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Thoughts on cleaning bass strings #2748643
07/01/18 08:37 PM
07/01/18 08:37 PM
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Posts: 89
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Ritz Offline OP
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I came across this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBwaibt2d3M

and was intrigued about the process. In my case, the wound bass strings on my baby grand are 80 years old. Is there any sonic benefit to cleaning them? How would one even get them off since it looks like you'd have to cut the coils off that were wound around the tuning pin in order to snake the string through the agraffes, no? Or is it enough of a pain in the rump that one might as well just invest in new strings? The prospect of having shiny copper strings is appealing, but I would imagine that after a few years of exposure to the air, they'd be tarnished and black again?

The thought of removing and then returning large wound bass strings to service got me to wondering why agraffes aren't just slotted at the top so a string could be changed without fishing it through the hole (with a side benefit of being able to remove a string and return it to service without cutting off the becket and coils at the tuning pin end.

Edit: and then I got off my duff and actually looked at the agraffes on my piano and they are clearly applying a downward force on the strings so a slot on the top would be "counter productive". smile

Best,

Last edited by Ritz; 07/01/18 08:41 PM.

1938 Chickering Baby Grand
Trying to learn about these fascinating instruments
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Re: Thoughts on cleaning bass strings [Re: Ritz] #2748645
07/01/18 08:48 PM
07/01/18 08:48 PM
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P W Grey Offline
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Yes, it is difficult in the extreme to accomplish that treatment on a grand due to the agraffe situation. Not beyond the pale for an upright.

Pwg


Peter W. Grey, RPT
New Hampshire Seacoast
www.seacoastpianodoctor.com
pianodoctor57@gmail.com
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Re: Thoughts on cleaning bass strings [Re: Ritz] #2748654
07/01/18 09:27 PM
07/01/18 09:27 PM
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Lakeviewsteve Offline
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I'm just curious about what benefit you think will be achieved by cleaning any strings. Is it for aesthetics only? I have been told chemicals should never be used on anything related to the piano. Is this correct?

Steve


Bösendorfer 170
Re: Thoughts on cleaning bass strings [Re: Lakeviewsteve] #2748660
07/01/18 11:14 PM
07/01/18 11:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Lakeviewsteve
I'm just curious about what benefit you think will be achieved by cleaning any strings. Is it for aesthetics only? I have been told chemicals should never be used on anything related to the piano. Is this correct?

Steve


Actually, I'm not sure at all which is why I asked the question.

Best,


1938 Chickering Baby Grand
Trying to learn about these fascinating instruments
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Re: Thoughts on cleaning bass strings [Re: Ritz] #2748750
07/02/18 10:36 AM
07/02/18 10:36 AM
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Seems like a monumental waste of effort. 80 year oldstrings? Time for anew set.


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Chickering Console (1950s)
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Re: Thoughts on cleaning bass strings [Re: Ritz] #2748753
07/02/18 10:41 AM
07/02/18 10:41 AM
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Wisconsin, USA
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Lakeviewsteve Offline
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Originally Posted by Ritz
Originally Posted by Lakeviewsteve
I'm just curious about what benefit you think will be achieved by cleaning any strings. Is it for aesthetics only? I have been told chemicals should never be used on anything related to the piano. Is this correct?

Steve


Actually, I'm not sure at all which is why I asked the question.

Best,


I'm glad I mentioned that because you didn't indicate that at all in your first post.


Bösendorfer 170
Re: Thoughts on cleaning bass strings [Re: Lakeviewsteve] #2748780
07/02/18 12:18 PM
07/02/18 12:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Lakeviewsteve
Originally Posted by Ritz
Originally Posted by Lakeviewsteve
I'm just curious about what benefit you think will be achieved by cleaning any strings. Is it for aesthetics only? I have been told chemicals should never be used on anything related to the piano. Is this correct?

Steve


Actually, I'm not sure at all which is why I asked the question.

