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#2066263 - 04/17/13 10:56 PM Cracked plate - now what?
BobbinBlueJay Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/23/09
Posts: 7
Loc: CT
Because of family history and sentiment, we decided to restore my wife's hand-me-down Sohmer baby grand (ca. 1906 best guess) a few years ago. Very nice looking restoration, but it wouldn't stay in tune, so we dragged our feet on selling our other piano which was the original plan. So recently we had the tuner make a more concerted effort to tune the Sohmer over a couple visits. Then one night just sitting in the other room we hear a "bong" ring out from the piano with no one even touching it. I thought a pin slipped or something, but when he came back, we could see the cast iron plate cracked at two junctions of the frame. After some research, he said it's not repairable, so we're left with what to do next.

Is it fair to say a cracked cast iron plate can't be repaired?

Are piano's like cars? Is there a market for the other good used parts that it does have?

I'd appreciate some others' opinions what we do next.

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#2066271 - 04/17/13 11:16 PM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: BobbinBlueJay]
Scott Hamlin Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/11/12
Posts: 547
Cry. Really there isn't much you can do
to repair the plate. Maybe our friend
at Nashville has some ideas....
_________________________
http://DulceLabs.com
Sound, Video, Design

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#2066290 - 04/17/13 11:50 PM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: BobbinBlueJay]
beethoven986 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3319
It is possible to repair plate cracks, either by welding or metal stitching.
_________________________
B.Mus. Piano Performance 2009
M.Mus. Piano Performance & Literature 2011
PTG Associate Member
Certified Dampp-Chaser installer

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#2066297 - 04/18/13 12:02 AM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: BobbinBlueJay]
Dave B Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/01/11
Posts: 1894
Loc: Philadelphia area
Depends on how bad the tear is.

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#2066301 - 04/18/13 12:10 AM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: BobbinBlueJay]
kpembrook Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/10
Posts: 1294
Loc: Michigan
Plates can definitely be repaired. People who say they can't just don't know how.
_________________________
Keith Akins, RPT
USA Distributor for Isaac Cadenza hammers and Profundo Bass Strings
Supporting Piano Owners D-I-Y piano tuning and repair

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#2066311 - 04/18/13 12:48 AM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: BobbinBlueJay]
Emmery Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/08
Posts: 2356
Loc: Niagara Region, On. Canada
It requires somebody to assess how bad it is. Its a very rare skill these days for welders to pull this off but there is a company in Yonkers that specializes in this and one also out on the west coast from years back. I've seen it done by a really good welder in Toronto and he put a heat sink wrap about 8-10" away from the crack, preheated the weld spot with an oxy acetylene torch to a certain temperature (tested with thermal crayons) before laying into it with a stick welder.

This video shows it being done without the above mentioned fuss and they are claiming success with what they have done so far. For some reason it looks a bit dubious to me, don't ask me why...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRsSHShYLrY
_________________________
Piano Technician
George Brown College /85
Niagara Region

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#2066324 - 04/18/13 01:37 AM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: BobbinBlueJay]
OperaTenor Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/13/06
Posts: 2379
Loc: Sandy Eggo, California
Rod Vehrnjak is an expert at repairing cracked plates
_________________________
Happiness is a freshly tuned piano.
Jim Boydston, proprietor, No Piano Left Behind - technician
[url=www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind]www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind[/url]

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#2066337 - 04/18/13 02:13 AM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: BobbinBlueJay]
JohnSprung Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/11
Posts: 1243
Loc: Reseda, California
The big question is how much sentimental value does it have?

It can be fixed, but it'll cost more than you could sell it for after it's fixed.

Absolute worst case, you could grind and epoxy the old plate to make a smooth place where the crack is, and have a foundry use it as a pattern to cast a new one. Like I said, it'll cost way more than the piano will ever be worth on the market. So, the question is how much sentimental value?
_________________________
-- J.S.

Knabe Grand # 10927
Yamaha CP33
Kawai FS690

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#2066343 - 04/18/13 02:31 AM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: JohnSprung]
beethoven986 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3319
Originally Posted By: JohnSprung

Absolute worst case, you could grind and epoxy the old plate to make a smooth place where the crack is, and have a foundry use it as a pattern to cast a new one.


