid around £5000.00. The extra work listed above would set you back a further £3000.00 inc parts and labour.
It would be interesting to know if the soundboard was repaired and repolished and which brands of parts were used.

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Re: Cost of action overhaul

Post by Colin Nicholson » 13 Oct 2010, 16:52

I think alot of this is down to what you actually paid to have the work done? and fair to ask if could give us a break-down of the costs of the regulation work & repairs. Also, it depends on how much you were willing to pay for the overhaul. If just a "few hundred quid" - then you get what you pay for.

A grand is quite difficult to regulate if the hammers have been refaced too much, the keyboard has not been levelled (adding & subtracting paper/card/cloth washers) from the centre chasings, and a mixture of reasonably tensioned rep springs, with some that are poor.
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Re: Cost of action overhaul

Post by allegrotj » 13 Oct 2010, 18:29

I paid £5640 excl VAT for:

1) Repair and polish of soundboard with new soundboard decal, refinishing of frame in antique gold lacquer, , restringing and repinning of frame with best German EKA wire, new wrestpins and Bechstein frame cloths - this work was vsubcontracted to Early Keyboard Agency
2) Restoration of Action/Keyboard/Damper Assembly - see list of work in my first posting

[The invoice did not give the costs seperately for the above two items]

I paid £2560 for the the reposlihinig of the cabinet.

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Re: Cost of action overhaul

Post by Colin Nicholson » 13 Oct 2010, 22:59

I think they could have included new hammers & shanks/ flanges in the price - especially going that far with soundboard & new strings, or added a bit on. When you say soundboard repairs, was it re-shimming (to fill in cracks) with slits of wood, or did they just fill it with wood filler? Also depending on the length of the crack, was the cast frame removed.... quite a big job. I suppose once filled & lacquered, difficult to tell.

I have heard of EKA before, and someone recently mentioned them after having their piano re-strung, and most of the strings have started to corrode/tarnish about 12 months later. Also, EKA seem to claim that they engineer their own strings, and append their name to them!! (you are the 2nd one to say this) All piano wire that I know of is made by Roslau of Germany, not EKA - however, bass strings are made by a machine. This must be a selling technique of EKA.

The restoration details sounds OK, and price is reasonable. Regulation should take about 2 days to do properly just after a restoration, and then adjusted again within a few months to compensate for the compression of new felt/leather/cloth.

If you need to claim against them, you might be best to seek another technician first, so he can check the regulation work and what needs doing. It may have been regulated OK, in the workshop, but depending on when it was regulated, and how much you play it - it will probably need adjusting again - so maybe give them the benefit of the doubt, but tell them anyway that a restored piano is not finalised just after one regulation session. I sometimes have to go over the whole process again, within hours of initially regulating it - then I advise the customer that it will need to be adjusted again, and several tunings to get it to settle. A re-strung piano can take well over 12 months to eventually settle down & stay in tune.
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Re: Cost of action overhaul

Post by allegrotj » 14 Oct 2010, 13:09

Thanks for all that information and adivce, Collin. You asked about the soundboard restoration - it did in fact involve reshimming.

EKA says they make their own bass strings and the treble strings are made of German wire that is, according to them, better than Roslau. They say they no longer use the coated wire because it affects the tone, and they say people do not buy it any more.

They restrung my piano in June last year (2009) and I have only had the piano since end April 2010, ie for 5 months. The upper strings are already corroding. I am worried about it, and wonder whether there is a treatment for strings to stop/protect them from further corrosion, apart from regulating humidity levels.

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Re: Cost of action overhaul

Post by Colin Nicholson » 14 Oct 2010, 14:10

What a coincidence!! EKA are talking rubbish. Coated piano wire is more expensive than just polished wire, and I have never had any complaints about corrosion. The coated wire is usually "Red label" Roslau & superior quality - and the polished is "Blue Label" - I restrung my own piano 15 years ago with polished (blue), and its still fine. How on earth can anyone know about the popularity of coated wire if they are not in the trade?

All treble piano usually comes in 500 gram coils (regardless of the gauge) - so you get a shorter length of wire say 17 gauge (around Middle C) than 13 gauge (top C) to compensate for weight. All wire coils should also be packed in wax paper, then wrapped in good quality paper to protect it. Believe it or not, piano wire also has a despatch dte, and the date is stamped on the paper when manufactured. So, it may transpire you have a bad or old batch.

