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#2105038 - 06/19/13 08:09 PM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]  
Joined: Jun 2013
Posts: 103
berninicaco3 Offline
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berninicaco3  Offline
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Joined: Jun 2013
Posts: 103
iowa city, ia
Moved it in successfully!
Everything was a little more than expected. Gas was a little more (towing a trailers), had to buy an additional $25 ratchet strap, $8 for trailer insurance, and $50 was the (very reasonable) fee on the iowa city end-- and bought supper for my friends who helped move it in.
Not complaining, just, it added up so fast. Even towing it myself, but with professional help on one end and semiprofessional help on the other, the move cost $300 to go 100miles. $150 hired labor, $50 gas, $85 trailer/strap/plywood, $15 food to bribe friends' help. Next time I'll feel much more comfortable doing it myself (with just friends) and save the marginal $150, but it was very good for this first time. This was also not the heaviest piano possible, either; which might be part of it. A 9' grand, would be another story...

It also took most of the day-- I drove back much more slowly, just to be on the safe side. Definitely took more than 1/2hr, all told, to load the piano. Etc.
But all that is OK. It's done, and it worked. The only slight insecurities, were when it wobbled coming down the trailer ramp, and when my makeshift ramp going up the porch steps sagged more than I was fully comfortable with. 2 layers of 3/4" ply next time, or 1x1" ribbing underneath to reinforce

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#2105058 - 06/19/13 08:42 PM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]  
Joined: Jun 2013
Posts: 103
berninicaco3 Offline
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berninicaco3  Offline
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Joined: Jun 2013
Posts: 103
iowa city, ia
Now about the piano!

I found one John Bixler through PTG, and he was the one who lent me the moving board to take with me, and very kindly helped direct me and my friends in our assembly back home.
He also helped look over it to give an initial prognosis.

No way was the piano in tune, but he said that, remarkably, the piano was in pitch, using an A 440 tuning fork he brought with him. The gist of it was that it wasn't actually at all flat. For something that hadn't been tuned in actual decades, that is a very good start. I'm not sure how it could be not flat, but at once also not in tune either...I'll want to learn more music theory and maybe then I'll understand what that means precisely.

It had maintained pitch, and looking underneath with a flashlight, no checks or splits in the pinblock. I realize that doesn't cover cross section, but that's still a good mark in its favor.

No check marks on any of the bridges.

No splits in soundboard (not that would have been the worst problem-- pinboard or bridges would have been worse).

Hammers look OK, still serviceable. None broken or misaligned laterally. Some hammers rest at different heights, one fails to come down.

Action is sticky (see above). Some adjustments will have to be made.

Keys look great, and are real ivory. Case is mahogany, not walnut.
Serial number is 417355. I found that 416xxx is 1936 and 420xxx is 1937, so 417 is 1936.5 ...? Would be interested in confirming the manufacture date. It is Kimball Chicago if that means anything (nothing I'm sure).

Case is in good shape-- two spots need refinishing. Someone was clearly using part of the piano as a coaster for their drinks. Almost certainly is french polish?

Only a handful of treble strings broke, mostly all the way at the top. Mostly, they look OK.

The entire bass section needs to be restrung, however. 1/3 are snapped (clipped by someone?), the other 2/3 are rusty enough for concern. For whatever reason, while every pin has surface rust, and where the plate's paint peeled there are rust spots, it's really just the bass section that is very rusty. Maybe the bass section was near a drafty window. Iowa humidity got to it-- and no, it was definitely not a flood piano. Just the steel pins and strings show rust, no wood shows warping, discoloring, or loss of finish (beyond the section to the right of the music stand that was used as a coaster).

Really, I'm very pleased. I can't find the video... but there was a youtube review of the free craigslist pianos NOT to accept. And as I found out, free is still $300 to move into your home. But anyway, he had a 191x upright that had everything wrong with it. Bridges had fissures everywhere, soundboard split, pins not holding tension, 2 keys were broken off, and all the hammers needed replacing-- they were so worn, and so unevenly worn, that they would only hit 1 out of 3 strings (not level).

So that was what I was imagining and preparing for.
Some adjustments to the action, and, *only* a new set of bass strings, exceeds my expectations for what it might have required.
Oh! and it has a true sostenuto pedal.

Now, the tone is, tinny...? What you might expect being played in the background of a midwestern parlor, maybe with the static-y effect of an old film. 'bright,' 'brilliant,' 'powerful,' don't apply. Something better suited to the can-can than rachmaninoff.
Now, it is a free piano off craigslist! I'm not talking about what I expected. I expected very little-- but just because I expected little doesn't mean, if possible, that I shouldn't strive for more.
New strings where needed, a good cleaning, and a couple tunings would be a good first start of course. But is this just a kimball sounding like a kimball, or are there things I can do, maybe in the action or hammer treatment, to improve tone, to get more of a classical sound?


Last edited by berninicaco3; 06/19/13 08:45 PM.
#2105174 - 06/20/13 02:02 AM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]  
Joined: May 2013
Posts: 375
Gary Fowler Offline
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Gary Fowler  Offline
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Joined: May 2013
Posts: 375
I wouldn't touch a Kimball rebuild with a ten foot pole. But if this is perhaps the paino of your dreams, than go for it!. You are underestimating the costs though. The bass strings alone are $400. the pinblock is another $400. You really only want to rebuild a QUALITY piano. But I have to say, if you are going to rebuild a Kimball, a 6'6" is a decent size. I just hope you bother taking downbearing measurements, and also make sure the soundbaord has good crown. You don't want to waste time and money on a piano with limited potential

Making the world a better sounding place, one piano at a time...
#2105201 - 06/20/13 04:03 AM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]  
Joined: Jun 2013
Posts: 103
berninicaco3 Offline
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berninicaco3  Offline
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Joined: Jun 2013
Posts: 103
iowa city, ia
No, I don't imagine it would be worth a professional rebuilder's time.
But the other face of it is, I am not a professional rebuilder-- should I be touching any piano that would be worthy of a professional rebuild?
No more than Celia Gimenez should have started her icon restoration career by touching up (botching up) a fine and respected fresco.

This is the right piano for me to begin on.
It can be playable if I succeed,
and it can be written off if I don't.

I wouldn't say it's the piano of my dreams.
But for the pittance of $1000, could you find anything better for me? Likely not; I've been looking for a while actually. If not this, I'd spend $1000 on an electronic keyboard.

Actually, it does not need a pin block! Which was very happy news.
I've been advised --and it make so much sense-- not to go a full rebuild route on this one. Especially, as there's no real reason to justify a rebuild. The pinblock, bridges, and soundboard are in great shape.
Restring the bass, set the action, tune it a couple times until it's stable, and enjoy.
The NEXT project can be one more step involved
and the next one after that could be a total overhaul.
Bite off what I can chew.

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