This would be totally cost prohibitive, even for a valuable piano. A more realistic option might be to have David Rubenstein construct a new plate out of welded steel, but even that strikes me as a silly idea. Cracked plates can often be repaired, so let's just go with that.
_________________________
B.Mus. Piano Performance 2009
M.Mus. Piano Performance & Literature 2011
PTG Associate Member
Certified Dampp-Chaser installer

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#2066349 - 04/18/13 02:58 AM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: JohnSprung]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21271
Loc: Oakland
Originally Posted By: JohnSprung
Absolute worst case, you could grind and epoxy the old plate to make a smooth place where the crack is, and have a foundry use it as a pattern to cast a new one.


No, you cannot do that. The result will be undersized.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2066395 - 04/18/13 07:15 AM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: BobbinBlueJay]
David Jenson Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/22/06
Posts: 2035
Loc: Maine
Perhaps it's time to transfer "family history and sentiment" to a new piano.
_________________________
David L. Jenson
Tuning - Repairs - Refurbishing
Jenson's Piano Service
-----

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#2066401 - 04/18/13 07:29 AM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: BobbinBlueJay]
Larry Buck Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/04
Posts: 2334
Loc: Lowell MA
A plate repair is always possible.

How you repair it depends on where the break is.
Cost will be the determining factor in your decision.

We just repaired two Bechsteins with the classic cracks in the strut.

One of them has been at pitch for 60 days, no problems.

Feel free to contact me. If you can take a few pictures and send them to me that would help.
_________________________
Has Anyone Seen My Glasses ?

E. J. Buck & Sons
Lowell MA 01852
978 458 8688
www.ejbuckpiano.com
facebook.com/E. J. Buck & Sons Performances

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#2066501 - 04/18/13 11:25 AM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: BobbinBlueJay]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21271
Loc: Oakland
In any case, repairs will be expensive, and involve redoing much of the work that has already been done.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2066548 - 04/18/13 01:16 PM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: BobbinBlueJay]
Larry Buck Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/04
Posts: 2334
Loc: Lowell MA
A question that deserves an answer is ... Why did it give out. What ever inappropriate stress brought this on, should be identified and resolved.

Expensive BDB?

Depends on your perspective.
_________________________
Has Anyone Seen My Glasses ?

E. J. Buck & Sons
Lowell MA 01852
978 458 8688
www.ejbuckpiano.com
facebook.com/E. J. Buck & Sons Performances

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#2066566 - 04/18/13 01:57 PM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: BobbinBlueJay]
prenex Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 189
Loc: Minnesota
I'd try and find a donor piano.

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#2066607 - 04/18/13 03:26 PM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: Larry Buck]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21271
Loc: Oakland
Originally Posted By: Larry Buck
A question that deserves an answer is ... Why did it give out. What ever inappropriate stress brought this on, should be identified and resolved.

Expensive BDB?

Depends on your perspective.


Expensive in relation to what has already been spent on the piano. Much of it would have to be done over.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2066620 - 04/18/13 03:43 PM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: prenex]
Scott Hamlin Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/11/12
Posts: 547
Originally Posted By: prenex
I'd try and find a donor piano.


I agree. Yes it is POSSIBLE to repair
the crack .. do you really want to risk
the time and money it will cost on a
"maybe" it will hold?
_________________________
http://DulceLabs.com
Sound, Video, Design

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#2066622 - 04/18/13 03:44 PM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: BobbinBlueJay]
Silverwood Pianos Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/08
Posts: 4187
Loc: Vancouver B. C. Canada

Originally Posted By: BDB

Expensive in relation to what has already been spent on the piano. Much of it would have to be done over.


Agreed although nothing mentioned from the OP about what was done to the instrument to “restore” and many of us have experience with the variety of interpretations contained in that word.
_________________________
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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#2066644 - 04/18/13 04:25 PM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: Scott Hamlin]
kpembrook Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/10
Posts: 1294
Loc: Michigan
Originally Posted By: Plinky88
Originally Posted By: prenex
I'd try and find a donor piano.


I agree. Yes it is POSSIBLE to repair
the crack .. do you really want to risk
the time and money it will cost on a
"maybe" it will hold?



A proper plate repair is not a "maybe" kind of thing. Properly done it is a reliable and permanent repair.

This is not to say that there aren't half-baked approaches that might not be satisfactory. But repairing cast iron to function under high stress loads is a well-known and established process. Remember, there are other uses for cast iron besides piano plates.
_________________________
Keith Akins, RPT
USA Distributor for Isaac Cadenza hammers and Profundo Bass Strings
Supporting Piano Owners D-I-Y piano tuning and repair

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#2066651 - 04/18/13 04:47 PM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: kpembrook]
Scott Hamlin Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/11/12
Posts: 547
Originally Posted By: kpembrook

A proper plate repair is not a "maybe" kind of thing. Properly done it is a reliable and permanent repair.



