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#1298903 - 11/03/09 02:21 PM I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution?  
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Kars Offline
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Hi all,

Ok, I'm stupid. I know. I shouldn't have done it, but I did. And I failed. Please help me.

I have an old grand from the 50's - 70's (don't know) and wanted to clean the bass strings. I did it with some sponge thing and some anti-dust solution spray.

Now the bass strings sound very dull.

What is the reason? And how can I possibly restore the sound?

Any feedback really appreciated.

Thanks
Kars

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#1298911 - 11/03/09 02:29 PM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: Kars]  
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BDB Offline
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Liquids kill bass strings. It breaks the bond between the core and the winding. The only permanent solution is to replace them.


Semipro Tech
#1298931 - 11/03/09 03:09 PM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: BDB]  
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Kars Offline
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Thanks. Any other suggestions?

If replacing them, do you have any indication about the costs?

Kars

#1298942 - 11/03/09 03:19 PM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: BDB]  
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Bill Bremmer RPT Offline
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BDB is right, sorry to say. There is a way to clean and polish wound strings that is relatively quick and will leave them looking and usually sounding much better but not if they have been ruined by a liquid first. Now, there is nothing you can do which will restore their sound. Replacement will cost at least several hundred dollars and there will be a painfully long period of instability to follow.

Since the damage has been done, I would suggest you find a technician who can do this work along with other reconditioning or rebuilding it may need. It might well need a new set of hammers and dampers, for example. You'll be happy with it if you get it all fixed up and sounding like new again. While you could go ahead and have the entire piano restrung, plain wire can be polished for appearance sake too. I know BDB advocates new strings all around and this wouldn't be a bad idea but there are other considerations such as how well the pinblock would take repinning. It isn't that old of a piano, so take the advice of an experienced technician as to what really needs to be done and what does not.

You may want to get a few different opinions. There are excellent rebuilders who only want to do "all or nothing at all" and others who are willing to only do what will bring the piano back to a nice and satisfactory state. It all depends on where you live and who works in the area. Be sure to ask about the kind of work the technician has done in the past and what that technician's usual line of work is. Good luck.


Bill Bremmer RPT
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#1298943 - 11/03/09 03:19 PM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: Kars]  
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BDB Offline
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Other suggestions: Do not do this again. Leave it to the professionals. If this piano is as old as you say, it might be time to restring it entirely anyway.

Perhaps $1000 just for the bass strings, $2500 for the full restringing.


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#1298953 - 11/03/09 03:37 PM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: BDB]  
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Hi Kars,

I noticed that you stated that you used "anti-dust solution spray". Does the spray contain silicone?

Whatever you are going to do, you should probably do it sooner rather than later. My concern is contamination of the bass bridge (or bass bridge cap) and the possibility of this liquid migrating to the pinblock.


Last edited by daniokeeper; 11/03/09 03:41 PM.

Joe Gumbosky
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#1298966 - 11/03/09 03:51 PM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: daniokeeper]  
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I was wondering if BDB or anyone can elaborate on what type of bond is broken by the liquid. It is really only the tension of the winding and possibly a chemical bond layer formed from dissimilar metals reacting with each other that "bonds" the windings. Is it possible to salvage this by using a cleaner that leaves no residue, putting rags underneath and blowing out the windings with pressurized air?


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#1298994 - 11/03/09 04:51 PM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: daniokeeper]  
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Kars Offline
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Hi,

No I don't think so. I thought there might be fat on the strings, so I used some spray that you use in the kitchen to clean the things there (I know, its stupid...)


#1299002 - 11/03/09 05:07 PM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: Kars]  
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Did you apply to the strings with a brush or cloth, or spray it on the strings? This is important so that we will know if this is a 'local' issue (just the strings), or if there are other things which may have gotten contaminated.

What's done is done... No sense beating yourself up. smile

Also, what kind of piano is it?
Steinway, Kimball, etc?
Also, how big?

Thanks!
-joe




Joe Gumbosky
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#1299013 - 11/03/09 05:23 PM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: daniokeeper]  
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Kars Offline
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Hi Joe,

Appreciate your help.

