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#3090581 03/08/21 11:34 AM
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I recently was called to a piano that was 300 cents flat (more probably). It had been untouched for who knows how long and sustained several moves and one included across the Atlantic. Here are some pics [img]http://PD Piano 4[/img]; [img]http://PD Piano 2[/img]; (Tell me something about the mechanism (zoom it) of stringer steel rods running vertically with flanges top and bottom...I haven't run into this style before....what can you tell me about it?).

Such a nice piano really but neglected to the point that a house visit was not going to do it. In fact, it was beyond me in terms of I went there to do as went there to (considerable drive) to tune and do regular repairs and maintenance, you know, the normal procedure. But this was far gone from top to bottom and it's just because of neglect. Of course, anything can be fixed and "lubed" back into production but this one I passed on it with frustration, frankly. I have know one to complain to but you so this is why I'm writing it out I guess.

The point I'm making I think, apart from truly wanting to know something about the queer mechanism of the action in the piano with images hopefully showing up, is the fact of why do people neglect their pianos so badly, first of all, and then, out of the blue want to "make it play now". Also, why do people buy or get freely these old clunkers without any getting any advice on the fatigued old heavy-weight and expect a tech to perform a miracle and restore what they have worked so hard to land in their living room. The strings are rusty, half the keys stick, on-and-on....but also to ask you how you feel as a tech going to a home and seeing such a predicament as I've tried to explain.

It is true and worth pointing out that some of these old-beaters tune up and respond to treatment very well or at least "well-enough" to satisfy customer and self but when I go to a home and see these old fellers and the delipidated condition I think man if I'd only known I would not be here right now.

Granted, I'm all over the place with this post but I'm sitting here thinking "I wonder how others approach this problem?" so I'm asking. When you come to a piano like this what is your initial reaction? Are you anticipating this type of piano and therefore "preparing" to walk back out the door soon or do you view it as a challenge and eagerly approach it as such? I don't know about you but being called to a "good" piano is becoming something that doesn't happen as frequently as it once did it seems to me and it's maddening.


Duane Graves


"Pushin 70...still haven fun I think..."
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Duaner #3090587 03/08/21 12:00 PM
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links are not working

Last edited by ambrozy; 03/08/21 12:01 PM.
Duaner #3090599 03/08/21 12:47 PM
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Sometimes an estimate that puts it in good working order is all it takes to educate someone and you either get a challenging job that you get paid your regular rates for or the neglected instrument goes to the dump.


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Duaner #3090609 03/08/21 01:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Duaner
...

I'm sitting here thinking "I wonder how others approach this problem?" so I'm asking. When you come to a piano like this what is your initial reaction? Are you anticipating this type of piano and therefore "preparing" to walk back out the door soon or do you view it as a challenge and eagerly approach it as such?

...

I rarely get called to tune such a piano again, so I do what I can to make it playable in the time I have. On the very, very rare circumstance that it ends up being a repeat customer, I will first try to get them to buy another piano, or will bring the action home and do more substantial repairs.


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Duaner #3090610 03/08/21 01:43 PM
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Duaner #3090614 03/08/21 01:55 PM
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A birdcage piano that is 3 semitones or so flat is not tunable. They were cheap pianos not made to last, but they were often ornate, so back in the 1970s they were shipped to the US by the container-load to sell as antiques, useless decorative items, which unknowing people bought thinking that they "just needed tuning."

Today there are much better pianos available for free on Craigslist (search for "piano" on both Musical Instruments and Free Stuff), so I offer to find one of those which is in better shape, so at least they will have a usable instrument.


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Duaner #3090631 03/08/21 03:15 PM
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Sorry that the pics did not show but "Beemer" linked them perfectly with a great site which I will study fervently, thank you. I thought that was another problem I was facing with this piano was the "Birdcage" action which I know very little about. I actually thought I deleted this post when I checked the "images" in edit mode but I took too long and well it ended up here anyway....which is okay.

Great thoughts already and learned much that I didn't know before with the little that has been share to this point. I will say that I try to steer my customer to a 1990s Yamaha that I had tuned recently and it is now for sale. I indicated strongly that their present piano was too far gone. So, I can say I have done that for them.


Duane Graves


"Pushin 70...still haven fun I think..."
Duaner #3090634 03/08/21 03:21 PM
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With Gene's eminently sensible comments above in mind: It is always amusing how protestations of sentimental value suddenly retreat to the sound of the wallet snapping shut, when you quote a proper price for the needed work on such pianos!

Duane, can you post new links?

BDB's comments help to fill in the picture. Actually, I must add a bit to my page on Birdcage Pianos (which Ian links to, above) about the whole episode of shipping those "antique" pianos to America in the 70s. Nice way to make a fast buck out of a ready market, and immoral.

Last edited by David Boyce; 03/08/21 03:23 PM.
Duaner #3090640 03/08/21 03:29 PM
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It is worth mentioning that production of pianos with overdamper ("bidcage") actions continued into the 1950s in English piano making. According to Bill Kibby of www.pianohistory.info the last birdcage pianos were probably made by Berry Pianos in 1954.

That means that even the youngest of such pianos is now 67 years old. A very great many of them are nearer twice that age.

The overdamper action seems to frighten a lot of American tuners, because of its relative rarity there, and the different appearance. But really there is nothing to be frightened of - it isn't more complex than an underdamper action.

For tuners who have only ever done strip muting, however, it can be a challenge to change to unisons-as-you-go and using a Papps Mute; the only feasible option with these pianos.

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Well, I have strip muted them, and pulled out the mutes as I tuned unisons, but if you every tell anyone that I can tune a birdcage piano, I will deny it!


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Duaner #3090647 03/08/21 03:43 PM
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Fear not, my lips are sealed!

It really is much quicker and easier to use a Papps Mute. You can position it without looking, by dragging across the strings to find the right place.

Duaner #3090649 03/08/21 03:44 PM
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I have even, in the past, replaced a set of overdamper felts, with the proper "end grain" felt. But the degree of improvement wasn't worth the money.

Anyway, that was about thirty years ago, and birdcage pianos are all thirty years older now....

Duaner #3090657 03/08/21 04:00 PM
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I also use rubber mutes with wire handles, which I can stick in. But my best trick for these pianos is to put my tuning hammer on a tuning pin, give it a twist, and show the owner how it turns back when I take my hand off it.


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Duaner #3090705 03/08/21 05:26 PM
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Oh yes, I've done that too.....

Duaner #3090718 03/08/21 05:52 PM
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A very interesting article. Thank you David.

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Originally Posted by David-G
A very interesting article. Thank you David.

Glad you found that page of my website interesting. My site has a lot of pages!


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