So he can expect some kind of warranty
from whoever does the repair?

Yes I understand welding and stiching
are acceptable and reliable repairs.. even
in maritime apps.

Here's my concern.. SOMETHING caused this
plate to fail.. either the iron is bad or
the tension is too much.. i dont know..
either way.. Wouldn't a repair just
put you in the "same boat" - same iron,
same piano - why wouldn't it crack again
eventually? Why not just get a brand new
plate instead as an insurance policy?
_________________________
http://DulceLabs.com
Sound, Video, Design

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#2066652 - 04/18/13 05:06 PM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: Scott Hamlin]
beethoven986 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3319
Originally Posted By: Plinky88

Here's my concern.. SOMETHING caused this
plate to fail.. either the iron is bad or
the tension is too much.. i dont know..
either way.. Wouldn't a repair just
put you in the "same boat" - same iron,
same piano - why wouldn't it crack again
eventually? Why not just get a brand new
plate instead as an insurance policy?


Part of the repair process would include finding out why the plate failed. Acquiring a new plate for an early 20th century Sohmer?? That's just not feasible. Even if you could find someone to cast a new one, a one-off casting would be expensive. There are a few people who could manufacture a new plate out of welded steel, but that would also be expensive.
_________________________
B.Mus. Piano Performance 2009
M.Mus. Piano Performance & Literature 2011
PTG Associate Member
Certified Dampp-Chaser installer

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#2066730 - 04/18/13 07:47 PM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: BobbinBlueJay]
Nash. Piano Rescue Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 384
Loc: East Nashville,TN Scottsville...
I had a super fancy Knabe grand come in from Baltimore last year that had a I want to say 60K dollar restoration done and when whoever went into the home to tune it the plate snapped in two spots. When it came into the shop the first thing I looked at was if something got between the pinblock and the plate or pinblock and frame of the cabinet etc.

Instead it turned out that the plate was actually dropped by whovever did the sandblasting and the crack wasn't visible until tension was put on it.

I contacted Muggy Welding who specializes in cast iron repair welding. I think it's www.MuggyWelding.com sent them a sample of the iron and they made us a high nickle content stitch welding rod and we just welded it back together. Technology has improved to where you don't need to heat the whole plate first, a mig welder can be used but even with Argon they are still messy. The stitch welding is easier to control and can be filed.

Of course the downside was all of the new strings had to be tossed and re- replaced, plate and pinblock removed. Sometimes you can use heat sink clay but I am never that lucky.

We also keep all our old plates we remove from dead pianos, we dont sell our souls to the scrap metal man because you never know who will need one. Not sure if I have a Sohmer plate in the rack or not.

Just a few thoughts for you on what actually works. There is also an iron epoxy with a 26,000 pound shear strength that a supplier sent me to try but I haven't tried it because it has a short working time, similar to the glue BMW uses to put it's cars steel panels together.
_________________________
J. Christie
Nashville Piano Rescue
www.NashvillePianoRescue.com
East Nashville
Bowling Green, KY
Scottsville KY.
Chamber of Commerce
Member/Sponsor

Putting inspiration in the hands of area musicians
Through restoration/renovation

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#2066734 - 04/18/13 07:50 PM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: BobbinBlueJay]
Nash. Piano Rescue Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 384
Loc: East Nashville,TN Scottsville...
www.muggyweld.com is the correct website sorry
_________________________
J. Christie
Nashville Piano Rescue
www.NashvillePianoRescue.com
East Nashville
Bowling Green, KY
Scottsville KY.
Chamber of Commerce
Member/Sponsor

Putting inspiration in the hands of area musicians
Through restoration/renovation

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#2066763 - 04/18/13 09:23 PM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: BobbinBlueJay]
Larry Buck Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/04
Posts: 2334
Loc: Lowell MA
Regardless of the new techniques available for cast iron repair, it is still the same material and behaves that same way it always has. You must repair it within it's limits to be heated.

Cast iron expands bi-cubically. Contracts exactly the same way.

If the iron is constrained in any way on expansion, it deforms. It still CONTRACTS bi-cubically. Take a good look at a plate ... all sorts of constraining places.

Our plate repairs were tested with a magnafulx dye and yes, we found stress cracks in the repair from time to time and they had to be redone.
_________________________
Has Anyone Seen My Glasses ?