It's an unknown brand from Romenia: Doina. Size: 230 cm

I sprayed the stuff on a sponge (a sponge with one such rough side, dont know how its called in english. You use it to brush strong dirt off). I certainly did not spray it on the strings directly, so no other parts should have been contaminated, IMO.

Regards,
Kars

#1299096 - 11/03/09 08:04 PM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: Kars]  
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"3-M" pad is the rough side of the sponge.

You're quite right about airborne oils (like from cooking or air pollution) being bad for the strings--- and the action. I'm sorry that this solution gone the wrong way for you. It's easy to see your heart is in the right place and that you tried to do a good thing. Preventing the problem is the only way, and a lot of people with pianos don't know this.

Your piano tech will be able to give you the best advice after seeing the problem in person.


Clef

#1299112 - 11/03/09 08:39 PM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: Emmery]  
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Originally Posted by Emmery
I was wondering if BDB or anyone can elaborate on what type of bond is broken by the liquid. It is really only the tension of the winding and possibly a chemical bond layer formed from dissimilar metals reacting with each other that "bonds" the windings. Is it possible to salvage this by using a cleaner that leaves no residue, putting rags underneath and blowing out the windings with pressurized air?


I too would like to know what really happens when bass strings go dead. My Walter piano (built in 1996) after about 10-11 years developed dead bass strings for no apparent reason. It started with the lower ones and seemed to spread like a disease until nearly all of them were tubby. I never sprayed anything or did any stupid thing to them. Here, I sound like a typical piano owner rather than technician, I know. I didn't even try any remedies, I just restrung it. What a job to have to do for free! It sounds great now, though but the number of times I had to retune the bass was about a dozen and at first, they didn't hold but for a few days. Imagine having to pay for all of that!


Bill Bremmer RPT
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#1299120 - 11/03/09 08:52 PM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: Jeff Clef]  
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Originally Posted by Jeff Clef


You're quite right about airborne oils (like from cooking or air pollution) being bad for the strings


This is a common problem with restaurant pianos. I have an old CD by Dick Hymen, a great Jazz pianist playing at Chung's Chinese restaurant. Imagine the daily plume of kitchen grease that would contaminate the wound strings! The music is great but the bass strings of the piano are quite tubby. While I can imagine a solution for this, "washing" the strings with acetone and twisting them, I wouldn't even offer to try it. Once dead, bass strings cannot be revived.

One warning to all who may be trying to clean a piano: Murphy's Oil Soap kills bass strings dead!


Bill Bremmer RPT
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#1299132 - 11/03/09 09:16 PM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: Kars]  
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Originally Posted by Kars
Hi Joe,

Appreciate your help.

It's an unknown brand from Romenia: Doina. Size: 230 cm

I sprayed the stuff on a sponge (a sponge with one such rough side, dont know how its called in english. You use it to brush strong dirt off). I certainly did not spray it on the strings directly, so no other parts should have been contaminated, IMO.

Regards,
Kars


Hi Kars,

I'm sorry... I do not know this piano. But at that size, it certainly seems like it could justify the expense of major work. Perhaps someone here is familiar with Doina pianos and could advise you as to their value and quality.

It does sound as though you are going to want to at least restring the bass, as was suggested. On the plus side, you could have a better piano than what you had before spraying the strings.

I agree that this is something that needs to be viewed in person by a tuner/technician to determine the damage and any other (unrelated) problems that may not be obvious.

I'm sorry I cannot be of more help.

-Joe








Last edited by daniokeeper; 11/03/09 09:18 PM.

Joe Gumbosky
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#1299166 - 11/03/09 10:38 PM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: daniokeeper]  
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I would imagine that liquids on bass strings acts like oil would on a bolt and nut, getting between where metal meets metal and reducing the friction bond between them.


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#1299190 - 11/03/09 11:51 PM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: BDB]  
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BDB's pricing is about right, around 1K for a new set of strings...plus tunings...usually several rough and a couple fine...FWIW...

