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Level of risk on old Ibach
#3036437 10/16/20 07:01 PM
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Hello, I’m trying to decide which of two pianos — a 1918 Bush & Lane or a 1902 Ibach — to use for a keyboard project (the project is my “leverless chromatic-emphasis keyboard” prototype), and a concern for me is what the plate looks like on the Ibach at the bass, because if that were to break I could not replace the Ibach easily at all. So my question is whether these are known to fail. As you can see in the pic, there is no surrounding plate and the bass tension (5000lbs or so I guess, so it’s like a big car hanging on it) is all held on just a fat arched semicircular cast iron portion of the plate. I brought the piano to a=436 from a semitone flat a few months ago and had no issues. However the piano may have to be moved several times potentially and so that could cause stresses.

(The keyboard I’m building will sit atop the keys, and so can be moved to another piano, but the spacing of the keys must be exactly the same. Even a quarter inch difference is too much. The Bush & Lane is about a quarter inch smaller in spacing, and an old key frame I have from a Schiller shows that it was another quarter inch smaller than that, and so I’m not optimistic I could find an inexpensive replacement for the Ibach if it were to fail. Actually another question would be: was it at all common in American pianos to have the keys spacing of this Ibach, which is almost exactly 46.5 inches for the 85 keys (A to A). (The keyboard I’m building will be 85 keys but could fit on an 88 piano as long as the spacing is right).)

Deciding between the pianos is not easy in part because the Ibach was restrung and the bass sounds better and the piano is in much better cosmetic condition. Also the down weight is a factor with the added mass and friction of the add-on keyboard, and the Ibach has a slightly lighter down weight which is good.

[Linked Image]

Last edited by charleslang; 10/16/20 07:04 PM.

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Re: Level of risk on old Ibach
charleslang #3036453 10/16/20 09:01 PM
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risk level blue.


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Re: Level of risk on old Ibach
piano411 #3036460 10/16/20 09:37 PM
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Cool, I’m glad to hear that, thanks.


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Re: Level of risk on old Ibach
charleslang #3036552 10/17/20 08:29 AM
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It's an old piano that has survived this long. Why should it break now? Plates break, but it is very rare, and it is not make or model specific. When they do, it is usually not down there at the bass. However, if the piano was design to be at 435, and you want to take it up to 445, then you might be inviting trouble. The size and number of piano keys were not consistent throughout history.


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Re: Level of risk on old Ibach
piano411 #3036694 10/17/20 01:44 PM
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Originally Posted by piano411
It's an old piano that has survived this long. Why should it break now? Plates break, but it is very rare, and it is not make or model specific. When they do, it is usually not down there at the bass. However, if the piano was design to be at 435, and you want to take it up to 445, then you might be inviting trouble. The size and number of piano keys were not consistent throughout history.

Well, 1902 was still relatively early days, and I’ve never seen a design like this on later pianos, so that suggests there was a reason they changed designs. And looking at it, if it were turned 160 degrees and an SUV were hanging from those bass strings, I’m not sure if I’d get under that.

But I guess the alloy they were using matters as well, and judging from the agony of the movers I hired to move it, I think it might be an unusually heavy piano. So maybe it is strong but heavy, and the weight or other benefits of perimeter plate were the reasons this kind of design doesn’t show up later (instead of breakage being the reason).

I own four nice vertical pianos (I have a Steinway and a Rieger-Kloss (Bohemia) in another location and so can’t measure their keyboards) and the Ibach is overall the nicest. Interchangeability of my add-on keyboard invention would be a plus, but I really want to present the invention on a great piano, and so taking into account what you say about breakage being unlikely I think I’ll be moving forward with using this Ibach.


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Re: Level of risk on old Ibach
charleslang #3036701 10/17/20 02:13 PM
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It is a very beautifully designed plate. You don't actually need so much iron in the piano to get the job done. Many makers have way over done things. I've seen many minimalist designs like that on later pianos as well, so I wouldn't let that scare you off.

I don't know what pitch level that piano was designed for, but I wouldn't push it much higher if you don't need to, especially since the stings are so old.

Honestly, I don't know what you are trying to do with the keyboard, but I don't see how it would break the plate. Anything is possible I guess, but you should be fine.


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Re: Level of risk on old Ibach
charleslang #3036702 10/17/20 02:16 PM
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Look at the cross-sectional area of the core wire of these bass strings and then at the cross-sectional area of this plate, even if it were low quality cast iron it wouldn't be a problem, the risk is actually only if there is crack in that plate

Re: Level of risk on old Ibach
charleslang #3036703 10/17/20 02:18 PM
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I'm more concerned with the label on the soundboard. What is the Sigil of Baphomet doing on there?


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Re: Level of risk on old Ibach
piano411 #3036713 10/17/20 02:50 PM
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Originally Posted by piano411
I don't know what pitch level that piano was designed for, but I wouldn't push it much higher if you don't need to, especially since the stings are so old.