E. J. Buck & Sons
Lowell MA 01852
978 458 8688
www.ejbuckpiano.com
facebook.com/E. J. Buck & Sons Performances

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#2066767 - 04/18/13 09:40 PM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: BobbinBlueJay]
RestorerPhil Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/26/12
Posts: 212
Loc: Georgia, USA
What model Sohmer?

I have a Sohmer 9B back in my shop now which I had restrung and had replaced the agraffe bridge with conventional pinning with new caps about 30 years ago. Recently the piano was damaged by a second floor plumbing leak down onto the piano in the library on the first floor. It remained wet for a week before the situation was discovered. The damage ruined the reworked bridges and made a wreck of the soundboard.

I don't think the customer is going to go for the solution: new board and bridges. If they don't, that may make a 9B plate available. This one is not nearly that old, but I don't know when the 9B model first came into production.
_________________________
Lavender Piano Services
Established 1977
Tuning, Concert Maintenance,
Rebuilding & Restoration

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#2066776 - 04/18/13 09:52 PM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: BDB]
JohnSprung Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/11
Posts: 1243
Loc: Reseda, California
Originally Posted By: BDB
No, you cannot do that. The result will be undersized.


You're right. I forgot about thermal expansion. It would come up short by about an inch in six feet.
_________________________
-- J.S.

Knabe Grand # 10927
Yamaha CP33
Kawai FS690

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#2066804 - 04/18/13 11:00 PM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: BobbinBlueJay]
Ryan Hassell Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/07/09
Posts: 428
Loc: Farmington, MO
Not to hijack this thread, but how common of a problem is a plate cracking? I have been tuning about five years now, and have done many, many large pitch raises. Fortunately, I have yet to experience a cracked plate. I dread the day it does happen though!
_________________________
Ryan G. Hassell
Hassell's Piano Tuning
Farmington, MO
www.hassellspianotuning.com
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hassells-Piano-Tuning/163155880804
ryanhassell@hotmail.com

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#2066806 - 04/18/13 11:13 PM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: Ryan Hassell]
beethoven986 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3319
Originally Posted By: Ryan Hassell
Not to hijack this thread, but how common of a problem is a plate cracking? I have been tuning about five years now, and have done many, many large pitch raises. Fortunately, I have yet to experience a cracked plate. I dread the day it does happen though!


It's not common, and even less common for it to happen when you are there. One could probably go a whole tuning career without witnessing a plate crack. Just remember that if it happens, it's not your fault.... doing a large pitch raise should not cause a plate to crack unless due to faulty plate design or some other mitigating factor.
_________________________
B.Mus. Piano Performance 2009
M.Mus. Piano Performance & Literature 2011
PTG Associate Member
Certified Dampp-Chaser installer

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#2066812 - 04/18/13 11:23 PM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: Ryan Hassell]
RestorerPhil Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/26/12
Posts: 212
Loc: Georgia, USA
I have only had a plate break twice. The most memorable was a Chinese stencil brand console. I didn't even have it up to pitch when it happened.

I lost that customer, plus the church she went to, plus who knows how many indirectly - all because of a plate that had obviously been installed with one of its bolts pulled too tight with nothing behind the plate in an area.

The piano had just been bought second hand - hardly used. I had just moved the piano into the home a couple of weeks earlier. The manufacturer (distributor?) offered to sell a replacement at wholesale, even though they had no obligation to this second owner. My word, plus the second opinion of another tuner was not enough: I was blamed.

The other one was an Aeolian spinet that I think I had traded in when I had a retail store about 33 years ago. For me, this has been very rare.
_________________________
Lavender Piano Services
Established 1977
Tuning, Concert Maintenance,
Rebuilding & Restoration

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#2066816 - 04/18/13 11:32 PM Re: Cracked plate - now what? [Re: Scott Hamlin]
kpembrook Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/10
Posts: 1294
Loc: Michigan
Originally Posted By: Plinky88
[quote=kpembrook]


Here's my concern.. SOMETHING caused this
plate to fail.. either the iron is bad or
the tension is too much.. i dont know..
either way.. Wouldn't a repair just
put you in the "same boat" - same iron,
same piano - why wouldn't it crack again
eventually? Why not just get a brand new
plate instead as an insurance policy?


In almost all instances plate failure is a random problem in the single casting under consideration. You fix it because the iron was bad there. When the hidden plate defect is repaired it should be good.

The exception is where there is a known design defect -- as Larry mentioned above on certain Bechsteins.
_________________________
Keith Akins, RPT
USA Distributor for Isaac Cadenza hammers and Profundo Bass Strings
Supporting Piano Owners D-I-Y piano tuning and repair

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