Also, another FWIW. I personally hate replacing a set of bass strings alone...its NEVER all that is wrong with the piano...years ago, another technician in the area tried to put a new set of bass strings onto the old pins by "winding" the coils and slipping them down onto the old pin. Total disaster! (agraffes don't easily permit this, he learned) The coils were "untidy", to say the least!!!! My customer wondered why it looked so bad...and wouldn't stay in tune. The strings were new enough that I was able to pry off the badly wound coils, carefully straighten the strings, and wind them on NEW tuning pins, and punch them in again (do it yourselfers, don't do this without bracing the block/plate from underneath...if you don't know why, don't do it at all!!)with new tuning pins. Now it looks perfect (well, mostly...but perfect for a correcting job anyway) and stays in tune...

So, get a professional to do this, if you do. You could TRY, once you commit to doing the work anyway, having him/her lower tension, pry the strings off the bass bridge, and using a buffing wheel or winding them up and down, to see if it improves tone...but I doubt it will....I say this because its my guess that you LEFT some residue, and that's what deadened the sound. If you get the tech to hyper flex the strings, it could help...and since its somebody else doing the job, please ask him/her to satisfy our curiosity, say what??

New strings....that's the fix.

RPD


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#1299191 - 11/03/09 11:53 PM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: BDB]  
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This is a very interesting subject. We can speculate until somebody presents some proven theory of why the bass string becomes dead with the application of some liquids, and according to previous posts there is no CPR for it.
Let's start defining dead. I understand by dead that the string losses amplitude on the higher overtones. Please correct ime if the definition of dead is otherwise.
If the string is modeled as a mass, spring, and damper system we can imagine that the first two parameters are not varied with the application of liquid. Mass added by liquid is negligible, and the spring rate is mostly given by the core and therefore not modified with the liquid. The third parameter, the damping, somehow increases and it is high enough to be noticeable on the higher overtones. Now, which one is the mechanism that makes the damping increase? I would think that the liquid adheres to two adjacent surfaces of the string that are close enough that when the string vibrates and the distance between the surfaces is shorter these layers get in contact, deform and absorb energy. The liquid surface layer forms a good bond with the base metal and that may be the reason why it can not be cleaned. Again, all this is speculation.
Regards
Krikorik

#1299206 - 11/04/09 12:27 AM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: krikorik]  
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The bond of copper wrap on steel core piano wire is just the sweadging at both ends of copper mashed onto a flatened core wire surface plus the pressure of the length of copper on the core wire. Copper is soft so it molds to the steel.
They put the core wire in a lathe, pull the copper taut and spin and wind. Ari Issac still feeds the copper by hand.
Did you try adding a twist to the wire in the direction of the winding?


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#1299208 - 11/04/09 12:35 AM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: krikorik]  
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Yes, it is a good explanation. Dampening!

I don't believe liquids can break the bond between core and winding. And for hat I know if a winding gets loose, the string will buzz rather than being dead.

I have cleaned bass strings with a power drill and a brass carding tool with some limited success.

Last edited by Gadzar; 11/04/09 12:38 AM.

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#1299211 - 11/04/09 12:46 AM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: Gene Nelson]  
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Originally Posted by Gene Nelson

Did you try adding a twist to the wire in the direction of the winding?


+1 I'm surprised no one has recommended this earlier since I had heard this was a standard treatment.

I'm also curious if heating (with industrial heat gun) the string would help. Clearly the liquid has had time to evaporate already, but if you were to heat the wire the residue might dissipate. This would obviously be tricky business so as not to damage anything (maybe lower tension and put a heat shield between the strings and the soundboard? Sounds risky).

Last edited by charleslang; 11/04/09 12:47 AM.

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#1299250 - 11/04/09 03:18 AM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: charleslang]  
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Twisting the bass strings is only temporary.

One cannot know exactly what happens when bass strings get wet. Sometimes only a portion gets wet, not at the ends, and the results are unpredictable. Sometimes the strings go dead, sometimes not. There is more to winding a bass string than just swaging the ends.


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#1299329 - 11/04/09 10:29 AM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: BDB]  
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Twisting a bass string that has a rattle often takes out the rattle but not always. Twisting a dead one only improves it slightly and probably not permanently. I have heard of such things as taking the strings off and washing them in gasoline but if you go to that much trouble, you would be better off replacing them. I have never done such a thing but I can hardly imagine it would bring life back to a dead string.

