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Anyone have success cleaning bass strings? #1824112
01/13/12 02:41 PM
01/13/12 02:41 PM
Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 5
Hawk Point
pianoforte01 Offline OP
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pianoforte01  Offline OP
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Posts: 5
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Has anyone had success cleaning bass strings on grand pianos to restore sound? I'm working on a grand with extremely tubby sounding bass strings and was wondering if it's worth my time to try to clean them first before jumping in and ordering custom replacements. The whole piano is extremely dirty - is it probable that there is so much dirt in the bass strings that it's deadened the tone?

If you have had success cleaning bass strings, what method have you used?

Shannon D.
Technician in Missouri

Last edited by pianoforte01; 01/13/12 02:45 PM.
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Re: Anyone have success cleaning bass strings? [Re: pianoforte01] #1824121
01/13/12 02:52 PM
01/13/12 02:52 PM
Joined: Nov 2008
Posts: 5,863
Bradford County, PA
UnrightTooner Offline
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Bradford County, PA
I have had a great deal of success in restoring some tone by slacking off each note an octave, banging on it a dozen times and bringing it back up to pitch. It will settle back down in pitch, so plan on retuning the bass a couple weeks later. They don't sound new, but they do sound better, and it seems to last.


Jeff Deutschle
Part-Time Tuner
Who taught the first chicken how to peck?
Re: Anyone have success cleaning bass strings? [Re: pianoforte01] #1824222
01/13/12 05:47 PM
01/13/12 05:47 PM
Joined: May 2003
Posts: 1,806
Tennessee
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Ed Foote Offline
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Posts: 1,806
Tennessee
Greetings,
They may be dead for good, but if you want to try... Loosen them up, take them off the hitch pin, roll into a coil about 24 inches in diameter, strike them sharply with a stick, and put them back on with an extra twist in the direction of the coil. Don't use any polish or liquid of any kind, or they will be goners.
It may be good to look at the tuning pins, making sure that you can tap them down if need be, after turning the pins enough to free the strings.

Re: Anyone have success cleaning bass strings? [Re: pianoforte01] #1824233
01/13/12 06:08 PM
01/13/12 06:08 PM
Joined: Mar 2008
Posts: 4,263
Vancouver B. C. Canada
Silverwood Pianos Offline
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Vancouver B. C. Canada
There will be payment required for removal and replacement along with some of the other logistics; to spend time removing and then replacing old strings makes little sense to me.

I have heard of someone who boiled them in alcohol of some sort but I would never attempt this myself.

The money to be made is not in the new replacements. All technicians are a middle man re-seller.


Dan Silverwood
www.silverwoodpianos.com
http://silverwoodpianos.blogspot.com/
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"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."
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Re: Anyone have success cleaning bass strings? [Re: pianoforte01] #1824607
01/14/12 09:51 AM
01/14/12 09:51 AM
Joined: Jul 2009
Posts: 543
Farmington, MO
Ryan Hassell Offline
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Ryan Hassell  Offline
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Posts: 543
Farmington, MO
I've read in the Reblitz book about removing the string from the hitch pin and coiling like Ed was talking about, but I've always wondered if using an air compressor very close to the strings might blow out some dirt and corrosion? Any thoughts?


Ryan G. Hassell
Hassell's Piano Tuning
Farmington, MO
www.hassellspianotuning.com
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hassells-Piano-Tuning/163155880804
ryanhassell@hotmail.com
Re: Anyone have success cleaning bass strings? [Re: pianoforte01] #1824636
01/14/12 10:47 AM
01/14/12 10:47 AM
Joined: Jul 2009
Posts: 2,265
Pretoria, South Africa
Mark R. Offline
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Pretoria, South Africa
I've used the method that Reblitz describes in his book, not striking the coils with a stick like Ed does, but actually running the coil up and down the string a few times. I've only tried this on a few strings, but with good success in each case. The upper partials and their sustain were mostly restored.


Autodidact interested in piano technology.
LinkedIn profile
1922 49" Zimmermann, project piano.
1970 44" Ibach, daily music maker.
Re: Anyone have success cleaning bass strings? [Re: Mark R.] #1824773
01/14/12 02:23 PM
01/14/12 02:23 PM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 1,417
Richfield Springs, New York
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Eric Gloo Offline
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Richfield Springs, New York
A dealer (now deceased) I used to do some work for used the method of running the coil up and down the string, after unhitching from the hitch pin. Impressive results.


