Tuesday, August 20, 2013

New old piano

We moved and left our old spinet in the prior residence, so we've been without a piano for almost a year now. I found a free piano on craigslist, and some friends helped us move it into our house six days ago. It is a Bremen console and was neglected and unused for twelve years before we received it. We think it's around sixty years old.

First, I took all the wood panels off the front of it so that I could access the dusty areas. I cleaned out the entire interior (including under all the keys) with a vacuum cleaner. Then I roughened up a damper on a string that was buzzing, glued a broken hammer shaft together (a drinking straw made that an easy fix), and started fixing (sanding, inserting and gluing felt, etc.) a couple of keys that were sticking.

After I'd had the piano for a couple of days, I realized that one of the keys was making an audible, annoying click. I researched for hours on the internet to get ideas as to what could be causing it. I ended up removing the action (the main part that holds all the hammers and dampers and thousands of other parts that allow the piano to have the sound and abilities it does) three times and replacing a couple of felt and leather pieces, but nothing worked. It was so frustrating! And besides dealing with this obsession, I started up our normal homeschool schedule last week. Housework suffered quite a bit.

One funny thing about searching for answers to this question was how often Bing's "safe search" settings kept me from viewing search results. It turns out that piano parts have some names that can set off protections: hammer butt felt, catcher buckskin, capstan screw, jack, etc. For each note, there are at least 57 parts that can go wrong.

What seems to be working now to fix the problem notes (more than one key ended up clicking) is alcohol and Vaseline on the hammer butt buckskin for each offender. These small, hard-to-access leather pieces are very old and hard, and the alcohol and petroleum jelly are a cheap way of softening them. So far I've spent three dollars at the dollar store for supplies during this piano restoration project (emery boards, petroleum jelly, and little brushes) and a few dollars on food at Del Taco so that I could take a couple of their drinking straws home without feeling like a sponge; everything else we already had at home (yes, I had piano tuning felt and leather scraps lying around in cupboards).

The project isn't done yet, but the end is in sight. Then we get to find out if the piano can hold a tune. If it can't, then at least I learned a lot about pianos....

Update: Vaseline did NOT do the job for the worst offenders. I think I have a loose catcher shank causing the click on at least one of the notes. It wiggled right out, so I am sanding it now and will reglue it.

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