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#2021517 - 01/26/13 06:36 AM Calling London: info about an old Collard & Collard upright
Mark R. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/09
Posts: 2006
Loc: Pretoria, South Africa
Dear technicians,

An acquaintance has asked me to tune his old Collard & Collard upright. I inspected it today, and I'd like to gather some information and advice before doing the job.

1) Age?

The numbers I could find were as follows:
5915 on the left side panel
305 on the soundboard
186638 on the left side panel, the keyframe and the lowest key.
[Edit: I took this last number to be the serial number.]

Judging by the style (and 85 key ivory keyboard (incidentally, in dirty but near-perfect condition)), I estimated the instrument to be about 100 years old. Indeed, the website of Besbrode pianos places the serial no. at 1910-1920. Can anyone give me a closer estimate?

2) Rust on strings crossing treble plate felt

There is a plate felt just above the pressure bar, in the treble, roughly from the 5th [Edit: 5th octave] all the way to the top. At the point of crossing this felt, all strings (except a few replaced ones) are extremely rusty, to the point of flakiness. One some strings, the rust extends upwards to the pins and downwards behind the pressure bar. However, where the strings cross the V-bar (plate nut), they are relatively clean.

Is this phenomenon well-known, or more likely an exception, e.g. some liquid having been spilled through the split lid, and wicked into that plate felt?

3) Tuning

By all accounts, including signatures on the keysticks, the instrument was last tuned in 1990 - by the tuner's note, to -100 cents. It's currently at about -80 cents. Some unisons had drifted badly, but all of them could be tuned quite nicely without any breakage. The pinblock feels quite good.

The family doesn't need the instrument at 440Hz, so I proposed to tune it at its current pitch, to try and save as many treble wires as possible (I do have spares). Would you agree?

4) Soft (not necessarily tubby!) bass

All notes on the bass bridge sound as though the hammers are too soft and/or light. Not really tubby, but as though the hammers had been voiced way, way down or simply don't gather enough momentum. I could not see any problems with the bridges. The soundboard has few small cracks, but they're above the treble bridge, and there are no buzzes. I didn't check the regulation of the bass section. What sound there is, though, sounded quite warm - it's just too soft. [Edit: reminiscent of playing with a thin practice mute, but otherwise normal strings.]

Does this sound familiar?

I'd appreciate any advice, information, notes of caution, etc.

Thanks and regards,
Mark



Edited by Mark R. (01/26/13 07:03 AM)
Edit Reason: three addenda, as given in post
_________________________
Autodidact interested in piano technology.

1922 49" Zimmermann, project piano.
1970 44" Ibach, daily music maker.

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#2021521 - 01/26/13 06:59 AM Re: Calling London: info about an old Collard & Collard upright [Re: Mark R.]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7540
Loc: France
Hi, if the wait again 10 years the pitch will be less 60 cts, I question if it is necessary to tune it wink

A half step flat (415 Hz, now you are even lower) piano is not a "tuned" piano, you will at best have a bad tone with strings not tense enough

Rust is may be only at the surface, it may be a reaction from moisture in the felt or some acidity in it (the rest of the strings have been cleaned by the tuner)

You may aim to some 430 pitch at last, and it is an opportunity to learn to feel the string about to break.

Do the PR very slowly after having verified that all screws are tight, may be a drop of WD40 on the capo, tune all the A's then the E"s, the the B's etc

The only reason to try to raise in 2 passes or more is to allow some time for the bridge to move (or for the strings to rendre below the bridge.
SO the problem is more there in my opinion.

it is possible that the piano is tuneable in something as 8-10 hours tuning plus all cleaning tightening lube, it is also possible that all the strings you will raise will break.
You cannot know without trying.

In resume the piano is tuneable or no, but if it is not no need to spend time on it.

Collard & Collard are not the worst old pianos you can find , but chances are that the soundboard is shot.

Sorry if this was not intended tome (but I visited London 36 years ago !)


Edited by Olek (01/26/13 07:02 AM)
_________________________
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#2021525 - 01/26/13 07:16 AM Re: Calling London: info about an old Collard & Collard upright [Re: Mark R.]
Mark R. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/09
Posts: 2006
Loc: Pretoria, South Africa
Isaac,

The instrument is not at -180 cents, but -80. (About 420 Hz.)
_________________________
Autodidact interested in piano technology.