Eric Gloo
Piano Technician
Certified Dampp-Chaser Installer
Richfield Springs, New York
Re: Anyone have success cleaning bass strings? [Re: pianoforte01] #1824870
01/14/12 04:23 PM
01/14/12 04:23 PM
Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 3,189
Olympia, WA
rysowers Offline
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rysowers  Offline
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Olympia, WA
I have used the Reblitz method on a number of pianos. Sometimes the strings can sound almost like new: On one piano a string broke and I had to replace one - the client couldn't tell the new strings from the old. Other times it doesn't work it all. You have try one or two and see how it works.


Ryan Sowers,
Pianova Piano Service
Olympia, WA
www.pianova.net
Re: Anyone have success cleaning bass strings? [Re: pianoforte01] #1825311
01/15/12 01:59 PM
01/15/12 01:59 PM
Joined: Apr 2008
Posts: 2,481
Niagara Region, On. Canada
Emmery Offline
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Emmery  Offline
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Posts: 2,481
Niagara Region, On. Canada
I've used an air compressor for this at 80 psi and it works pretty good for loose dust and dirt on top of the strings. You absolutely need an in line moisture filter on the hose (preferably one on the tank output also) just like the folks who spray auto paint. If you don't the steel strings will rust afterwards. Don't go as close to the string near the end of the coil since the air can be strong enough to separate the coils if they are not swaged or staked well. The Reblitz method is much slower and labour intensive, but probably more thorough on really dirty strings.


Piano Technician
George Brown College /85
Niagara Region
Re: Anyone have success cleaning bass strings? [Re: Emmery] #1825388
01/15/12 04:12 PM
01/15/12 04:12 PM
Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 534
Oregon Coast
T
TunerJeff Offline
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TunerJeff  Offline
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Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 534
Oregon Coast
I will second (or 3rd or 4th) the posts above.

I try simply loosening the wire to low tension, the coil loose and the wire very slack, and then whack it several times with the key/hammer. Then I'll whack the wire as I pull it back to pitch. Then I'll slack the wire again, slightly, and carefully pull it back to pitch, and re-set the coil as I do. The process works on quite a few of the old tubby strings. If there is an audible buzz, I'll pull it off the hitch, and make sure to put a fresh twist in the wire, too.

If that doesn't handle it, I follow the suggestions above, and loosen the wire off the hitch, roll a coil into it, and run that coil up and down the wire once or twice. Absolutely put a twist or two into the wire, in the direction of the windings, as Ed f. advised.

I've never heard of anyone having success in using polishs, solvents, or cleaners of any kind...and a lot of horror stories of strings killed by liquids or cleaners that were tried. I'd avoid them like the plague. Anything from alcohol to acetone to whatever has been tried by somebody somewhere...and I ain't never heard of a successful treatment.

Ever!
Yours,


Jeffrey T. Hickey, RPT
Oregon Coast Piano Services
TunerJeff440@aol.com
Re: Anyone have success cleaning bass strings? [Re: pianoforte01] #1825401
01/15/12 04:36 PM
01/15/12 04:36 PM
Joined: Jul 2010
Posts: 440
new york city
James Carney Offline
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James Carney  Offline
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Posts: 440
new york city
Agree with everyone above.

Jeff D., I have tried your suggested method a few times of just dropping the pitch an octave or so and applying some serious hammer force to the string - and it has worked well in some cases. I think it is perhaps less risky and traumatic to the strings, and a good choice when time is of the essence. Thanks for sharing that...However, I do think that as others have mentioned, removing the string from the hitch pin, forming a large coil and rolling the coil up and down the length, then giving a twist before replacing on the hitch will usually create better results. But sometimes even that might not do much if anything. In other cases I've been astonished at how good the strings sound after doing this.

Sometimes the copper wrap winding is going in the opposite direction than the winding of the core wire. I've been advised by several well-known techs to always twist in the direction of the copper winding should that be the case. Anyone disagree with that?


