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Hello,
A friend of mine recently moved and was unable to take his piano - so he delivered it to my garage free of charge! I have done a little research and have determined that it is a Amedee Thibout upright piano - manufactured around 1866. It is in fair to poor condition. The cabinet is free of major damage but needs to be refinished. Some small screws are missing here and there - nothing major considering it's age. I know nothing of pianos beyond my 2 days worth of spotty research but I believe that the action is in as-expected condition, all strings are present, all felts need to be replaced, and the keys are in as expected condition.

So, I've been told that upright pianos made before 1870 are pretty rare. I know that this is a low volume, high quality manufacturer out of France, and that these were never sold in the US. I also know that non-op upright pianos are generally worth $0 - or in many cases they are worth less than the cost to properly restore. Will that be the case with this piano? I'm not looking to sell it - but knowing the value would help guide my repair/restoration plans. Basically - is it worth restoring - and to what level? It seems rare - but I know that doesn't always translate into value.

On to the mechanics - issue #1 at the moment is that the keys are rubbing together. On the tail end of each key is a coin sized hole that seems to be packed with lead. The lead (if that's what it is) seems to have expanded with age or due to humidity - and the keys rub and stick as a result. My instinct is to simply grind off the excess lead, sand it smooth and hope that the keys no longer touch. Is this an accurate assessment? I figure I can't do anything without at least the keys working - so this should be step #1. After the keys are moving correctly I'd move on to repairing the action - then strings - then cabinet.

Thank you in advance for any helpful opinions or information!

Link to photos:

http://imgur.com/a/kKbuG

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Originally Posted by turf1600
Will that be the case with this piano? I'm not looking to sell it - but knowing the value would help guide my repair/restoration plans.


Yes, the piano is worthless. It will cheaper to buy a decent new piano than to restore this one.


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For better or for worse - I'm keeping this piano and not buying another one. The joy in this endeavor will be the repair and restoration process. If it is truly a worthless piano I will approach repair in restoration in a different way than if it were a considerably valuable piano.

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I'm not a piano tech, but I don't think you should "grind off the lead" in the keys. (Yikes.) You would do more harm than good. I think you should find the real cause of the keys' sticking and then address that.

I'm pretty sure it's not the fault of the leads. The leads are in there to help balance the action.

Piano techs, correct me if I'm wrong...

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Originally Posted by turf1600
For better or for worse - I'm keeping this piano and not buying another one. The joy in this endeavor will be the repair and restoration process. If it is truly a worthless piano I will approach repair in restoration in a different way than if it were a considerably valuable piano.

Sounds to me like you answered your own question, and quickly. smile

BDB is a seasoned concert tech with many years of experience. He knows what he is talking about, whether we agree with him or not. smile

If you are bound and determined to restore the piano in question, I say go for it!

I admire you for your efforts...

Rick


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I don't think I painted an accurate picture.

This is a normal key:

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This is what my keys look look like:

Rubbing, bulging lead:

( )( )
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I'm not considering moving the lead weights. I'm aware of their purpose. Instead I'd just make the lead flush with the sides of the keys so that none of the keys touch.

Last edited by turf1600; 01/19/16 06:06 PM.
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If your goal is to tinker with a piano and learn about their inner workings, this is a pretty good one to do that on. Google "Arthur Reblitz" and buy his book.



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Your piano is certainly a historic piece, and from that point of view it is of some interest, in particular to those who are enthusiasts of old upright pianos. This does not mean that it is, or indeed ever was, a quality musical instrument. Doing a little Googling, I think your piano was probably made after 1866, Amede Thibout et Cie was founded by the Mr Thibout Senior's wife and son after his death according to one document I have found online https://books.google.co.uk/books?id...p;q=amedee%20thibout%20piano&f=false

but like everything in books and online, this could be wrong.

Musically, what this piano will achieve is difficult to say. These old pianos need specific materials that are hard to come by. It's not enough just to put a new set of hammers on it (that might not even fit), or re-cover the originals with modern felt, or use modern strings, etc. These have to be researched, and you may even get close to how the piano was when it was new, but it will be a long and laborious process. Then there is the issue that you may wish you had a modern sounding piano after spending thousands on this instrument.

If I were you, I'd try and find some other pianos from the same era that have been restored, and see what you think of the sound. Compare them to new pianos, see what you think.

If you need a piano to play, as a hobbyist, and want the best musical results, I don't think this is the best project for you. If you specifically want a mid 19th century upright with specific musical intentions, this might be an OK project, but before you part with any cash, have the piano checked over thoroughly. If you love the cabinet and the piano is too far gone for restoration, you could possibly have a digital piano installed inside it, it does happen.


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The lead weights in the keys can swell and expand and contract. It sounds like the lead weights in your piano are excessively swelled.

I'd be careful handling the lead weights. Also, they were there originally for a reason. If you remove them altogether, it will alter the regulation balance.

Best case scenario is to remove the old, corroded/contaminated lead weights and replace them with new... but keep in mind the hazards of handling/breathing lead.

