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#2003687 - 12/23/12 10:05 PM Loosening up an old upright action.
Rickster Online   content


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8569
Loc: Georgia, USA
Greetings All!

I have a question for the pros… I recently purchased another old upright piano, an old 53” Conover-Cable from the early 1900’s, and I’m trying to loosen up some of the sluggish action on some notes. Most of the action is pretty fast and free of sluggishness, but some notes are being stubborn. It does have the old “Billings” brass flanges. Also, it doesn’t have the bridle straps, it has the hook looking piece of metal (like a finish nail bent 90 degrees) that fits in a mortised out section of the hammer butt. (Hope I’m using the right terminology here smile )

I’ve used Proteck CLP to treat the action flanges and center pins and powdered Teflon on the hammer butts, and stickers, as well as the key bushings. Most of the keys/notes are working very well and repeat pretty fast, but some are still a little slow to return.

Any advice would be appreciated.

Best regards, and Merry Christmas!

Rick
_________________________
Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel

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#2003702 - 12/23/12 10:35 PM Re: Loosening up an old upright action. [Re: Rickster]
Steven Bolstridge Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/13/05
Posts: 198
Loc: Fitzgerald ,GA
you can use a heat gun sparingly. Some folks put these actions in enclosed wooden boxes with a couple of Dampp Chasers for a few days to dry them out. I've never done it, but there may be a place for this, short of disassembling the whole action. I assume the action should be checked often.
_________________________
piano tuner/technician

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#2003709 - 12/23/12 10:55 PM Re: Loosening up an old upright action. [Re: Rickster]
Rickster Online   content


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8569
Loc: Georgia, USA
Thanks, I'll try the heat gun/hair dryer.

Also, the piano had a dehumidifying heater bar installed... no controler, just the heater bar. Maybe I need to plug up the heater bar and leave it one a few days.

Anyway, I'm convinced that newer is better, when it comes to acoustic piano, but the old gems are a lot of fun to tinker with...

Thanks again,

Rick
_________________________
Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel

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#2003716 - 12/23/12 11:26 PM Re: Loosening up an old upright action. [Re: Rickster]
rysowers Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/16/07
Posts: 2407
Loc: Olympia, WA
Treating the flanges with 50/50 denatured alcohol and water works many times. It's a very traditional fix for sluggish actions. They will really tighten up at first, but then after 24 hours or so they should be looser.
_________________________
Ryan Sowers,
Pianova Piano Service
Olympia, WA
www.pianova.net

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#2003888 - 12/24/12 10:35 AM Re: Loosening up an old upright action. [Re: Rickster]
Silverwood Pianos Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/08
Posts: 4217
Loc: Vancouver B. C. Canada
Hi Rickster,

Yes the old Cable action with the hook out of the top of the jack that fits into a mortise in the back of the hammer butt. This system eliminates the requirement for a bridle strap.

Unfortunately the billings flanges will not respond to any type of solution as the problem is dirt inside the eye of the metal flange.
This is what you are looking at correct?

Billings flange

These flanges can be gently pried open, just enough to get the old center pin out. Then a little cleaning and replace the c.pin.

You will see little brass filings coming off the inside as you clean with the reamer. Use the next size up of center pin and when you pinch the flange closed with pliers or the screw that holds it into place the center pin will be tight. If not, use the next size until it is tight.

The billing flange is a good system but subject to contamination like any other flange system and is a bit different in repair technique. Just don’t stretch the flange open too much. I have a bunch of them if you break one in half….
_________________________
Dan Silverwood
www.silverwoodpianos.com
http://silverwoodpianos.blogspot.com/
http://www.facebook.com/SilverwoodPianosDotCom
"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."

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#2003903 - 12/24/12 11:08 AM Re: Loosening up an old upright action. [Re: Rickster]
Rickster Online   content


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8569
Loc: Georgia, USA
Thanks for the comments, All!

Dan, I guess I still don't know what I'm talking about when it comes to old piano actions... the brass flanges are different than the Billings flanges you posted.

These are the flat brass flange plates... I ordered some here... Brass flange plates like this...

I suppose some (or all :-) of your logic still applies. I'm thinking I'll try the easiest things first and try a little alcohol and water treatment on the affected notes.

I figured out how to determine whether it is the action or keys that are sluggish. Just hold the key and lift the action by hand.

I know the piano is old but I'm thinking I can get it to play fairly decent.

Thanks again, and Happy Holidays!!

Rick
_________________________
Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel

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#2003927 - 12/24/12 12:07 PM Re: Loosening up an old upright action. [Re: Rickster]
Silverwood Pianos Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/08
Posts: 4217
Loc: Vancouver B. C. Canada
Oh I see, yes you have the clips from the continuous brass flange rail, not the Billings flanges. That is another photo album I did for brass flange repairs...

Brass Flange Repairs

The continuous brass flange rail can be treated with liquids in the hammer butt eyelets. Any more than one application means the flange will have to come apart and be cleaned.