Keyboardist & Composer, Piano Technician
www.jamescarney.net
http://jamescarneypianotuning.wordpress.com/
Re: Anyone have success cleaning bass strings? [Re: James Carney] #1825641
01/15/12 11:17 PM
01/15/12 11:17 PM
Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 534
Oregon Coast
T
TunerJeff Offline
500 Post Club Member
TunerJeff  Offline
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T

Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 534
Oregon Coast
Twist in the direction of the winding. Agreed.

Take a look at the direction of the last coil of the windings, and use that tail to point you in the right direction to twist. The point of a twist in the string is to help the windings stay tight. Wrapping in the other direction may loosen them!

I've been a little surprised that the tails of some recent bass strings from a well-known manufacturer are running the opposite direction. What's up with that? Not reasonable. And I promise you that it didn't used to be that way, too!

Qualifying for the senior menu,
I am,
aging in a modern world,
Jefffffffffff


Jeffrey T. Hickey, RPT
Oregon Coast Piano Services
TunerJeff440@aol.com
Re: Anyone have success cleaning bass strings? [Re: pianoforte01] #1825693
01/16/12 01:38 AM
01/16/12 01:38 AM
Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 3,189
Olympia, WA
rysowers Offline
3000 Post Club Member
rysowers  Offline
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Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 3,189
Olympia, WA
Then there is the occasional set of bass strings that start with the wrap going in one direction on the bichords, and than it switches direction on the monochords!

I also agree with the "take tension way down, whack the note a bunch, bring it back up" technique. Sometimes it is absolutely amazing how much better the sound can be. Every once in a while I go ahead and do the whole section in the course of a two-hour appointment. The client will be amazed and think you're a genius. So it is worth trying. But alas, sometimes it just doesn't work.


Ryan Sowers,
Pianova Piano Service
Olympia, WA
www.pianova.net
Re: Anyone have success cleaning bass strings? [Re: rysowers] #1825764
01/16/12 06:54 AM
01/16/12 06:54 AM
Joined: Jul 2009
Posts: 2,265
Pretoria, South Africa
Mark R. Offline
2000 Post Club Member
Mark R.  Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Joined: Jul 2009
Posts: 2,265
Pretoria, South Africa
Originally Posted by rysowers
Then there is the occasional set of bass strings that start with the wrap going in one direction on the bichords, and than it switches direction on the monochords!


Yes, my old Seiler (probably re-strung sometime during the 60s) was like that:

[Linked Image]

I've always wondered about that.


Autodidact interested in piano technology.
LinkedIn profile
1922 49" Zimmermann, project piano.
1970 44" Ibach, daily music maker.
Re: Anyone have success cleaning bass strings? [Re: pianoforte01] #1826214
01/17/12 12:22 AM
01/17/12 12:22 AM
Joined: Sep 2006
Posts: 3,919
Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
Supply Offline
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Supply  Offline
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Posts: 3,919
Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
If my memory serves me (it has been more than a few years since I wound bass strings), on double wound strings, the inner and outer wraps are wound in opposing directions. This could be a reason why double wound strings have the (outside) wrap going the other way than the single wound strings.

It could also explain why Mark's Seiler's strings are wound as they are.


Re: Anyone have success cleaning bass strings? [Re: Supply] #1826325
01/17/12 06:54 AM
01/17/12 06:54 AM
Joined: Aug 2008
Posts: 515
Windsor,Nova Scotia Canada
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wayne walker Offline
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Joined: Aug 2008
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Windsor,Nova Scotia Canada
Originally Posted by Supply
If my memory serves me (it has been more than a few years since I wound bass strings), on double wound strings, the inner and outer wraps are wound in opposing directions. This could be a reason why double wound strings have the (outside) wrap going the other way than the single wound strings.

It could also explain why Mark's Seiler's strings are wound as they are.



the company may have a different machine for winding double wound string and the direction may be different. I had wound bass strings for the old D.M.Best when they were in Halifax NS. We would start the under wrap at the opposite end and wind in the opposite direction. We had one machine for winding strings. A larger company may have more than one machine.


