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Cleaning Strings - Cosmetic or Practical? (Read 2341 times)

Offline 68pontiac

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Cleaning Strings - Cosmetic or Practical?
« on: September 05, 2016, 07:21:28 PM »
Hello,
First time to the board, and my daughter is practicing piano.  She is now in high school and has been playing for 8 years.  I know little to nothing about pianos.

We bought a 1936 Haddorf Verticord years before my daughter was born, mainly because my wife always wanted to learn to play, the looks are beautiful, and we picked it up on a whim at an estate sale.
Anyways, finally tuning the piano, because we can finally afford it.  Looks like it hasn't been tuned since the 60s, so it one octave lower.
Piano tuner is reshaping the hammers, as the felt was still very soft.  They said the strings are in excellent shape, but that they wanted to clean the oxidation off the strings.  There isn't any excessive oxidation that I can see.  Copper looks tarnished, but fine.  The steel looks galvanized in color, but no visible rust. 
Cleaning will cost us $200 more, and as a family with very little funds, is it actually worth it?  Is it for cosmetic purposes?  Visually it does not seem needed, but with the age of the piano and the amount of tuning that will be required, I don't want to make a poor decision because I am trying to save money.  Plus it probably will be played daily for four more years, and once my daughter moves on with her life, probably will just sit there as neither my wife or I play.

Suggestions?  Thanks for your advice in advance!

JHC

Offline iansinclair

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Re: Cleaning Strings - Cosmetic or Practical?
«Reply #1 on: September 06, 2016, 12:36:06 AM »
I wouldn't bother.  If and when a string breaks due to corrosion or rust (or bringing the instrument up to pitch!), then you might want to consider restringing, but it would be aesthetic at this point.

I doubt very much that the instrument is an octave low?  That would be a truly horrendous problem to fix, and take months, even if it could be done.  Even a whole tone low can be a problem, and take several tunings, as a piano has to be brought up in stages.  Never mind an octave!  May I humbly suggest that you check with another tuner?  Or can your daughter perhaps borrow a recorder or some other instrument of the sort from school and check how far out the instrument really is?
Ian

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Cleaning Strings - Cosmetic or Practical?
«Reply #2 on: September 06, 2016, 03:24:33 AM »
Maybe post some photos of your instrument and some technicians here can give you better advice. I am not familiar with Haddorf Verticord but generally old run down pianos are not worth your money to fix up. If it hasn't been tuned for such a long time there is probably little chance of it holding its proper tuning without replacing a lot of pins and strings. I used to tune pianos at a warehouse when I was in my highschool years and that was always often the problem, you could tune them up and if none of the strings broke then usually the pins would not hold the tension without repair, the pianos go out of tune so fast otherwise, maybe why your tuner decided to tune it an octave lower? In any case the piano seems poor quality if it can't be tuned back to original key so cleaning the strings imho would be useless.
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Offline indianajo

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Re: Cleaning Strings - Cosmetic or Practical?
«Reply #3 on: September 06, 2016, 06:29:34 PM »
I played a lot of old uprights with rusty old strings that sounded fine.  I say don't bother cleaning them.
I also say voicing more than one or two hammers is a waste of money.  There are plenty of old pianos around with hammers that were hardly touched by the original owners.  Pianos used more for holding up the pictures and bric-a-brac than being played.
If one or two notes won't pull up to pitch in 6 or 7 tunings, then they can be repaired with 1. tape in the hole (baldwin factory bulliten) 2. pine tar in the hole 3.replace pin with  oversized pin. 4. drill hole out  out and glue new bushing put in.
More than two or three sagging notes, forget it. 
My 1941 Steinway 40 that I bought in 2010 hadn't been tuned since 1966. It took seven tries to get it stable at pitch, creeping up the first four times,  but then it was fine for four more years.  It had a solid wood pin block. 

Offline ahinton

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Re: Cleaning Strings - Cosmetic or Practical?
«Reply #4 on: September 10, 2016, 10:11:11 AM »
Good advice here.

I'm not familiar with that instrument either, but the rule of thumb is usually that if the piano is from a major manufacturer and has its soundboard still in good condition, it might be amenable to repairs up to and including a full restoration job should that be so desired, but the cost is immense and therefore not worth outlaying unless the instrument can be brought up to a condition broadly similar to that of its original manufacture and, on many other pianos, this is rarely possible.

I have a Steinway Model C that's now 120 years old which appears to have been very well cared for until the 1960s or thereabouts but which had subsequently deteriorated to the point where its life was in danger unless subjected to a full restoration. I took advice from two reliable technicians before deciding to proceed with one of them to undertake this; each stated that it would be worth doing for a number of reasons, not least of which was the the soundboard remained in fine condition (apart from requiring a good clean).

Its ivory key covers were cleaned and retained rather than replaced, its rosewood casework was still in very good condition so was not touched and its hammer heads were amenable to reshaping rather than requiring replacement, but just about everything else had to be done - new wrest plank, new tuning pins, new strings, all other felts replaced, updating of its sostenuto pedal mechanism and, of course, a good many subsequent regulations to stabilise it.

It was fortunate that I had another decent piano (albeit a much smaller one - a 1928 Mason & Hamlin that had already been well restored) because this enabled me to give the technician as long as he wanted to undertake all the work without having to rush anything and then ample further time for it to settle down.

The end result sounds less like a modern Steinway C and more akin to what the piano would have sounded like when it was relatively new. The technician and several others who have inspected the piano since that work was completed several years ago are all of the opinion that, provided that it is well cared for, its life could well extend to a further 100 years, which helps to justify the enormous cost of the undertaking (albeit handsomely helped by the taxman!) - not that I have been overcharged (far from it, indeed); Steinways themselves would have charged almost double what I paid had they been prepared to do the work, which they were not because they stated that the piano was "too old"! - although I have grave doubts in any case that Steinways would have done such a fine job of it.

I too, cannot imagine that the piano mentioned by the OP can be an octave below pitch, but it sounds from its description that it would not be wroth outlaying much money on it and, if its tuning is way out and hasn't been attended to in around half a century, the chances are - especially if the strings themslves are still in reasonable condition - that the principal issue is likely to be the wrest plank and tuning pins whose replacement would cost a great deal of money and almost certainly not be worth doing, however affordable it might be.

In the end, any such decision has to be ruthlessly based upon comparing the total cost of acquisition and repair of the piano with what it might be worth when the work's been completed. Mine is estimated to be worth around twice the cost of acquisition and repair, so it was well worth having it done, although a new Steinway C with a rosewood case (which can be done but does not come as standard and incurs an additional five-figure charge) would cost almost three times what mine is now reckoned to be worth.

A further consideration is that of the amount of additional life any repairs to the piano might be reckoned to give.

So - there's a lot to think about!

Best,

Alistair
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Offline 68pontiac

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Re: Cleaning Strings - Cosmetic or Practical?
«Reply #5 on: September 24, 2016, 02:10:12 AM »
Sorry for the late reply. 
Thanks to everyone that answered back.  Its no Stienway, though it was considered fairly high quality at the time... or the first "grand sound" out of a spinet.  It really is more emotional attachment than actual investment. 
I decided because of advice, to not go ahead with the cleaning.  Sure hope the tuning goes well and doesn't run into any problems as those above mentioned.

Again, thanks for your replies and advice.