Best,


I'm glad I mentioned that because you didn't indicate that at all in your first post.



I asked pretty clearly early in the post if there was any sonic benefit to cleaning them.

*shrug*

Best,


1938 Chickering Baby Grand
Trying to learn about these fascinating instruments
Re: Thoughts on cleaning bass strings [Re: Ritz] #2748802
07/02/18 02:17 PM
07/02/18 02:17 PM
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Georgia, USA
Rickster Offline
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I've watched that video before. I find it a bit humorous that the guy goes to great lengths to protect his hands, but his bare feet and toes are subject to chemical burn. But I guess he loves to go bare-foot regardless of what he's doing.

As an avid old piano tinkerer, or at least used to be, I've tried various things to improve the lower bass strings/tone on both grands and uprights. I've tried Bill Bremmer's steel-wire brush on a drill trick; I've tried the loosen pin, remove rear hitch and the roll the string into knot and roll the knot along the length of the string trick. I've tried the "give it a few twists in the direction of the copper windings trick (which may actually help some).

My conclusion is that it's not worth what little improvement you may get. There is no substitute for new bass strings.

Just my ignorant-dabbler .02.

Rick


Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel
Re: Thoughts on cleaning bass strings [Re: Ritz] #2748862
07/02/18 06:01 PM
07/02/18 06:01 PM
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P W Grey Offline
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I would agree that it would be largely a waste of time to mess with those bass strings. Eventually needs a new block too from what I think you posted before. Better to wait till it's time to do the whole thing.

However, if you want to just experiment a little, loosen the top two strings and remove from hitch pins. Tie them in a half square knot and run it up and down a few times. Then put them back on with at least one full twist in the direction of the copper winding, bring it back up to pitch and decide whether it made any difference. If little to no improvement, bag it. If significant improvement, you could continue the process as far as you have patience for.

Just bear in mind that if you do, a common collateral result is dampers that don't damp so well anymore. Then you'll have a ringing bass...might not be so fun. As you know, one thing leads to another...

Pwg


Peter W. Grey, RPT
New Hampshire Seacoast
www.seacoastpianodoctor.com
pianodoctor57@gmail.com
(Best way to contact me privately)
Re: Thoughts on cleaning bass strings [Re: P W Grey] #2748865
07/02/18 06:12 PM
07/02/18 06:12 PM
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Old Hangtown California
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Gene Nelson Offline
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Originally Posted by P W Grey
I would agree that it would be largely a waste of time to mess with those bass strings. Eventually needs a new block too from what I think you posted before. Better to wait till it's time to do the whole thing.

However, if you want to just experiment a little, loosen the top two strings and remove from hitch pins. Tie them in a half square knot and run it up and down a few times. Then put them back on with at least one full twist in the direction of the copper winding, bring it back up to pitch and decide whether it made any difference. If little to no improvement, bag it. If significant improvement, you could continue the process as far as you have patience for.

Just bear in mind that if you do, a common collateral result is dampers that don't damp so well anymore. Then you'll have a ringing bass...might not be so fun. As you know, one thing leads to another...

Pwg



This has been the only technique that I have noticed results and I use it occasionally and Ill run the loop up and down with a wood dowel.
Results however can vary from no response at all to minimal and usually relatively minor.
You might try the twist first and then run the loop.


RPT
PTG Member
Re: Thoughts on cleaning bass strings [Re: Ritz] #2748892
07/02/18 08:20 PM
07/02/18 08:20 PM
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Ritz Offline OP
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Appreciate all the feedback. Eventually, the plate is coming out and I plan to deal with some splits in the soundboard along with refinishing the case. After that I'll bead blast and paint the plate, put it all back together and then have it restrung so I'm unlikely to fiddle with cleaning the old strings. That...along with a thorough visit to the action should lead to what I'm hoping is a relatively sturdy instrument that my young children can learn to play on while giving me some quiet time while fixing it up. I'm enjoying the challenge and find it relaxing to work on it.

