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finishing unseen wood parts of the action #2741637
06/02/18 07:23 PM
06/02/18 07:23 PM
Joined: Apr 2018
Posts: 89
Washington DC area
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Ritz Offline OP
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So I've been reading a few books (mostly Mario Igrec's) and have been looking online and haven't found an answer to this question (maybe I'm just not looking in the right places). Why are the many wooden pieces of the piano action not finished? Is there just no perceived benefit to doing it? Is it an effort to minimize the weight of every last bit of the action?

Aside from the aesthetics, one would think that sealing those parts would help with the seasonal swelling due to humidity changes, no?

Just curious.

Best,


1938 Chickering Baby Grand
Trying to learn about these fascinating instruments
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Re: finishing unseen wood parts of the action [Re: Ritz] #2741656
06/02/18 09:54 PM
06/02/18 09:54 PM
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Tennessee
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Ed Foote Offline
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Greetings,
The way the parts are manufactured would make finishing a real expense. I know of no way to finish over a felt bushing without ruining it, and all leather and felt pads must remain finish free to work, so all the finishing would have to be done by hand. Given that there are about 8,000 moving parts in there, the cost of finishing half of them would add perhaps $ 10,000 or so to a grand piano's cost, regardless of size. Virtually no finish will prevent humidity changes from happening, so there is little reason fro that.

In short, weight has nothing to do with it, it is all a cost/benefit decision.
Regard,s

Re: finishing unseen wood parts of the action [Re: Ed Foote] #2741658
06/02/18 10:08 PM
06/02/18 10:08 PM
Joined: May 2018
Posts: 214
Chicago
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John305 Offline
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Originally Posted by Ed Foote
Greetings,
Virtually no finish will prevent humidity changes from happening, so there is little reason fro that.




This is the take home message. Unless you encapsulated the entire piece of wood in something like a resin or plastic that completely cuts off the wood from it’s environment you will have moisture changes within the wood.


It’s never too late to be what you might have been. -George Eliot
Re: finishing unseen wood parts of the action [Re: Ritz] #2741659
06/02/18 10:08 PM
06/02/18 10:08 PM
Joined: Jun 2001
Posts: 4,780
USA
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Bob Offline
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USA
Baldwin did paint action parts black in their "blak" models - more of a sales gimmick than anything. I think the cost outweighs the benefits. The biggest issue with wood action parts has always been improper drying of the wood, before machining the parts. Parts would go out of alignment as they finish drying in the customer's home. An example of that would be the old Mexican built Baldwin actions where hammers and whippens would come out of alignment as the wood dries and shrinks. Hammers not aligned to strings is common in Baldwin uprights. If the piano was up north, cold, dry winters would shrink the flanges, loosening them, and hammers and whippens would click and flop around. In some cases flanges would twist one way in the dry winter, causing sticking, I'd align them only to have them twist again in summer, causing sticking again.

I've pulled quite a few brand new Baldwin spinet actions for loose whippen flanges.

The main advertising thrust of those using ABS action parts instead of wood is their inherent stability though climate changes.

If wood parts were to be sealed, drying out the wood first would be better. I've always wondered if sealing a pin block is worth the effort. Tuning pins on pianos up north are looser in the winter, and tighter in the summer in environments where humidity changes a lot.




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Re: finishing unseen wood parts of the action [Re: Ritz] #2741748
06/03/18 10:48 AM
06/03/18 10:48 AM
Joined: May 2011
Posts: 139
Tampa, FL
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Bill McKaig,RPT Offline
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There is a benefit to finishing action parts, but it is not seasonal stability. Unfinished wood oxidizes which over a long period of time causes the wood to become brittle and break as seen on many old upright actions. Sealing will prevent this or at least slow it down considerably.

However, Ed is right about this being impractical for manufacturing. Unfinished parts can still last a century in the right environment.


Professional Piano Technician serving the Tampa bay area. website: mckaigpianoservice.com
Re: finishing unseen wood parts of the action [Re: Bill McKaig,RPT] #2741792
06/03/18 03:18 PM
06/03/18 03:18 PM
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USA
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Bob Offline
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It's at least 70 years and usually longer before action parts become brittle, and they should be replaced at that point in time anyway.




Re: finishing unseen wood parts of the action [Re: Ritz] #2741818
06/03/18 05:27 PM
06/03/18 05:27 PM
Joined: Feb 2017
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New Hampshire
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P W Grey Offline
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New Hampshire
Plus, the traditional method for twisting and straightening hammer shanks is with a flame, which would raise serious issues if a finish was on the parts.

Remember that the DESIGN intention for all of these pianos was significantly less than 50 years.

The idea that a good piano "lasts a lifetime" was a marketing ploy, not a part of the maker's actual plan. Steinway did a fantastic job of pushing that idea as well as the "appreciates in value" idea.. baloney.