If you scroll down some of the posts (about 2-3 weeks ago), you will see the info I replied about this to another member - oh wait!! 29th Sept is was, and I think its you? So this story has turned around again!

As long as your room isn't excessively damp & cold, and showing a hygrometer reading between 40% - 70%, then the wire should not rust or corrode - well for at least 5 - 10 years.
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Re: Cost of action overhaul

Post by allegrotj » 14 Oct 2010, 15:46

Yes we seemed to have got side-trcaked from my initial question about cost of action overhaul. Thanks for the additional information anyway.

I assumed EKA was talking about trade not wanting to buying the polished wire any longer. When I said it was probably because it was more exspensive, he said no, because it (the coated wire) affects the tone. He assured me that they wear gloves when restringing, and that they get their wire in new, in other words they do not keep wire for long periods. He pointed out though that sometimes technicians will touch strings with bear and sweaty hands after restringing while working to the front of the piano which could cause rusting.

I may have to follow this issue up with the restorer too, who said they had used 'best quality EKA wire', when I have proof that they used the polished ones instead of the coated ones as expected, and certainly not Roslau wire.

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Re: Cost of action overhaul

Post by Barrie Heaton » 14 Oct 2010, 20:02

As half the work was subcontracted out deduct that price and you have a ball park amount to work from, for the action work. However, if you are having problems with the strings that is not good if you live by the sea then that can make strings go quicker, but not that quick. A string blanket can help you would have to get one form the USA.

Was the person a member of the PTA or ABPT as they have insurance for this and should help you resolve it The IMIT sadly has not but they do have a complaints dep.

As Colin as pointed out you need to get an independent report on all the work done, as it may be a complete redo. so it may end up at Trading Standards

Also, I would consider a complete new action rather than fixing the tied action

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Re: Cost of action overhaul

Post by allegrotj » 14 Oct 2010, 20:31

Thanks Barrie - your response with information and suggestions are most helpful. I will definintely follow those up. I did not know about a string blanket, and will look into it.

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Re: Cost of action overhaul

Post by Bob Pierce » 17 Oct 2010, 10:58

EKA are very keen to use "pure tone" wire which they purchase from Holland. It is not very good at all and rust at the hint of damp.
Barney Unwin in Suffolk makes the best strings in the country without a doubt!
The re-polishing price is fair.
The action work sounds like a cop out. With a common piano like this most technicians would change the hammers and shanks. Sometimes poorly trained technicians use the "keeping the original" line to cover up the fact they cannot do the job.
I would ask where he trained and if he is a member of the PTA & IMIT. Self taught would answer many questions!
I agree with Barrie, replace the action. This would be a vast improvement.

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Re: Cost of action overhaul

Post by vernon » 17 Oct 2010, 17:13

steady on!
Membership of PTA or IMIT doesn't unfortunately guarantee competence and vice versa.
Non membership also does not mean self taught.
Not re-placing original parts is not neccessarily a cop-out but good practice if the parts in good condition.
An acquaintance of mine had a beautiful old Bechstein u/r and he re-strung it, new hammers etc when it was in excellent condition. He said he thought it would be good practice.
A lot of modern "overhauls" are criminal
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Re: Cost of action overhaul

Post by Barrie Heaton » 17 Oct 2010, 18:13

vernon wrote:steady on!
Membership of PTA or IMIT doesn't unfortunately guarantee competence and vice versa.
No sadly that is true for all orgs ABPT, PTA and IMIT However, if the person is a member the plaintive can seek address with the governing council Now as to the ABPT all their members are covered if they make a balls of it The PTA members have public liability insurance not sure if members can use that to cover any cockups

if a tuner / tec did bad work and is a member or any of the above you have one place to go to help you before its end up in court and hopefully they can resolve it for you.



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Re: Cost of action overhaul

Post by hammer man » 19 Oct 2010, 16:53

The replacement parts idea is better value for money. Bechsteins are well known for having weak action parts. The best option for both piano and client is replacement.
As a member of both IMIT and PTA i know that there are some members that i would not trust to tune a radio.

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