1922 49" Zimmermann, project piano.
1970 44" Ibach, daily music maker.

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#2021568 - 01/26/13 10:16 AM Re: Calling London: info about an old Collard & Collard upright [Re: Mark R.]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7540
Loc: France
you are right , then you could try to raise to 435 Hz

If you allow the piano to be tuned one note below, you experiment a huge raise in iH , then the piano is definitively out of its normal tonal parameters

Ex iH =0.7if tuned at 435
ih = 0.875 if tuned at 415 Hz (half step)

And that, with new wire...



Edited by Olek (01/26/13 10:19 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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#2021679 - 01/26/13 01:44 PM Re: Calling London: info about an old Collard & Collard upright [Re: Mark R.]
Supply Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 3919
Loc: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
If the pins are tight and
if the client wants it at standard pitch, and
if you think the strings can take it, then do a pitch raise. In that case, Why stop at 435? From there it is only one more tick up to 440.

Consider that if strings start breaking (which sounds likely) you will have a "bit of a problem" on your hands, and the client will be in for additional costs which may not be warranted on such an instrument.

Considering the overall situation and condition, it is sometimes better for all involved to leave things as they are. If it was last tuned 1/2 tone flat and that was fine for 20 years, what has changed in demands of the piano? If all of a sudden the piano owner wants to seriously play piano, an upgrade in instruments is probably the best route anyhow.

PS: Remember that WD-40 came to its name because it should never come closer than 40 feet to a piano... thumb
_________________________
Jurgen Goering
Piano Forte Supply
www.pianofortesupply.com

Piattino Caster Cups distributor

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#2021711 - 01/26/13 02:57 PM Re: Calling London: info about an old Collard & Collard upright [Re: Mark R.]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7540
Loc: France
Well a dab of oil then ! No spraying !

I experimented a modern piano breaking strings at "only" 444.. I agree that 440 is not far more than 435 but it really depends of the wire ability. I dont recall English wire as reputed for its strenght but I dont know for sure.

If it is a friend and not a customer, experiment is possible. I would test quicly the 6th octave and high treble at wanted pitch ,without overpull.

Old american pianos seem to have excellent wire for what I have seen.

Strangely some wire find in Esat german from the 80 seem insensible to corrosion (5 years in unheated garage, 3 years a a few feet from the ocean) very surprising .
_________________________
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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#2021797 - 01/26/13 06:00 PM Re: Calling London: info about an old Collard & Collard upright [Re: Mark R.]
Mark R. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/09
Posts: 2006
Loc: Pretoria, South Africa
Gents,

A bit of background. The piano is a family heirloom that gradually fell into disuse over the last 20 years, after having been inherited from the out-laws - umm, in-laws. After an initial interest, the family hardly ever played it. Hence, it wasn't tuned either.

But now the family's teenager has expressed an interest in taking up the piano, and complained about the terrible unisons. His mother, who played regularly after receiving the piano in the early 90s, is also interested in taking it up again - if it can be brought into tune with itself.

So, Jurgen, while the 1/2 tone flat was fine for 20 years, the fact that it wasn't tuned for 20 years, is no longer fine. I could clearly see that the family is offended by bad unisons. After I cleaned up the unisons from A2 to A5 roughly and quickly, they were much happier.

There is no need or desire to get the pitch up to 440 - I asked everyone about this. Also, I didn't think that in 1910 the pitch standard was 440Hz already, which is part of my question about the age. So, I was thinking of tuning it to itself at about 420 or 425 Hz.
_________________________
Autodidact interested in piano technology.

1922 49" Zimmermann, project piano.
1970 44" Ibach, daily music maker.

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#2021819 - 01/26/13 06:57 PM Re: Calling London: info about an old Collard & Collard upright [Re: Mark R.]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7540
Loc: France
The job is simlar just more risk for breaking strings -

usually, the tuner perceive what level of tension is good tone wise, it can be 420 or 25, no matter if the tone is clear enough.

The piano will move more or less the same whatever pitch is intended , in my opinion. For the last cts it make a differnce in precision may be, but if the strings dont break you can tune it at whatever pitch you can.

if a string may break chances are it happens on the tuning pin side or at the upper angle. Have a good look at the condition of strings on the bottom, if they are not more rusty than above you may eventually have no problem.