I only recommend polishing and twisting (1 turn) bass strings that still sound fairly good on a cheap, old piano. It only takes about an hour and will improve the sound on a piano that is otherwise not worth restringing. That is where that kind of procedure has some value. It removes built up corrosion and dust and therefore improves the sound. If the strings are very tubby or rattly, the improvement would be marginal at best so it would be a better decision to replace them.

In the case of my own piano, I did not want to do a lot of work that would ultimately not yield the results I was looking for so I bought a new set of wound strings for it and put them on. That was enough work. It took an entire day but there are probably people who could do it faster like in a half day or even as little as two hours. But a job done in two hours with sloppy coils is not a job worth paying for. For the job to be worth what you pay, it has to look like it was never done. It has to look like the original factory work or it won't stay in tune and it devalues the piano severely.


Bill Bremmer RPT
Madison WI USA
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#1299331 - 11/04/09 10:32 AM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: Bill Bremmer RPT]  
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Bill:

We have the same model of piano. I had been wondering why you changed your bass strings, what manufacturer you used, and if there was a change from the original design.


Jeff Deutschle
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#1299443 - 11/04/09 02:07 PM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: UnrightTooner]  
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Back in my bold and impetuous youth I cleaned the bass strings on a brand new Steinway L with Tarnex. It worked like a charm and instantly made the discolored bass strings look bright and better than new. It also instantly rendered them dull and toneless. The only "solution" was a new set of bass strings. Ouch!

In the case of the Tarnex I suspect it was some chemical molecular thing with the tightly wound copper.

Last edited by Marty Flinn; 11/04/09 02:09 PM.

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#1299696 - 11/04/09 10:59 PM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: Marty Flinn]  
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I got an engineer friend of mine to model a bass string off of some measurements I gave him and use an FEA (Finite Element Analysis)program called Abacus to see the effects that various liquids have on it while vibrating.

We came to the conclusion that if the gaps and voids on the inside of the string were filled completely with eg. oil, it had little effect. Two reasons, oil has a fraction of the specific density of steel or copper and the voids were incredibly small in volume compared to the same cross section of string and wrap.

It had little effect in dampening other than the overall mass increasing slightly. Bear in mind that the cad rendering was arcs contacting arcs and did not decrease this void area as a real copper wrap would by deforming slightly on the core. Now if small amounts of dirt or dust became clumped and freely bounced around in the internal voids of the wrap, the dampening increased a bit comparatively.

The worse case scenario for dampening that we could create was when a liquid such as oil was placed intermittently across a length of string. The string vibration caused the liquid to flow to the modal areas of the string segments and away from the nodes. This to me, would indicate that upper partials would be greatly reduced in both frequency and amplitude in a random way.

If the segments stop vibrating at their preferred harmonics the whole partial ladder goes out of whack and (I am now hypothesizing), the tone would sound more dead because of a lack of supporting upper harmonics.

FEA is not perfect but can usually show fundamental properties working realistically enough to give ideas for possible solutions. I'm thinking maybe a solution that spreads equally throughout the winding to eliminate random accumulation here and there would work at bringing back the tone somewhat? It would obviously have to be something other than oil. If the string is shot, it might be worth a try as an experiment before replacing with a new one.

Last edited by Emmery; 11/04/09 11:39 PM.

Piano Technician
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#1299703 - 11/04/09 11:23 PM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: Emmery]  
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Emmery, I hate to say this but your one, very long paragraph is virtually unreadable. I am sure you have something valuable to contribute but you might try breaking it up a bit.


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#1299711 - 11/04/09 11:48 PM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: Bill Bremmer RPT]  
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I edited it and put in some spaces for the paragraphically challenged. (Just kidding)
I posted this because I know there are some people who would be inclined to hear a hypothesis out on a limb rather than a blanket dead end statement without an explanation behind it.


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#1299823 - 11/05/09 08:20 AM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: Emmery]  
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I remember a PTG Journal article from 1976 or 1977. A Japanese brand of grand piano (I am pretty sure Kawaii) had a model where a certain wound string would become dead. Investigation discovered that an assembler was using paraffin to keep a screw on a screwdriver. Some of the paraffin would get onto the wound string and later the tone would turn dead. The recommended repair was to remove the string, wash it in kerosene, let it dry, and reinstall it. I guess there is a time and place for every repair.