Pwg


Peter W. Grey, RPT
New Hampshire Seacoast
www.seacoastpianodoctor.com
pianodoctor57@gmail.com
(Best way to contact me privately)
Re: finishing unseen wood parts of the action [Re: P W Grey] #2741846
06/03/18 07:06 PM
06/03/18 07:06 PM
Joined: Apr 2018
Posts: 89
Washington DC area
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Ritz Offline OP
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Joined: Apr 2018
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Washington DC area
Originally Posted by P W Grey
Plus, the traditional method for twisting and straightening hammer shanks is with a flame, which would raise serious issues if a finish was on the parts.

Remember that the DESIGN intention for all of these pianos was significantly less than 50 years.

The idea that a good piano "lasts a lifetime" was a marketing ploy, not a part of the maker's actual plan. Steinway did a fantastic job of pushing that idea as well as the "appreciates in value" idea.. baloney.



OK, understood. Heh, the appreciation thing. I look at musical instruments (and the piano is no exception) in the same way that I look at a car. The moment you "drive it off the lot" you take a huge hit on the value and that value continues to diminish over time until it reaches a static "bottom" as long as it is still in decent repair and functional. On very rare occasions, you'll have something "collectible" that will eventually creep back up in value. That doesn't happen very often. smile

To continue the car analogy, I look at my particular baby grand like I'd look at an old Chevy Nova...a plain old Nova without any special engine or trim package. It's viable transport and could potentially be worth slightly more than it was when it was new if it was in pristine condition, but it's now just a beater with solid bones that I won't feel too guilty if I'm wrenching on it and I break something. smile Having a really good time with it. I've just made an experimental hammer shank and flange out of 6061 aluminum that I then skeletonized until the weight was approximately the same. It's probably several times more stiff than a similar component made out of wood at an equivalent mass. Again, fun stuff!

Best,

Last edited by Ritz; 06/03/18 07:15 PM.

1938 Chickering Baby Grand
Trying to learn about these fascinating instruments
Re: finishing unseen wood parts of the action [Re: Ritz] #2742049
06/04/18 12:46 PM
06/04/18 12:46 PM
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Posts: 1,595
New Hampshire
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P W Grey Offline
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Very much like a classic car. Some far better than others.

Pwg


Peter W. Grey, RPT
New Hampshire Seacoast
www.seacoastpianodoctor.com
pianodoctor57@gmail.com
(Best way to contact me privately)
Re: finishing unseen wood parts of the action [Re: Ritz] #2742876
06/07/18 05:56 PM
06/07/18 05:56 PM
Joined: Jun 2014
Posts: 699
Wisconsin, USA
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Lakeviewsteve Offline
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Ritz, interesting post. The best actions in the world aren't finished as you describe. It would probably take a few hundred hours of labor with maybe no benefit. Given todays prices of new high end pianos that would be a real waste of time and a huge added expense. I wonder what parts of a piano are affected most by humidity swings? I would think it would be the sound board and pin block. I know the action on mine seems sluggish when there is too much humidity but I usually don't let that happen if I can help it.

Maybe a piano tech. can chime in on this?

Regards / Steve


Bösendorfer 170
Re: finishing unseen wood parts of the action [Re: Ritz] #2743079
06/08/18 03:54 PM
06/08/18 03:54 PM
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New Hampshire
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P W Grey Offline
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I strongly suggest to my clients with nice grands (even not so nice ones) that if they want real stability they need a complete humidity control system AND a full cover as long as possible, AND keep it covered when not in use.

All (repeat ALL) that do so have remarkably stable instruments both in the superstructure and the action.

Pwg


Peter W. Grey, RPT
New Hampshire Seacoast
www.seacoastpianodoctor.com
pianodoctor57@gmail.com
(Best way to contact me privately)
Re: finishing unseen wood parts of the action [Re: P W Grey] #2743183
06/09/18 08:27 AM
06/09/18 08:27 AM
Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 438
Chesterfield. MA
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Craig Hair Offline
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Chesterfield. MA
Peter,
What is the ratio between those that listen and those that do not?
For us, "all" could easily be replaced with "both".
No one wants to sacrifice the aesthetics for the practical; I know I don't like it when I have to do it.

Be well,
Craig


Craig Hair
Hampshire Piano
Chesterfield, MA
Conservative Piano Restoration
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Sometimes, all you can hear is the cat snore.
Re: finishing unseen wood parts of the action [Re: Ritz] #2743187
06/09/18 08:45 AM
06/09/18 08:45 AM
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New Hampshire
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P W Grey Offline
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Joined: Feb 2017
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New Hampshire
Craig,

I would put it at about 1% or less. Few people want to go to the "trouble" of removing the cover (or just folding it back), opening the flap, adjusting the music rack, putting up the music, etc. Then reversing it all when done. They would rather just sit down and play.

Of course I understand all of this and it is possible that I might feel the same way if I had a grand (for personal use). Nonetheless, those few that do all of that stuff do have remarkably stable instruments.

Pwg


Peter W. Grey, RPT
New Hampshire Seacoast
www.seacoastpianodoctor.com
pianodoctor57@gmail.com
(Best way to contact me privately)

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