There is one thing about the replacement clips you should know if you have to use them. At times, when tightening the replacement clips, the clip wants to swim to one side and rub against the inside of the eyelet of the hammer butt. This can also make the butt slow in performance. Insert a small gauge screwdriver on one side to prevent the clip from turning against the wooden eyelet when tightening.
_________________________
Dan Silverwood
www.silverwoodpianos.com
http://silverwoodpianos.blogspot.com/
http://www.facebook.com/SilverwoodPianosDotCom
"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."

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#2003932 - 12/24/12 12:18 PM Re: Loosening up an old upright action. [Re: Rickster]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21673
Loc: Oakland
I think before you do anything else, you should tighten the action screws, and then clean the keyboard and action thoroughly.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2003975 - 12/24/12 01:47 PM Re: Loosening up an old upright action. [Re: Rickster]
Rickster Online   content


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8569
Loc: Georgia, USA
Originally Posted By: Silverwood Pianos
There is one thing about the replacement clips you should know if you have to use them. At times, when tightening the replacement clips, the clip wants to swim to one side and rub against the inside of the eyelet of the hammer butt. This can also make the butt slow in performance. Insert a small gauge screwdriver on one side to prevent the clip from turning against the wooden eyelet when tightening.

Thanks, Dan... yes, I've only replaced one of the brass flange plates, and I experienced the "swimming" you mentioned. I've also found that if the the flange plate is too tight, it will cause a slow hammer return. I'm thinking my sluggish notes are a combination of tightness in all the right places.

Originally Posted By: BDB
I think before you do anything else, you should tighten the action screws, and then clean the keyboard and action thoroughly.

Thanks, BDB... that was the first thing I did. In fact, I had to loosen some of the brass flange plate screws I previously tightened to free up the hammer butts.

Good thing I just bought a new bottle of Proteck CLP smile

Thanks for all the great comments and suggestions!

Rick
_________________________
Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel

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#2003982 - 12/24/12 01:58 PM Re: Loosening up an old upright action. [Re: Rickster]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7901
Loc: France
as long there is some cloth and wooden flanges; the alcohol water works, but it can even be too strong if the cloth reacts a lot (or with some wood ).

I am still expecting a clear answer, as using pure alcohol does not do much, and as 10% alcohol was considered as a light solution by some. (on Renner parts, it is)

I was explained by 2 different sources that the alcohol was the most active agent and that more was stronger. (why ? was not explained)

Experiments did not give really probing results, but I did with parts of different sets and not new. The 80 % alcohol was not stronger than the 20% alcohol in my tests.

Interesting, a too much eased flange can be closed back with alcohol water (but without the center installed before everything is dry)
_________________________
It is critical that you call your Senators and Representatives and ask them to cosponsor S. 2587 and H.R. 5052. Getting your legislators to cosponsor these bills


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#2004119 - 12/24/12 09:20 PM Re: Loosening up an old upright action. [Re: Rickster]
Supply Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 3919
Loc: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
Originally Posted By: Rickster
... I had to loosen some of the brass flange plate screws I previously tightened to free up the hammer butts.

Good thing I just bought a new bottle of Proteck CLP
If you have to loosen the plate screws to get the hammer to move properly, all the CPL in the world will not help you. Those flanges need to be re-pinned.
Merry Christmas.
_________________________
Jurgen Goering
Piano Forte Supply
www.pianofortesupply.com

Piattino Caster Cups distributor

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#2004184 - 12/25/12 01:57 AM Re: Loosening up an old upright action. [Re: Rickster]
Rickster Online   content


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8569
Loc: Georgia, USA
Originally Posted By: Supply
If you have to loosen the plate screws to get the hammer to move properly, all the CPL in the world will not help you. Those flanges need to be re-pinned.
Merry Christmas.

Thanks, Jurgen,

Re-pinning flanges is something I haven't done yet... guess it's time I learned. smile

Merry Christmas to you and your family too!

Rick
_________________________
Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel

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#2004188 - 12/25/12 02:19 AM Re: Loosening up an old upright action. [Re: Rickster]
Chris Leslie Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/11
Posts: 678
Loc: Canberra, ACT, Australia
Rick, if I am thinking of the same type of mechanism, be wary of those little brass plates. They should be screwed tight enough to grip the pin but there is a fine line between tight enough and breaking the plate. For the few that I have seen most have had some broken plates, or plates that appear ok but have fractures waiting to fail completely. I have serviced some such pianos with sacrificial end notes to salvage middle notes because of broken plates.
_________________________
Chris Leslie
Piano technician
http://www.chrisleslie.com.au

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#2004193 - 12/25/12 02:46 AM Re: Loosening up an old upright action. [Re: Supply]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21673
Loc: Oakland
Originally Posted By: Supply
Originally Posted By: Rickster
... I had to loosen some of the brass flange plate screws I previously tightened to free up the hammer butts.