Jeff Deutschle
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Who taught the first chicken how to peck?
#1299841 - 11/05/09 09:13 AM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: UnrightTooner]  
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Emmery
Do you know if your friend published anything about it? or can he share the modeling he has done? What you described is extremely difficult to model in Abaqus and I'm wondering how he tackled many major obstacles (multiscale, mutiphysics, contact, material properties, etc) for the solution to be a good approximation.
Regards,
Krikorik

#1299863 - 11/05/09 10:11 AM Re: I messed up the strings by cleaning. Any solution? [Re: krikorik]  
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Bill Bremmer RPT Offline
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Bill Bremmer RPT  Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Joined: Aug 2002
Posts: 3,920
Madison, WI USA
Thanks for editing your post, Emmery but I'm afraid I still don't know much more than I did before, that virtually any liquid that gets on a wound string is apt to ruin it. That's why I doubt a proposed remedy that involves yet another liquid.

Jeff, I replaced the wound strings on my piano because over about a 2 year period that started after the piano was out of warranty, they almost all went tubby. The lower ones worse than the upper ones. I do not know what caused it but I didn't try any remedy. I ordered a new set from the manufacturer. They only cost $250 but it also cost me a day's earnings.

In this case, I handled the job as I would have a single replacement since the piano was only 13 years old and was perfectly clean and in perfect order in every other respect. I took one string off, backing the pin out 1 1/2 turns, made a new coil on a dummy pin, put the coil on the old pin, and dressed the coil as I put tension on it. I did that for each string. It was very tedious to say the least but it was the way I had decided was best in this instance. It probably is not what should be done in the case of the subject of this thread.

Just for information, I installed each string with a 1/2 twist on the loop. I initially tuned each string to +20 cents upon installation. By the time I had finished installing all of the strings, they had all (except the very lowest which I had installed last) gone flat by about 20 cents (a 40 cent drop in pitch). At the end of that long job, I tuned all strings again to +10 cents. By the next morning, they were all fairly in tune with the rest of the piano but in a few days they were flat again. Several times, I re-tuned the strings to +10 cents until they finally began to stay in tune for a while. I did that job last February and now they are staying in tune normally as they have been for the last few months.

There is only one possibility I could think of as to why the strings went dead but I still wonder why it took over 10 years to happen. The piano is equipped with a Piano Disc system which I really like and use to record accompaniments for my vocal studies. I hire a pianist to record the accompaniment once and then I can play that accompaniment again as many times and as often as I want for study. It also has a Dampp-Chaser system that I really would not do without. The player system leaves very little room for the humidifier. I am thinking that because the humidifier is so close to the bottom end of the wound strings, that moisture from it slowly ruined the strings. So, when I finished the restringing, I placed some material between the humidifier and the strings to act as a barrier.

Incidentally, I would say that there had been a dealer here (now out of business) who actively discouraged piano owners from having D-C systems installed in their pianos, ESPECIALLY Disklavier or pianos with another brand of electronic player system. They WARNED people that the moisture would DESTROY the electronics but in the 13 years I have owned the piano, that has not happened.

There was a case that I saw where movers had failed to empty the humidifier of a studio piano before moving it. Water from the humidifier spilled on some of the lower wound strings and made them rattle and go tubby at the same time. Twisting them even 2 or 3 turns did not help. I can't see that putting more liquid on them would have either since the only contamination on them was just water. Those strings had to be replaced.

I cannot know really whether moisture from the D-C humidifier was was the cause or not but what I do know is that D-C humidifiers have always had a moisture distribution shield to prevent moisture from flowing in just one direction. Mine has one, of course but I can also imagine that it may have caused a high amount of moisture to be present in the area of the bottom 1/4 of the wound strings. This has made me be careful to install humidifiers in vertical pianos over to the right as far as possible to avoid that situation. If I must install the humidifier directly in front of wound strings, I place a piece of plastic material between the humidifier and the wound strings to direct moisture flow away from them.


Bill Bremmer RPT
Madison WI USA
www.billbremmer.com
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