I have zero expectations of the piano ever being worth anything so the whole exercise is geared as a learning experience. Based on my experience on this piano, I'll evaluate my goal of potentially doing this once a year or every other year to save some instruments from a landfill and helping out some folks that aren't as fortunate as I have been.

Best,


1938 Chickering Baby Grand
Trying to learn about these fascinating instruments
Re: Thoughts on cleaning bass strings [Re: Ritz] #2749027
07/03/18 11:31 AM
07/03/18 11:31 AM
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Saskatchewan, Canada
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Floyd G Offline
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At one point, as an experiment, I followed the ammonia/vinegar/water/bake protocol on the bass strings of a 100 year old Heintzman upright. I was pleased with the results, although I understand that a new set of custom scaled bass strings would have given me more.

Piano bass strings do get contaminated over time. This protocol deals with this contamination, but not any kind of mechanical failure, such as rattling that twisting does not cure.

In referring to this experience, I often joke that no self-respecting piano technician will apply liquids to bass strings. But it is a joke, as this project was anything but a disaster.


Floyd G RPT
www.floydgadd.com
Re: Thoughts on cleaning bass strings [Re: Ritz] #2749073
07/03/18 01:53 PM
07/03/18 01:53 PM
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P W Grey Offline
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Ritz,

I am curious as to how you would go about bead blasting the plate, unless you have a large enclosure. What about retaining the media? Without a cabinet this stuff goes everywhere. I am open to suggestions.

Pwg


Peter W. Grey, RPT
New Hampshire Seacoast
www.seacoastpianodoctor.com
pianodoctor57@gmail.com
(Best way to contact me privately)
Re: Thoughts on cleaning bass strings [Re: P W Grey] #2749102
07/03/18 04:22 PM
07/03/18 04:22 PM
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Ritz Offline OP
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Originally Posted by P W Grey
Ritz,

I am curious as to how you would go about bead blasting the plate, unless you have a large enclosure. What about retaining the media? Without a cabinet this stuff goes everywhere. I am open to suggestions.

Pwg


I would just do it outside and use expendable (environmentally friendly) walnut shell media. When I'm done, I'll just sweep it all up and bag it.

https://www.harborfreight.com/25-lbs-coarse-grade-walnut-shell-blast-media-92150.html
https://www.harborfreight.com/25-lbs-fine-grade-walnut-shell-blast-media-92155.html
https://www.harborfreight.com/portable-abrasive-blaster-kit-37025.html

Connect that to my 33gal compressor and it shouldn't take very long.

Best,


1938 Chickering Baby Grand
Trying to learn about these fascinating instruments
Re: Thoughts on cleaning bass strings [Re: Ritz] #2749135
07/03/18 08:35 PM
07/03/18 08:35 PM
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Lakeviewsteve Offline
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Originally Posted by Ritz
Originally Posted by Lakeviewsteve
Originally Posted by Ritz
Originally Posted by Lakeviewsteve
I'm just curious about what benefit you think will be achieved by cleaning any strings. Is it for aesthetics only? I have been told chemicals should never be used on anything related to the piano. Is this correct?

Steve


Actually, I'm not sure at all which is why I asked the question.

Best,


I'm glad I mentioned that because you didn't indicate that at all in your first post.



I asked pretty clearly early in the post if there was any sonic benefit to cleaning them.

*shrug*

Best,



Since that is the case I would clean every last one of them but don't forget how the sonic was before so you can compare it to the after.

LoL


Bösendorfer 170
Re: Thoughts on cleaning bass strings [Re: Ritz] #2750789
07/11/18 12:38 PM
07/11/18 12:38 PM
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Israel Bright Offline
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So,does it make any serious difference, aside aesthetic, to attempt cleaning bass strings...? I also have a case at hand, strings colored by possible rust but no serious effect on the sound quality....

Last edited by Israel Bright; 07/11/18 12:41 PM.

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