But raising pitch on old tired strings is an interesting experience (I can send you what is called chipping temperament, it is very simple, with it you will notice soon enough if the strings are prone to break)

Move the lever very lightly and very very slowly once the string begin to move while playing enough at mF Always lower a little and also slowly, just to break the friction points (it can create a string break just while lowering but no way to avoid that it is just a hair, , as long as the note move the string is free.




Edited by Olek (01/26/13 06:59 PM)
_________________________
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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#2022627 - 01/28/13 04:29 AM Re: Calling London: info about an old Collard & Collard upright [Re: Mark R.]
Mark R. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/09
Posts: 2006
Loc: Pretoria, South Africa
Hi Isaac,

The speaking lengths and hitchpin loops are largely rust free (or perhaps some superficial surface rust). The deeper rust is mostly limited to the upper duplex of the treble, and the termination pins on the V-bar in the bass.

I would be interested in the chipping temperament (perhaps by PM?)
_________________________
Autodidact interested in piano technology.

1922 49" Zimmermann, project piano.
1970 44" Ibach, daily music maker.

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#2022813 - 01/28/13 12:31 PM Re: Calling London: info about an old Collard & Collard upright [Re: Mark R.]
Supply Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 3919
Loc: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
Originally Posted By: Mark R.
...I would be interested in the chipping temperament....
_________________________
If you get caught between child's play and rocket science,
the best that you can do, is
the best that you can do.
No need to turn a pitch raise into rocket science. Either raise it, or not.
_________________________
Jurgen Goering
Piano Forte Supply
www.pianofortesupply.com

Piattino Caster Cups distributor

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#2022856 - 01/28/13 01:53 PM Re: Calling London: info about an old Collard & Collard upright [Re: Supply]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7540
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: Supply
Originally Posted By: Mark R.
...I would be interested in the chipping temperament....
_________________________
If you get caught between child's play and rocket science,
the best that you can do, is
the best that you can do.
No need to turn a pitch raise into rocket science. Either raise it, or not.


? at ETD era PR does not mean the same thing everytime
_________________________
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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#2022911 - 01/28/13 03:21 PM Re: Calling London: info about an old Collard & Collard upright [Re: Supply]
Mark R. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/09
Posts: 2006
Loc: Pretoria, South Africa
Originally Posted By: Supply
Originally Posted By: Mark R.
...I would be interested in the chipping temperament....
_________________________
If you get caught between child's play and rocket science,
the best that you can do, is
the best that you can do.
No need to turn a pitch raise into rocket science. Either raise it, or not.


By the same token, what's child's play for you, might not be for me. Even my pitch raises still take well over an hour, so any method to reduce the time (and strain) is welcome.

(Thanks, Isaac, for the PM.)
_________________________
Autodidact interested in piano technology.

1922 49" Zimmermann, project piano.
1970 44" Ibach, daily music maker.

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#2022951 - 01/28/13 04:26 PM Re: Calling London: info about an old Collard & Collard upright [Re: Mark R.]
Chris Leslie Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/11
Posts: 625
Loc: Canberra, ACT, Australia
Mark, this may be of use to your decisions:
According to my last year's records I serviced 121 new-to-me old pre-1920's pianos. These represented about 1/3 of my total tunings. Almost all were below A440, some slightly but some up to 200c flat. I did not pitch-raise 18 out of the 121 mainly because of a combination of rust on the coils and no need for the client's needs to be at A440. Also, out of 121, 9 pianos broke strings while tuning and these were mainly those brought fully up to A440. All but one broke at the coil. Broken treble strings were all replaced but broken bass strings were mainly tied.


Edited by Chris Leslie (01/28/13 08:35 PM)
_________________________
Chris Leslie
Piano technician
http://www.chrisleslie.com.au

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#2022999 - 01/28/13 05:46 PM Re: Calling London: info about an old Collard & Collard upright [Re: Mark R.]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7540
Loc: France
Congratulations,Chris, your documentation is up to date and complete !
_________________________
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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#2023207 - 01/29/13 02:22 AM Re: Calling London: info about an old Collard & Collard upright [Re: Mark R.]
Mark R. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/09
Posts: 2006
Loc: Pretoria, South Africa
Thank you very much, Chris!
_________________________
Autodidact interested in piano technology.