Honestly, I don't know what you are trying to do with the keyboard, but I don't see how it would break the plate. Anything is possible I guess, but you should be fine.

Yeah I don’t plan to go higher than a=436. Actually the strings are only maybe 30 years old and are shiny throughout the plain wires, as are the tuning pins. Five strings broke when I raised it, but that was entirely due to the rebuilder having made really bad tie-offs at the hitch pins (each string is tied off individually at a hitch pin, and that is where all five broke). Other than that the previous work seems to have been good where it counts most I guess (pin block).

My issue with the keyboard is that I’m building a thing that fits on top of the existing keyboard in a similar way to those old external player mechanisms. But I’ll have no way to adjust it to fit on different pianos, and building the thing is a huge investment of time, so if the piano I custom fit it for were to fail in a serious way it would be a big big setback for my project potentially.

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]


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Re: Level of risk on old Ibach
piano411 #3036716 10/17/20 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by piano411
I'm more concerned with the label on the soundboard. What is the Sigil of Baphomet doing on there?

😂💖💀😉 Now now, this project is an entirely legitimate commission from The Church of Satan 😂😂😂. Feast your eyes:
(Sorry I can’t figure out how to make it right side up; this one is on the music desk.)

[Linked Image]


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Re: Level of risk on old Ibach
charleslang #3036717 10/17/20 03:05 PM
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That is a very well-built piano! It looks like a spare-no-expense kind of construction. Few uprights are built like that these days. What you have there is very strong.

It doesn't look like it is any fun to tune though. Can you get a stick mute in there to mute off the strings?


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Re: Level of risk on old Ibach
piano411 #3036723 10/17/20 03:24 PM
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Originally Posted by piano411
It doesn't look like it is any fun to tune though. Can you get a stick mute in there to mute off the strings?

Only for some. I removed the dampers during tuning; they come off with four wing bolts and take about five minutes to reinstall due to having to reinsert all the “bird cage” wires into the small holes at the bottom front of the action one by one.

Last edited by charleslang; 10/17/20 03:26 PM.

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Re: Level of risk on old Ibach
charleslang #3036724 10/17/20 03:28 PM
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You might be interested to see a restoration of an Ibach that's within a year or two of yours and appears to be a very similar model, work carried out by ROberts Pianos of Oxford. The work included replacing the overdamper action with a modern underdamper action. You will be heartened by how highly Marcus Roberts rates these pianos.

Ibach and Bluthner both made overdamper upright pianos. Probably easiest to use a Papps Mute for tuning.

Last edited by David Boyce; 10/17/20 03:29 PM.
Re: Level of risk on old Ibach
David Boyce #3036743 10/17/20 03:57 PM
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Originally Posted by David Boyce
You might be interested to see a restoration of an Ibach that's within a year or two of yours and appears to be a very similar model, work carried out by ROberts Pianos of Oxford. The work included replacing the overdamper action with a modern underdamper action. You will be heartened by how highly Marcus Roberts rates these pianos.
Ibach and Bluthner both made overdamper upright pianos. Probably easiest to use a Papps Mute for tuning.

Wow it’s a strong endorsement indeed; he seems to love them. I follow his YouTube channel but somehow I missed that video or most of it. The damping on mine is not as weak as it seems on that one in the “before restoration” part; while I’m sure there’s a difference from underdamper I actually don’t notice it as being different while playing so far.


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Re: Level of risk on old Ibach
charleslang #3036750 10/17/20 04:37 PM
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Obviously, the guy in the video did good work. But, I wish he wouldn't have changed the action and the dampers. Yes, the over dampers don't "work" as well. But, I would argue, that doesn't matter, and it is a good thing. I believe that is part of the design. It gives the piano more presence and sustain. It sounds like the piano is in a hall. After he is done with the work, it sounds like it is in a room. I wish he would have cut new damper felt, installed new hammers, cleaned up the action, and replaced the strings. When people change out the insides like that, we lose a part of history. Piano making has already forgotten so much.


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Re: Level of risk on old Ibach
piano411 #3036756 10/17/20 05:08 PM
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Originally Posted by piano411
Obviously, the guy in the video did good work. But, I wish he wouldn't have changed the action and the dampers. Yes, the over dampers don't "work" as well. But, I would argue, that doesn't matter, and it is a good thing. I believe that is part of the design. It gives the piano more presence and sustain. It sounds like the piano is in a hall. After he is done with the work, it sounds like it is in a room. I wish he would have cut new damper felt, installed new hammers, cleaned up the action, and replaced the strings. When people change out the insides like that, we lose a part of history. Piano making has already forgotten so much.

Right on. I understand that one or two of the German makers held on to the overdamper system longer than one might have expected with the introduction of “new and superior” technology, and so maybe there was some real fondness for the overdamper system. And what is the purpose of the much-lauded systems of duplex and triplex scaling, and Bluethner’s fourth undampened string on some models, but to provide extra resonance? Also sometimes I find use of abrupt damping to be off-putting, in a way like someone hanging up a phone call. And absolutely, reverb is probably the single most celebrated effect in all of the music industry.

