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Danemann Grand worth fixing? (Read 1745 times)

Offline tinkleyplonk

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Danemann Grand worth fixing?
« on: April 01, 2018, 02:09:10 PM »
Greetings all, I have joined your wonderful forum for some advice to begin with.
I recently purchased a 1951 Danemann Baby Grand from a professional player because it sounded good to me.
I learned piano as a kid up to 5th grade level but have never till now at the age of 64 had space or funds or practise time to allow ownership of a decent piano.
I have spent most of my life playing and repairing and making guitars. www.kellawayguitars.com
So I had this Piano tuned professionally but I am very interested in making it better so I can follow a path in my playing.
The problems I have with it are firstly with the regulation and secondly with the very rusty strings.
I have worked a little on the regulation and voicing , coming from zero knowledge but gradually working through the book by Reblitz as well as checking out youtube vidoes on the subject.
I am quite confident that I can work through all the steps required and I'm on the verge of ordering a new set of strings for this baby as well as a few necessary tools.
Although I am prepared to go through this exercise my tuner warned me that I may not end up with a satisfactory result.
I fully understand that if I don't do the job well enough that this is almost certainly going to be the outcome.
But if I did do the whole job well I would like to know from Technicians whether it would ever be worthwhile?
I am prepared to re-hammer as well if necessary and I will use new tuning pins with the new strings.
I also see some fine cracks in the pin blocks mostly in the bass register,which I plan to fill with epoxy.
The hammers had very deep grooves from the strings so I ground those out but I still need to crown them as they are a little too flat. I feel they are also too powdery in the old felt and wonder if the heating iron would improve them or if they just need replacement.
So the bottom line is whether I should abandon all hope and sell and re-buy or whether I could possibly learn and end up with a much nicer sounding instrument should my work prove up to scratch?
I don't expect it to sound like a Steinway but it has some nasty metallic resonances on some strings and the action is far from optimum on many levels though everything works and I want it to be much smoother and clearer and in fact more tuneful though it is freshly tuned. I realise after the tuning that it is very dead with these old strings and I know that after a point , strings can no longer vibrate properly.

The dampers are very uneven as well and knowing what I know now I would not have paid what I did but that's history and I may have the chance to learn a lot and still come out smiling.
Your thoughts would be most appreciated.
Cheers.
Dan

Offline indianajo

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Re: Danemann Grand worth fixing?
«Reply #1 on: April 02, 2018, 12:06:27 PM »
I've played a lot of pre WWII uprights with rusty strings, and find the rust doesn't matter much. I don't know why a grand would be any different.  The sound is characterized by the soundboard and case mainly, as some inferior pianos sound a lot better in the highs with the covers off than on.  IMHO.  If the winding wire on the bass string is loose and causing the buzzing, that is another matter. Loose winding wire requires string replacement.  If the wire core are thinned out from too much tuning and won't hold tune very long, that is also an indication for replacement. Usually a tertiary grand hasn't been played that hard, but if the hammers and dampers are badly worn, then this unit is the exception.
If you put a lot of money in a danemann, you won't get it back.  Maybe $600 tops. I never heard of it.  Great learning experience, poor investment. Grand moving  is about $500 minimum around here, so one in one out is $1000, use that as your guide as to buy something else or not.  I move uprights myself with a U-haul and a $70 dolly but getting even one competent helper is problematic without going to the pro mover agencies.  Grands take 3 helpers or a $500 special cart.  
Badly grooved hammers, dampers need replacing, I would look for a cosmetically bad grand that you can salvage the action from.  Baby grands go for as low as $400 around here, and if you scrap one you don't have to pay the movers to treat it carefully.  Forklift it out. There was one Baldwin on craigslist last year that was missing the top.  Many American grands used pratt-read actions or american piano supply. Look at the side of the casting of the strutt for action trademark.  
Multiple cracks in pin block, I wouldn't re-string for sure.  New pin blocks can be bought particularly for grands.  I might cardboard stuff one loose pin, or drill and glue  in a wood plug,  but not multiple ones.  Epoxy is stiff and nothing like the springy retention characteristic of well dried maple wood.  
As for the tuning, I do that myself.  Despite all the warnings from pros, I find if you tune to an electric  organ the stretch doesn't matter much. Tuning in octaves from lower notes is more difficult as the top octave, the off harmonics mess up your hearing,  Buy a decent wrench, I like the one with the 15" long handle.  When I was young and strong I could use a 6" allen wrench and a reversed 1/4" drive socket, but at age 67 the 15" lever is a lot easier.  Tuning appliances, I don't know how you get 54 hz from a 1" diameter speaker.  Since I am a church musician, an electric organ has always been available.  Hold the notes down with a roll of coins.  Fifth octave from the organ covers all the notes okay IMHO.  I tuned a Howard baby grand last month, with compliments from the church pianist afterwards.  

