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#609443 - 03/16/08 11:47 PM Bulging key leads  
Joined: Feb 2008
Posts: 5
Kwagmyre Offline
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Kwagmyre  Offline
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Sherman Oaks
The piano in question is an old obscure German upright called a Von Bulow.

The customer had commented that all the keys were sticking. When I arrived, it was a complete mess but a total mystery as to how it happened. Acquired in New York City where it was working just fine. It was then moved to West Los Angeles.
Soon after, progressive key sticking began only to get much worse over time and THIS in spite of normal ambient conditions in the room. Turned out the key leads had swollen to such a degree that just about every key was cramming into the adjacent keys. So I had to extensively file all the lead down enough to make the action playable.

Has anyone else experienced such a thing? I can only say that on rare occasions I've encountered at the most a few notes that have that but the real mystery is why the action went from normal to bizarre AFTER being in a room that was normal.
It was like some disaster waiting to happen given the right circumstances but I'm at a total loss to know what those were.

Mark Mandell

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#609444 - 03/17/08 12:29 AM Re: Bulging key leads  
Joined: Jun 2007
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Artisan Piano Offline
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It most likely had the problem in NY but had been filed as you did. You can expect the expanding to continue, I don't think there's a cure save replacing the leads. I haven't had any success with sealing them, I think it's a chemical reaction.
I've heard is that the lead was recycled from printing plates that had zinc in them, I don't know if that's true but I haven't heard any other explanations.
I've encountered it occasionally in many different makes including (rarely) in S&S and Yamaha's. The problem is almost universal in later year Sohmer verticals.
The lead can expand to a point where it shatters the keys on some pianos. On pianos such as the Sohmer's, in which the hole is not bored all the way through the key, it will splinter and push the wood out on that side too.
If the owner will go for it, the best solution is to replace them all with new leads. The problem with filing them is the lead dust. I generally take them into the shop and trim on a bandsaw.
I have seen some pianos where one size lead corrodes and another size doesn't at all, which does suggest some contamination in the lead itself.
If anyone knows of other explanations, I'l like to hear them.


Steven
RPT
#609445 - 03/17/08 12:40 AM Re: Bulging key leads  
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Olek Offline
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France
That is so often on old pianos that cutting the excess of lead (with a chisel)is in the price list.

What is not good is that the lead continue to work . it can make the keys twist, it can crack them. It is recommanded to apply a laquer to protect the lead after chiseling.

If the lead is too brittle time for changing it.

Lead quality can vary, as said by Steven it is often "second hand lead" ! it is only oxydation, produce lead oxyde, , not to be breathed but not as highly toxic that I thought. due to humid condition.

In Europe we are lucky with the proximity of factory, if the keys are really bad we can send the old keys and keyframe to Kluge or O.Heuss and they make us new keys, new pins on the frame, eventually they'll move the balance rail or make a new one so you have the 1.9 :1 to 2.1:1 ratio to use modern parts in an old instrument(perfect for older Steinways) if you want a normal behavior and a modern stack.


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#609446 - 03/17/08 01:20 AM Re: Bulging key leads  
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Artisan Piano Offline
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One good thing about this forum is that it gets me to research things more. Shoots, I'm sitting in front of the computer anyway.

One place this problem shows up is in the making of model replicas. They call it lead rot, lead cancer, or lead bloom. A white or grey powder.

There's an extensive paper on it here: http://www.dt.navy.mil/cnsm/lead_01.html

Apparently it's a catalytic reaction that is kicked off by acids including acetic acid and tannen, both of which occur naturally in wood.

They even recommend that lead parts not be stored in oak drawers because that is enough to get it started.

Read the paper to learn more than you ever wanted to know about lead rot.

Whether this is what goes on in some pianos but not others, I do not know.

Kamin, thanks for your posts today, must be nice to be able to send actions to the factory for rehabilitation.


Steven
RPT
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#609447 - 03/17/08 02:59 AM Re: Bulging key leads  
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Kwagmyre Offline
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Sherman Oaks
Appreciate all of your feedback.

Most likely the extensive filing I did will be all this customer wants for the time being. Then if the problem returns, she'll just get another piano.

And yes, it did cause much bulging and some breaking and splintering of the wood surrounding the lead as you say. And of course there was the mess of lead dust but no problem in cleaning up.

Mark

#609448 - 03/17/08 08:30 AM Re: Bulging key leads  
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Olek Offline
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Olek  Offline
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France
Nowadays it really take some time to properly repair the damages (sometime without lots of certitudes if it will really last a few years) , I have benn surrpized with that on old instrumenst when I was younger, obliged to take a few hours to chisel and correct at minimum the keys.

Thanks you for the link and the info about catalysation, I suppose that mean the process cannot be stopped. One have the same powder on the car battery.