Good luck!

Rick


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Originally Posted by Rickster


BDB is a seasoned concert tech with many years of experience. He knows what he is talking about, whether we agree with him or not. smile


To be fair - this is exactly the type of person who would encourage me to buy a new piano.

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Lead weights can oxidise and expand, and can then catch the adjacent key. If you start grinding the lead, be aware that this is a hazardous exercise. Do NOT breathe the dust, and do NOT do it indoors.

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Originally Posted by turf1600
Originally Posted by Rickster


BDB is a seasoned concert tech with many years of experience. He knows what he is talking about, whether we agree with him or not. smile


To be fair - this is exactly the type of person who would encourage me to buy a new piano.


Not sure why you would say that. BDB is a piano tech, not a salesman. He would have nothing to gain (or lose) by your choice here.

The real question is, what is your goal here? If you want a good usable piano with nice tone and playing characteristics, then a DIY project on this piano probably isn't your best choice. Pianos are very complicated machines, and restoring one is not a trivial task. In this case, you can have it professional rebuilt or buy a new one. Almost without a doubt, you could get a new modern piano for less than the cost of rebuilding this piano to standard.

On the other hand, if you have lots of time, and just want a project, and aren't that concerned with the outcome, then this piano is right down your alley. You'll learn a lot, and gain a greater understanding of just how amazing a machine a piano is. Just have realistic expectations about the outcome.


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It's the powdery lead oxide that you have to be careful with. Most places you can double wrap it in plastic bags and landfill it in small amounts like this. Check with your building and safety department, they have standards for small lead paint removal jobs, which is about the amount you'd have here. Wipe up any loose powder with damp paper towels, and include them in the double bags. Wash your hands afterward.

Metallic lead isn't a problem, no need to be afraid of key weights that are in good condition.



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Actually, I would encourage you to look for a newer piano to work with. There are newer pianos that should be available for free. Once the piano is new enough that parts are standardized, it is much easier to work on them. Fewer things need to be custom-made. (Note that I said fewer. People who take on this sort of work should be versed in manual trades, particularly woodworking, but some metal work as well.)

I could point out things you should be wary of if you would post pictures of the inside of the piano, with the front board and bottom board removed.


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Looks as inviting to restore as a Peugeot. Leave French stuff to residents of France, they might be able to get parts.

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Originally Posted by BDB
Actually, I would encourage you to look for a newer piano to work with. There are newer pianos that should be available for free. Once the piano is new enough that parts are standardized, it is much easier to work on them. Fewer things need to be custom-made. (Note that I said fewer. People who take on this sort of work should be versed in manual trades, particularly woodworking, but some metal work as well.)

I could point out things you should be wary of if you would post pictures of the inside of the piano, with the front board and bottom board removed.


I feel like I'm well equipped to give this a crack. I've restored radio cabinets from the 1920's-1940's, repaired lots of cabinet issues on an edison diamond disc phonograph, can repair hand winding watches and vintage cameras, work on my own cars, etc, etc. I have a good sense of most mechanical items. I appreciate patina and period correct finishes - I won't slather the thing in polyurethane and call it a day. I'll appropriately patch any veneer damage, fill and glue any cracks, gently strip areas that need it and will attempt to retain as much original finish as possible. Metal work is a little spottier for me - but after looking at what's present in this piano I think I can manage.

Side note: found this link containing a similar piano

http://www.sahibinden.com/ilan/alis...den-a-paris-1844-medalie-262720362/detay

Photos - As you wish!I tried to capture some places where parts are obviously missing. Unfortunately I did not find them at the bottom of the cabinet.

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Bulge seen here: definitely why keys are sticking

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Is this some kind of award? Or is the action from the wrong piano?

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Not striking in the right place - too high. A matter of adjustment - or misalignment?

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Bonus video:
https://youtu.be/SSdIlFBSFTo

Update: The medallion seems to be an award granted at the worlds fair/exposition. As it turns out, I'm quite the fan of worlds fair items:

[Linked Image]
[Linked Image]

Among many others...


Last edited by turf1600; 01/20/16 02:54 AM.
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Birdcage action, no hammer springs, flat strung, wooden frame with just a string plate. This was a low-quality instrument even for its time. The pin block was probably never much to begin with, so chances are it could never be tuned well. Pianos like this were shipped to the US in the 1970s by the container-load. People in Europe did not want them, so they dumped them off on antique dealers in the US. Even they have wised up by now, though.

If you want to work on it, have at it and have fun, but I would not expect to get much of a piano out of it. Better pianos are being thrown out all the time.


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Originally Posted by Guapo Gabacho
Looks as inviting to restore as a Peugeot. Leave French stuff to residents of France, they might be able to get parts.


My first car was a 1982 Alfa Romeo GTV6. I'm not scared of anything.

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Originally Posted by turf1600
My first car was a 1982 Alfa Romeo GTV6. I'm not scared of anything.


First replace just one of these and then come back and brag of your bravery.
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