1922 49" Zimmermann, project piano.
1970 44" Ibach, daily music maker.

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#2023508 - 01/29/13 03:22 PM Re: Calling London: info about an old Collard & Collard upright [Re: Mark R.]
David Boyce Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/14/07
Posts: 274
Loc: Scotland
No-one has responded so far to the "warm but soft and quiet" bass notes phenomenon in the original query. I know just what you mean, having epereienced it quite often (I am in the UK). I asked about it recently in the Pianotech mailing list. My perhaps thoughtless supposition in the past had been that it could be a hammer problem, but the consensus of opinion was that it would probably be something to do with bridge and/or soundboard, loss of downbearing etc.

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#2023524 - 01/29/13 03:48 PM Re: Calling London: info about an old Collard & Collard upright [Re: Mark R.]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7540
Loc: France
No much downbearing is necessary for the bass side.
Soft soundboard is not too much a problem there.

I woud suggest that the wire used was very good quality, possibly a little soft, there are also 2 different copper qualities I noticed on some pianos the commer was more orange than usual, going together with some smoother basses.

On an old piano too much parameters are there to really find the most responsible.
Hammers are soft also (in England wink

Soft hammers : no impact
soft soundboard : warmer tone ?



Edited by Olek (01/29/13 03:49 PM)
_________________________
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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#2023539 - 01/29/13 04:27 PM Re: Calling London: info about an old Collard & Collard upright [Re: Mark R.]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21522
Loc: Oakland
On an old piano, problems with the bass are probably due 60% of the time to strings, 30% to hammers and 10% to everything else.
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Semipro Tech

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#2035135 - 02/18/13 07:29 AM Re: Calling London: info about an old Collard & Collard upright [Re: Mark R.]
Mark R. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/09
Posts: 2006
Loc: Pretoria, South Africa
Here's some feedback, after tuning the Collard&Collard on Saturday.

Several plate screws in the pinblock area were not tight, especially in the treble area. The tuning pins are also sitting quite low in the plate's holes (no tuning pin bushings), some of them almost riding on the webbing. I snugged the screws up, then tuned.

I left the pitch where it was (around -80 cents). I expected several strings to break, but none did.

Some tuning pins had been severely bent by previous tuners. I also noticed that the taper on the pins seems much longer (closer to parallel) than on any other piano I've seen. My tips didn't fit the pins all that well, but rocked on the very top end of the pins - some more than others.

In almost all of the bichords, the hammer only strikes one string, except on medium to hard blows. Mostly, only the left string is struck, but in come cases, only the right string. This intrigues me (why would this happen all by itself, when the hammers have well-established string marks?) - but I didn't investigate further, as I still did some other small repairs. Those few bichords that have the hammer striking both strings equally, sounded quite good - and loud enough. So I hope that proper hammer-to-string mating will resolve the lack of volume in the bass. Some monochords sound a bit soft, too, and I guess they were voiced down to match the bichords.

The hide glue in the action seems very brittle and weak, e.g. the joint between damper heads and blocks. One of those broke while manipulating the muting strip, the other while removing the first one for repairs and replacing it temporarily with the top damper.
_________________________
Autodidact interested in piano technology.

1922 49" Zimmermann, project piano.
1970 44" Ibach, daily music maker.

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#2035648 - 02/19/13 03:15 AM Re: Calling London: info about an old Collard & Collard upright [Re: Mark R.]
Chris Leslie Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/11
Posts: 625
Loc: Canberra, ACT, Australia
Thanks for your feedback. I am always interested in your endeavours and admire your passion. I also learn much, and often re-think my methods, from your detailed inquiries.
_________________________
Chris Leslie
Piano technician
http://www.chrisleslie.com.au

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#2035684 - 02/19/13 06:52 AM Re: Calling London: info about an old Collard & Collard upright [Re: Mark R.]
Mark R. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/09
Posts: 2006
Loc: Pretoria, South Africa
Thank you, Chris, I appreciate your supportive comment. It means much to me as a dilettante/beginner/learner/autodidact/whatever.

I owe much of my "toolbox" to members of this forum.
_________________________
Autodidact interested in piano technology.

1922 49" Zimmermann, project piano.
1970 44" Ibach, daily music maker.

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#2035993 - 02/19/13 05:03 PM Re: Calling London: info about an old Collard & Collard upright [Re: Mark R.]
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