Offline tinkleyplonk

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Re: Danemann Grand worth fixing?
«Reply #2 on: April 02, 2018, 11:08:09 PM »
Dear Indianajo,
Thanks for your considered reply.
I still require guidance from a more experienced Tech but I appreciate your thoughts.
Firstly I should say that here in Australia it is not so common to find junked out grands. Uprights are everywhere for free if you can get them. I have one waiting for me to wreck as it is beyond repair but i use a lot of that recycled timber in my instrument making.
However in the case of my Danemann , of which you haven't heard,  I paid $4K for it because in that price range it was the best I'd heard and it was owned by a pro muso who gave lessons on it and made it sound wonderful. His style suited it as he does piano bar type material that rarely extends to Bach or Chopin.
But that is my main interest though I want to develop some skills with Take Five and some Dr John styles as I get my fingers back into the zone.
There are a few grands round here for under $10K but not many and they are mostly junk.
Perhaps my Danemann is one of them but I'm not so sure.
I seriously beg to differ on the subject of old and rusty strings. The  first indication was that the two topmost strings on C88 were missing so I had my tuner replace them beside the old existing rusty one to see what difference it made. By comparison, the original is dead! Almost a dull thud compared to singing, if you ever call that top note singing.
My other point of reference coming from 45 years of instrument repair and making is that with very old strings on any instrument they stretch unevenly and with rust they develop uneven weight distribution which throws them out for tuning and resonance.
So from the point of getting this piano to sing I believe new strings are essential.
But the cost of the strings alone comes to about $1K as they would be custom made at our best string makers in Australia and though I know it will improve everything I'm not sure by how much and whether it will cure some of the worst sounds that I want gone.
Thus I am inclined instead to simply replace all the plain strings first which will not be so dear, and if it makes the difference I need then I will continue with the bass register.
Does this seem a sensible approach?
My problem with this approach is that it requires complete detuning for each stringing and thus if I ended up fitting the bass strings later then the plain strings just fitted would be compromised by detuning and retuning again so perhaps it's best to just bite the bullet and do the whole lot altogether, do it once and do it right?

As far as the pinblock, this is mainly the bass one and the cracks aren't very serious but I have seen repairs being done to such cracks to arrest their development using epoxy. Have a look at the photo and tell me if I am being stupid about this.


I might even try taking the bass strings off and soaking them overnight in a bath of acetone and auto transmission fluid to clean them up. Has anyone done this before? I suspect I should be ready to break a few on retuning so I'm thinking it's not such a great idea since to break one would require the full set anyway.

I am not intimidated by the action, whatever has to happen. I am happy to voice the hammers and replace if needed, and I am happy to work through the logical process of regulation with so much good information available there to make it happen. The Reblitz book is great as are some youtube clips by Howard Pianos and I think there are other books at VanderKings that might be illuminating as well.

So as you see though I have ideas of softly putting my toe in the water I am really wanting to dive right in headfirst. Like a bull at a gate as my Dad would have said.
Any more opinions please?

Offline indianajo

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Re: Danemann Grand worth fixing?
«Reply #3 on: April 03, 2018, 01:56:10 AM »
Location matters. Great grands are just so much old junk around here. If it is not Yamaha or Kawai or Steinway, nobody wants it.  My favorite 1950's Baldwin 8' at a church 6 miles away was just given away. 
On the wire, I've been using .033" dia malin music wire from the industrial supply when I break single wires in my Sohmer & several church Baldwins.  Sounds just the same as the old wire, IMHO.  I did build a tool to bend the radius of the end nicely to start the windup, instead of having the cast on button from the piano supply.  About $20 for a 1 lb roll, although mcmaster has deleted malin (of Cincinnatti) and granger now has a s "precision" brand https://www.ebay.com/itm/ZZ1704-PRECISION-BRAND-MUSIC-WIRE-14-033-DIA-1-4-POUND-NEW-OLD-STOCK/112879651661?hash=item1a4826cb4d:g:igwAAOSwGy5Y8We0:sc:USPSFirstClass!47130!US!-1
Best of luck in your endeavors. 

Offline tinkleyplonk

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Re: Danemann Grand worth fixing?
«Reply #4 on: April 03, 2018, 03:08:28 AM »
The string makers have offered to supply me enough wire for one piano in the various gauges.
I have found the following on this piano.
C88-D#79 =32thou
D78-G59 =35thou
F#58-F#46 =37thou
F45-G#36 =40thou
G35-F#34 =45thou
F33-E32 =47thou
The last two courses on the tenor register are wound.
 I once made some Hammered Dulcimers for which I bought a few rolls of wire but they are long rusty.
I'll check that link to see if they offer a range. Thanks for that Jo.

Offline malembe

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Re: Danemann Grand worth fixing?
«Reply #5 on: October 13, 2018, 05:06:08 PM »
By now you must be well into overhaulin your old johanah??
I have repaired and tuned a few uprights simply out of curiosity and because my 1940ties 53" B.Brock needed attention. If you've not yet purchased the plain wire buy stainless. Make certain you buy a tuning lever which is the correct (tight) fit for your pins. Probably in Aussie you can buy the wound strings but I here in UK bought from the USA.
  Everything you need is avaiable "online".
  It is fun to do the repairs BUT if you wish to play the piano it will take much of the time you could use practising !!!!!!
  Oh! one easy job was to reshape the hammers, off the piano, and then use strips of  chamy/shamy leather to strech round the hammer to replace the removed felt - make certain only to glue the ends to the wood tails of the hammer - nothing on the actual felts. one must cut the chamy about a centimeter wider than the hammer because it narrows as you pull it.

Offline lhorwinkle

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Re: Danemann Grand worth fixing?
«Reply #6 on: October 24, 2018, 02:07:29 AM »
That's chamois.