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#2060146 - 04/06/13 01:42 AM Livening up iron-wound bass strings
daniokeeper Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/01/09
Posts: 1080
Loc: PA
I've followed the threads re livening up dead bass strings.

Is there any special additional procedure that can be tried for livening up iron-wound bass strings?

This is a Starr upright, full plate, from 1900 that is currently tuned to A440 rather than A435. Amazingly, the bridges seem like they are still in perfect condition. The single string copper-wound unicords still sound amazing... they growl at you like on a large grand. The iron-wound bicords and tricords are dull sounding.

Thanks,
-Joe
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Joe Gumbosky
Piano Tuning & Repair
www.tinyurl.com/tunerjoe
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#2060156 - 04/06/13 01:57 AM Re: Livening up iron-wound bass strings [Re: daniokeeper]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21587
Loc: Oakland
Everything is relative. The copper-wound strings undoubtedly do not sound as good as new strings would, and neither do the plain wire strings. They just sound better than the old iron-wound strings.

You can try doing something with the old strings, but the results are not likely to be as good as new strings. It is also likely that the results will not last long. If you loosen them, the pins may not be as tight as they were before. The amount of time that you spend for questionable results may be a considerable chunk of the time it would take to do the job right. If the customer really wants to use the piano, a complete new set of strings is the way to go.
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#2060165 - 04/06/13 02:37 AM Re: Livening up iron-wound bass strings [Re: daniokeeper]
daniokeeper Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/01/09
Posts: 1080
Loc: PA
Hi BDB,

The single copper-wound strings are amazing... They growl at you... They hit you right in the center of the chest.

I've been tuning professionally since 1979 and I promise this is not just something relative to the iron-wound strings. If you were in the room and did not even hear the iron wound strings played, you would notice these copper-wound strings. There is such depth to them.

Considering that the piano is 113 years old, I suppose it is possible that it may have been restrung at some time.
_________________________
Joe Gumbosky
Piano Tuning & Repair
www.tinyurl.com/tunerjoe
(semi-retired)

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#2060167 - 04/06/13 02:49 AM Re: Livening up iron-wound bass strings [Re: daniokeeper]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21587
Loc: Oakland
Possible, but not likely.
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Semipro Tech

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#2060191 - 04/06/13 05:21 AM Re: Livening up iron-wound bass strings [Re: daniokeeper]
pianolive Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/09/11
Posts: 327
Loc: Europe
I was told that to make iron-wounded strings sound better, you should take down the tension to zero and then tune them up again.

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#2060252 - 04/06/13 08:57 AM Re: Livening up iron-wound bass strings [Re: daniokeeper]
RestorerPhil Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/26/12
Posts: 212
Loc: Georgia, USA
My experience has been that iron wound sometimes respond better to "rejuvenation" than do copper wound ones:


Since you are experienced and well-read in this, these points are probably redundant, but here goes:

1. While pulling the string sideways to maintain tension, loosen the coil. (3/4 turn or so - only enough) As the string loosens, pull sideways HARD.

2. Unhook at hitch pin and do a loop about 4-5" in diameter and run the loop up and down the string with a gloved finger or two. Don't run the loop past the ends of the winding, however.

3. Undo the loop, then flex the last few inches of the winding by hand upper end and lower end, since you don't want to get too rough at the winding termination points, as mentioned at step 2. Imagine how much it might take to deform the core wire and flex, perhaps, half that much in multiple directions - just enough to feel the resistance of the wrap.

4. Rehook the string with 1/2 twist. (As you already know, some strings will have twist still in when you unhooked them. Some won't. Be sure to provide at least the 1/2. If you provide the minimum 1/2, some will actually end up as much as almost a full twist. That's okay, but you must have the minimum 1/2.)

5. When pulling back to pitch, once again use the sideward pressure on the string. Pull hard as you lift the coil, before you begin to turn the pin. With the sting pulled tight, pull up tension to at about a third flat, then extricate your fingers. (Work those triceps and finger joints!)

6. Pinch in the becket, pull up more, use coil tighter tool, pull more, use coil setter tool, use pin setter, then last final tune.

I skipped issues of dirt, brushing, braid, etc.

Try a couple of strings and see how they respond. That's the only way to know. Years ago, we did this often. Now most of the oldies I see these days need so much more that it is rarely appropriate, due to extremely worn out, uh,... specimens?

Wow! I just relived how dirty, smelly, and painful this job is!


Edited by RestorerPhil (04/06/13 09:05 AM)
Edit Reason: spelling, as always
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Established 1977
Tuning, Concert Maintenance,
Rebuilding & Restoration

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#2060285 - 04/06/13 10:16 AM Re: Livening up iron-wound bass strings [Re: daniokeeper]
chopin_r_us Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/17/10
Posts: 953
Loc: UK
Danio, very keen to know how you get on with the above instructions. Thanks Phil.