Good thing I just bought a new bottle of Proteck CLP
If you have to loosen the plate screws to get the hammer to move properly, all the CPL in the world will not help you. Those flanges need to be re-pinned.
Merry Christmas.


However, if he was loosening the plates to straighten them so that they do not rub against the butts, it is not a problem with pins.

In any case, changing pins on brass flange joints is not as complicated as on wooden joints. All that matters is that butts rotate properly on the pin. Tightening the screw adjusts the flange to the pin.

When I work on these, I tighten the screws enough to break the plates that are beginning to crack. Not replacing those plates is just asking for trouble later.

I have replaced entire flanges in the past. Today, unless it is some special action, I think I would just replace everything with wooden flanges.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2004231 - 12/25/12 08:04 AM Re: Loosening up an old upright action. [Re: Rickster]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7901
Loc: France
Protek on dirty cloth is probably the worst.

The cloth can be cleaned with a lightly abrasive center pin, very lightly, so you only use one size up, Before inserting the new center a strong burnishing is necessary.
Newly inserted pin is better a little too tight (1-2 grms more) it will loosen in 24 hrs.

A lube can be used but I have senn recently center pins where some hard spot have grown, locking totally the center and using the cloth. I suppose some reaction occured with a lube, gluing and hardening dirt and cloth fiber.
I suspected a Teflon spot due to old CLP.

Washing the cloth with alcohol water mix probably will dissolve a little such spot.

oils on bushing cloth make center pin change a problem, particularely because with time the oil turn to a soap like material. reaming or adjusting centers in that case is hasardous (gluing new cloth on oiled wood is also more difficult)


Hammer centers need to be firmly hold, without play, as the hammer impact must be well driven.
Too soft holding of the center make the piano very sensitive to hammer mating problems




Edited by Kamin (12/25/12 08:05 AM)
_________________________
It is critical that you call your Senators and Representatives and ask them to cosponsor S. 2587 and H.R. 5052. Getting your legislators to cosponsor these bills


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#2004241 - 12/25/12 09:00 AM Re: Loosening up an old upright action. [Re: Rickster]
Rickster Online   content


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8569
Loc: Georgia, USA
Wow, great advice, everyone! This is exactly the kind of info I was looking for.

Yes, I broke one plate tightening it... I robbed the #1 plate until I could order some new ones. I actually fabricated a new plate with some old key brass... about the same width. It worked on #1 till I got the new ones.

Like I said, I think I will try the alcohol/water treatment on the sluggish notes (about a dozen)... I'll see how that works and go from there.

You guys earn your money... this stuff is very tedious and time comsuming; but rewarding.

Merry Christmas!

Rick
_________________________
Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel

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#2004396 - 12/25/12 09:42 PM Re: Loosening up an old upright action. [Re: Rickster]
Chris Leslie Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/11
Posts: 678
Loc: Canberra, ACT, Australia
If you go ahead and re-pin the hammer butts then be aware that testing the pin/bushing friction is more difficult because the clamping components are still attached to the rail inside the piano. You may have to make some sort of testing clip if you wish to do swing tests.
_________________________
Chris Leslie
Piano technician
http://www.chrisleslie.com.au

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#2004432 - 12/25/12 11:30 PM Re: Loosening up an old upright action. [Re: Rickster]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21673
Loc: Oakland
All you have to do is hold the pin stationary while you swing the hammer. If it is okay, then trim the pin to width. If not, you can use the pin someplace else. Or if you have broaches, you can use them to size the joints.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2005740 - 12/28/12 07:21 PM Re: Loosening up an old upright action. [Re: Rickster]
Rickster Online   content


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8569
Loc: Georgia, USA
Update....

I took some time this morning and removed the sluggish hammer butts from the action. I removed the flange pins and burnished the bushings with an old pin that was roughed up a little and that cleaned out some old dirt, wax(?) and crudd out of the bushings. Coated the bushing again with CLP and replaced the pin.

The sluggish notes are not as sluggish and repeat nicely. Some of the other flange pins need the same treatment, but progress is being made.

Thanks again for all the comments and suggestions.

Rick
_________________________
Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel

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#2109794 - 06/28/13 04:44 PM Re: Loosening up an old upright action. [Re: Rickster]
Tuneless Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/17/13
Posts: 186
Loc: AZ, USA
Hi Rick. Sounds like you have a very similar Conover to mine, tho of later vintage. I'll be trying to loosen some of the pins as described above, and start with the 50/50 water alcohol.
_________________________
Cynthia

Roland FP-50
Conover Upright, 1888/9, but a very low mileage piano. http://www.pbase.com/schnitz/conover_upright_piano__1888_or_9 .
Tuneless = Don't play piano(yet) and couldn't tune a guitar, much less a piano.
I'm technically very capable. I love my piano and love tinkering with it.

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