Wayne Walker
Walker's Piano Service
http://www.walkerpiano.ca/
Re: Anyone have success cleaning bass strings? [Re: pianoforte01] #1838928
02/05/12 11:37 AM
02/05/12 11:37 AM
Joined: Feb 2012
Posts: 138
IL
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Kyle_G Offline
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What I was taught was to un hitch the string and gently go up and down the windings and flex the string, then give the string three twist in the direction of the coil and rehitch it. This will make most strings sound almost new. Did this to a 1908 Ebersole Upright player. Went from tubby bass to verry loud sustaining bass. Also to clean the strings you can use 3M-scotch-brite pads just rub the strings to a like new shine.(dont get too aggresive or you might mess up the windings).


Currently enlisted in the USN
Re: Anyone have success cleaning bass strings? [Re: pianoforte01] #2744008
06/12/18 10:33 PM
06/12/18 10:33 PM
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New York
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Boilermaker Offline
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New York
I have been toying with pianos for several years on an amateur basis. Mostly I rebuild a few old players as a hobby. I've never done it commercially. However, years ago when I took an interest in players an old technician in our area named Arthur Pierce taught me how to clean them and he used this method all the time. I assure you it will get results.
First turn down the string so it can be taken off the hitch pin.
Second, put a coil in it about 4-5" in diameter.
Third, take a tool like a long handle large round shank screwdriver, put it in the loop you made, and run the loop up and down that string several times. Make sure to get the ends as well as you can.
Forth, take a light brush (like a tooth brush) and brush the string.
Fifth, blow the string off with compressed air held close to the string and guiding the air around the string. Move down the string twice, aiming the air stream at a different 'side' of the string.
Sixth, Art would burnish the bare end of the string with 800 grit emery paper just a bit to get the corrosion off so the string tuned smoothly.
Seventh, reinstall the string after twisting the loop end around.
Art did this all the time when needed and never had the air raise the winding. He had a large air dryer on this air line too, so make sure you do the same.
The string always sounded beautiful when he got done.
I might be an amateur piano hacker / hobbyist, but I paid attention to him and learned. One of his restored orchestrians reside in the Smithsonian Institute BTW. He was a marvel of workmanship and a dear friend and taught me so much. Like I said, I don't do it for anyone except maybe the occasional family member or friend but I've done a few to know what works.
One other point; if the bass string sound thuddy or dumpy, check the bottom bridge for cracks at the bridge pins. This will cause it too. I repaired one piano simply by installing two 1/8" brass rods in place of the pins and it totally brought the bass back. You'd never know the bridge was cracked afterwards. Quick, easy, cheap and my sister (owner) didn't care. Yeah, I know it's not orthodox, but it did the trick and the piano sounded super. Way cheaper than a new $800 bridge and my sister could afford it.
I hope it helps a fellow amateur tech. I'm doing one now that was given to me and it's turning out great. The bass sounds like it's got new strings.
BTW, has anyone ever heard of a "Chas. S. Norris" piano? I can't find a thing on it and neither can two other pros I checked with. Built in Boston. It has a Standard player action in it. John Tuttle thought it might be a Holland Piano Company piano.


Dabbler in the fine art of piano repair for fun and frolic
Re: Anyone have success cleaning bass strings? [Re: pianoforte01] #2744436
06/14/18 03:10 PM
06/14/18 03:10 PM
Joined: Jan 2013
Posts: 310
Austin, Texas USA
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Austin, Texas USA
Originally Posted by pianoforte01
Has anyone had success cleaning bass strings on grand pianos to restore sound? I'm working on a grand with extremely tubby sounding bass strings and was wondering if it's worth my time to try to clean them first before jumping in and ordering custom replacements. The whole piano is extremely dirty - is it probable that there is so much dirt in the bass strings that it's deadened the tone?

If you have had success cleaning bass strings, what method have you used?

Shannon D
Technician in Missouri
On one of my pianos I had spectacular success with twisting about 2 1/2 - 3 turns tighter. A year later what sounded like nylon clothesline still sounds almost like new strings!


Don, playing the blues in Austin, Texas on a 48" family heirloom Steinway upright, 100 year old 54" Weber upright, unknown make turn of the century 54" upright -- says "Whittier NY" on the plate, Starr, ca. 100 years old full size upright.

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