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#2060428 - 04/06/13 03:46 PM Re: Livening up iron-wound bass strings [Re: daniokeeper]
Mark R. Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/09
Posts: 2024
Loc: Pretoria, South Africa
Phil,

What's the rationale behind the sideways tension while loosening the coil and re-tightening it?
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Autodidact interested in piano technology.

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

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#2060442 - 04/06/13 04:09 PM Re: Livening up iron-wound bass strings [Re: Mark R.]
RestorerPhil Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/26/12
Posts: 212
Loc: Georgia, USA
Before starting that practice, we seemed to have problems with the coils breaking - almost as if a slight reverse bend was being created when the string was loosened right at that first bend around the pin. Who knows? It may not have had a thing to do with it, but it became habit for me. Another reason for them breaking could have been that we were previously turning the pins back too much and creating the breakage problem. This method gets you more slack to work with while turning the pin the least. Then, when you reset the pins in a mm or so, they usually feel unchanged in tightness.

Of course, when retightening the string, the sideward tension helps you reposition the coil as you work. As you begin to pull the string sideways, you are using the other hand to lift the coil with a lifter. While keeping the sideward tension, you can then reach for your ratchet or lever and turn the pin to add enough tension to maintain a good, high coil position in preparation for tightening and straightening the coil.

By the way, I made a slim line coil lifter out of an old screw driver to fit in tight spots. That way you can work just one string at a time and maintain tension on the frame and bridges, retensioning each string as you go. The retuning goes a little quicker, since you aren't unsettling the tension so much across the frame/plate.
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Established 1977
Tuning, Concert Maintenance,
Rebuilding & Restoration

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#2060492 - 04/06/13 07:20 PM Re: Livening up iron-wound bass strings [Re: daniokeeper]
daniokeeper Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/01/09
Posts: 1080
Loc: PA
Hi Phil, pianolive, chopin_r_us,

I am going to submit a bid for new hammers, butts with flanges, and shanks to the client. I will also include this, as well as polishing the plainwire strings with Polita polish.

If the client accepts the bid, I'll report back.

Phil,

Thank you for your advice. I suspected there would be a difference in the behavior of iron-wound vs copper-wound strings. The only methods I've tried so far (generally) have been adding an additional twist to the strings and making sure they are well seated.

Thanks for the advice. smile If I don't use it on this piano, I surely will on another with iron-wound strings.

Thanks,
-Joe smile
_________________________
Joe Gumbosky
Piano Tuning & Repair
www.tinyurl.com/tunerjoe
(semi-retired)

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#2080181 - 05/10/13 06:49 AM Re: Livening up iron-wound bass strings [Re: pianolive]
Olek Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7680
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: pianolive
I was told that to make iron-wounded strings sound better, you should take down the tension to zero and then tune them up again.


the same may happen to copper wound strings to a lesser extend. thanks for the tip
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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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#2080319 - 05/10/13 12:36 PM Re: Livening up iron-wound bass strings [Re: daniokeeper]
UnrightTooner Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/08
Posts: 4944
Loc: Bradford County, PA
I have been just slacking off and banging the notes to liven up the strings. But there is an old Chickering grand that needs more. I am considering doing the "turn and twist" treatment, but have never done so on a grand. Pulling the string sideways does make sense to save on the coil, but what about the dampers? You don't take them out do you, or DO you? Is there any reason not to pull straight up on the strings?
_________________________
Jeff Deutschle
Part-Time Tuner
Who taught the first chicken how to peck?

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#2082396 - 05/14/13 11:24 AM Re: Livening up iron-wound bass strings [Re: RestorerPhil]
phacke Offline

Gold Supporter until November 11 2014


Registered: 10/18/12
Posts: 543
Loc: CO, USA
Originally Posted By: RestorerPhil
My experience has been that iron wound sometimes respond better to "rejuvenation" than do copper wound ones:

...
4. Rehook the string with 1/2 twist. (As you already know, some strings will have twist still in when you unhooked them. Some won't. Be sure to provide at least the 1/2. If you provide the minimum 1/2, some will actually end up as much as almost a full twist. That's okay, but you must have the minimum 1/2.)
...


What is the mechanism by which twisting the string is to provide benefit to the sound? I presume, this is in the direction of the coil winding as to tighten the winding?

It has been said elsewhere on this forum that some brand bass strings take time to settle or get to a stabilized sound (Isaac Pianos – Profundo Bass Strings) What is physically going on there?

Thanks,
_________________________
phacke

Steinway YM (1933)
...Working on:
G. F. Händel: Suite in G minor (HWV 452)
J. S. Bach, Sonata No. 1 in B minor (BWV 1014) duet with violin

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