Eating lead or lead dust is very very bad for health, so you better protect yourself if you file , that is why chiseling is employed. Leave always nasty grey marks anyway.

If the keys are spit and really damaged, may be another piano is better, may be exten (pen) sive repair is to be done. Knowing that really restoring and old piano is always to be done for sentimental reasons. It is hardly an interesting $$ option if the piano is not one of the best brands/models indeed.


Professional of the profession.
Foo Foo specialist
I wish to add some kind and sensitive phrase but nothing comes to mind.!
#609449 - 03/17/08 02:17 PM Re: Bulging key leads  
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Supply Offline
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Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
Kwag, expanding lead shas been discussed a few times here - do a search.

As far as filing or chiseling this stuff, remember it is extremely toxic. I believe one poster complained of headaches and vomiting after filing the lead oxides.

If you absolutely need to do it, do it outside, wear a mask, goggles, and disposable gloves. The filings are a hazardous waste and need to be disposed of properly. Never do it in a client's home (or in your shop), never use a vaccum to clean up - the fine dust simply becomes airborne.

#609450 - 03/17/08 03:06 PM Re: Bulging key leads  
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Olek Offline
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Olek  Offline
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France
I thought that also , but a scientist told me lead oxyde is not as toxic as lead itself.

He told me it does not have to be inhaled or ingested of course, so filing is dangerous.

Thanks for the info about not vacuum it.

Security sheets may be availeable to be sure.


Professional of the profession.
Foo Foo specialist
I wish to add some kind and sensitive phrase but nothing comes to mind.!
#609451 - 03/17/08 03:10 PM Re: Bulging key leads  
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eddie twang Offline
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eddie twang  Offline
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east yorks,england
last year l restored a richard lipp grand.the leads had corroded so bad that they had split the keys.l had to drill them out to remove them,repair the keys and put in new leads.l have done many pianos that have needed swollen key leads sorting out.as jurgen said you will need a decent face mask and l would also wear latex gloves. use quite a rough file as the lead will clog up and ruin files with a finer cut. an interesting foot note...the white powder that comes from the lead was used to make paint.. thats why you must always be carefull when stripping old paint!.

#609452 - 03/17/08 03:22 PM Re: Bulging key leads  
Joined: Mar 2008
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Olek Offline
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Olek  Offline
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France
Seem to me that the guy was a mad scientist, all the lead oxydation result in very toxic products.

Because lead white was used in paint I thought the product was not as bad as it is really.

I'll give a call to that good man !

(Now I undestand why I spend so much time on Internet !)


Professional of the profession.
Foo Foo specialist
I wish to add some kind and sensitive phrase but nothing comes to mind.!
#609453 - 03/17/08 03:25 PM Re: Bulging key leads  
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Olek Offline
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Olek  Offline
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Joined: Mar 2008
Posts: 9,230
France
<<the white powder that comes from the lead was used to make paint.. thats why you must always be carefull when stripping old paint!.<<
In old appartmenst there have been cases wher the paint strip from the wall and the babes eat them, then they had poisoning and light mental disease.

Does Monsanto sell lead oxyde ?


Professional of the profession.
Foo Foo specialist
I wish to add some kind and sensitive phrase but nothing comes to mind.!
#609454 - 03/17/08 03:29 PM Re: Bulging key leads  
Joined: Sep 2006
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Supply Offline
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Supply  Offline
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Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
If the metal was an unknown mix of lead and other ingredients, depending on the conditions, we are probably dealing with all kinds of toxins. Who actually knows what kind of chemical compounds are involved?

Better safe than not, the job is not worth it.

Bülow pianos, by the way, were named after and endorsed by Hans von Bülow. They were built in Aschaffenburg, Germany by the Arnold piano company.

#609455 - 03/17/08 04:00 PM Re: Bulging key leads  
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Olek Offline
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Olek  Offline
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France
Jörg Dobrick, from Otto Heuss keyboard maker in Lich, Germany , told me they are actually showing at the Franckfurt MusicMesse a new way to weight the keys, without lead.

I am curious to see what is it .


Professional of the profession.
Foo Foo specialist
I wish to add some kind and sensitive phrase but nothing comes to mind.!
#609456 - 03/19/08 04:11 PM Re: Bulging key leads  
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eddie twang Offline
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eddie twang  Offline
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east yorks,england
l think the metal will be that stuff used to balance car wheels(what used to be lead).it must be quite plentifull to be used every time you change a tyre!

#609457 - 03/20/08 09:44 PM Re: Bulging key leads  
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Olek Offline
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Olek  Offline
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Joined: Mar 2008
Posts: 9,230
France
Then I better begin to collect car wheeels because ir will be certainly forbidden to use that also some day !


Professional of the profession.
Foo Foo specialist
I wish to add some kind and sensitive phrase but nothing comes to mind.!

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