Not that I should just collect reasons to like it because I happen to have one, but also I like that historically this piano was built in Wuppertal almost the very same year the Schwebebahn opened (1901), which is analogous to overdamping in that the train has a track above rather than below, and has some of the Jules Verne-era romantic mystique like the Eiffel Tower and so on.

Probably Roberts chose to refit the Ibach because there seem to him to be enough of them around, and because he saw it could be turned into something like a brand new Feurich. Sort of like people would chop off the upper part of the cabinets on American uprights at one time. But at some point a different impulse kicks in when you see there are only so many and they’re not making more.


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Re: Level of risk on old Ibach
charleslang #3036767 10/17/20 05:52 PM
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Yes, I agree completely.

You know, o'guy was playing so comfortably with the old setup. His body and musicality was natural. He wasn't fighting with the piano, nor was he forcing it to do anything. The piano sang, and he played along. It wasn't like that when he was done. Yes, he was, and should be, proud of the work he did, but the piano was more comfortable to play and listen to before the conversion. He was saying good things about the improvement, but deep down, I feel like he knew some of the instruments "soul" was now hidden.

It seems like he converted it for business reasons. OK. It was his piano. He can do whatever he wants. I just wouldn't have done that. I probably would have even kept the original hammers. I think I would have been able to needle them properly. I've dealt with so many situations where technicians dumped the newest chemicals into the hammers lauding the benefits. It is usually fixable with the needles, but it is not easy. The dampers felts and the strings were shot.

Long story short, resonance is king in the musical world of pianos. I've never tuned a piano like that, but it is good to know you can easily take the dampers away. Tuning with all of that resonance is a really good thing. Most tuners can't do it. They just can't hear what they are normally seeking. All that extra resonance forces you to listen to the piano. By doing it that way, you are forced to learn how to tune the resonance of the whole piano, not just the attack of a single note. Tuning that way is what makes a piano musically usable. For those that strip mute the whole piano and only listen to the beginning of the note, their tunings don't "sing." It is a different approach all together. When you listen to the resonance, beats combine and come together, because that is what you are listening for. When you listen to the attack, the piano's sound beats more and breaks apart over time (it sounds messy). Especially when you use more damper pedal during playing.

So, if we want the piano to sing, we have to tune the resonance. If we want to hear the resonance, the dampers can't be choking off the sound during the process. It is one of the reasons prefer very soft damper felts, in general. Also, I don't need so much weight in the damper heads (under leavers).


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Re: Level of risk on old Ibach
piano411 #3036833 10/17/20 10:55 PM
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Originally Posted by piano411
It's an old piano that has survived this long. Why should it break now? Plates break, but it is very rare, and it is not make or model specific. When they do, it is usually not down there at the bass. However, if the piano was design to be at 435, and you want to take it up to 445, then you might be inviting trouble. The size and number of piano keys were not consistent throughout history.

Not just, "the size and number of piano keys were not consistent throughout history", but also the temperaments; always evolving....


~HW

Last edited by Herr Weiss; 10/17/20 10:57 PM.

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Re: Level of risk on old Ibach
Herr Weiss #3036837 10/17/20 11:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Herr Weiss
Not just, "the size and number of piano keys were not consistent throughout history", but also the temperaments; always evolving....


~HW

That raises a question that is fascinating to me which I had not yet considered. On my keyboard invention, the black notes run down the middle instead of being only behind the white notes, and all keys press straight down like space bars rather than as levers. So, visually that middle part where the row of black keys are becomes the main feature your eyes go to, rather than the front part appearing more important as it does for many people on standard keyboards. So, the question is, would this change the appeal of using any particular temperament? Because, I do think this keyboard will make composing on the black keys easier for a lot of people, and even starting piano education on a tonality like C# major may make more sense than starting people on C major.

[Linked Image]

Last edited by charleslang; 10/17/20 11:29 PM.

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Re: Level of risk on old Ibach
charleslang #3036846 10/18/20 12:55 AM
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Originally Posted by charleslang
That raises a question that is fascinating to me which I had not yet considered. On my keyboard invention, the black notes run down the middle instead of being only behind the white notes, and all keys press straight down like space bars rather than as levers. So, visually that middle part where the row of black keys are becomes the main feature your eyes go to, rather than the front part appearing more important as it does for many people on standard keyboards. So, the question is, would this change the appeal of using any particular temperament? Because, I do think this keyboard will make composing on the black keys easier for a lot of people, and even starting piano education on a tonality like C# major may make more sense than starting people on C major.

I love playing in Db Major (5 black keys); my hands fit perfectly.
When I write, I never decide in what key to use; it just happens. Of course, you can always transpose afterwards.

Having the black keys closer would not have an effect on any of this.
What musical temperament I use, likewise.


~HW


"Respond intelligently, even to unintelligent treatment."
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