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#2102730 - 06/15/13 01:36 AM utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special'
berninicaco3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/14/13
Posts: 103
Loc: iowa city, ia
Here's my situation.
Getting back into playing piano.
Need a piano.
Don't have much money. <$1000.
There are free pianos on craigslist. Some, might even be good.
I'm also fairly handy.
And I'd enjoy the challenge and experience.

For my first car, I bought a 1990 ford station wagon for $600, and had a lot of fun fixing it. In the end, it wasn't a bad deal, still drives great today, and I learned a lot: from not knowing how to do an oil change, to having rebuilt an automatic transmission and have it work! It was rewarding. Just having a car wasn't the only end goal.

So I'm actually contemplating a 'mechanics special' of a piano!
I'm in iowa city, ia-- if you want to browse craigslist for me and highlight any possible gems, I'd appreciate it. But I've already done some looking.

I found a 1930s 6'6" walnut kimball grand. Free. I'll get to see it tomorrow or sunday. It's "broken." He says it just needs to be restrung.
In a car, many moderate things add up to a hopeless basket case. But some things singlehandedly kill the whole car. Major frame rust damns a car purchase; it can't realistically be fixed, and associated with frame rust is suspension, brake line, fuel line rust... Maybe you buy it and save the engine...

So for pianos? Are spare parts to be found? Strings, I imagine I can find. I'm prepared to spend some money, of course! So maybe $300 in strings? $200 in tools? Pins, if there's ever a reason to change them, must be available. Felt's probably manageable.

There is also a $300 1960s vintage kimball grand on craigslist, too: that guy says he knows it has 2-3 broken hammers.
The free one is from an old guy who is moving and needs it gone.
The $300 one is from a tuner, who mostly flips pianos but doesn't want to be involved in their repair.

My 1990 ford was a crown vic chassis/drivetrain, and everything was available, and everything was cheap. Only a chevy could possibly have cheaper parts. Only a few parts were impossible, and those few parts were indeed frustrating (fuel level sensor took 2 yrs to track down).

IF it turns out they need servicing, can new hammers/keys be found to fit a 1930s kimball --were there standardizations-- or are antique parts sometimes rare as hens teeth?

First, should I contemplate this at all? It could be fun! I could learn a lot, and get a fine grand for <$1000 after parts.

And hey! If I learn to fix this, maybe I can inherit and bring back to life my grandmother's 1920s steinway. Unless that, too, would be an inadvisable basketcase.

UNLESS in your professional experience, anything this old, and definitely not regularly tuned, is NEVER salvageable.


Now, if it could still work, what should I check for before I commit to renting a trailer and breaking my back hauling it home?
On the fatal end, when I look at it, what is the equivalent of major frame rust on a car? What damns it to firewood?
I'm just speculating, but maybe things like a cracked pinblock, signs of real humidity damage/warping? Do iron frames EVER crack?


Edited by berninicaco3 (06/15/13 01:41 AM)

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#2102732 - 06/15/13 01:39 AM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
berninicaco3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/14/13
Posts: 103
Loc: iowa city, ia
Some other options...
a newer chinese grand for $800. Maybe it was never good, but maybe it's also not hopelessly decrepit:
http://cedarrapids.craigslist.org/msg/3869964105.html

a possibly-chinese wurlitzer for $100?
http://quadcities.craigslist.org/msg/3833790135.html
I wonder what he means by 'keys need to be glued down'?
I've never seen the ivory unglue from the wood.

...or just go electronic.

But this could be a fun adventure.
Looking forward to your feedback.

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#2102733 - 06/15/13 01:47 AM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
berninicaco3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/14/13
Posts: 103
Loc: iowa city, ia
last thought is that the only reason this makes sense is, I'd have fun learning to restore it myself, if it's at all possible it could work out and doesn't require a machine shop to custom-mill precision replacement parts.

Certainly if I had brought my 1990 station wagon into a shop and paid $85/hr to have it repaired, it would have been an $8000 car by the time I was done. It was my own labor and the fact that labor would have been such a huge contributor (parts were cheap) that brought down the cost to anything sane, and the additional enjoyment I had from contributing that labor, that made it worth it.

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#2102746 - 06/15/13 02:31 AM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
beethoven986 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3321
Originally Posted By: berninicaco3

First, should I contemplate this at all?



NO. NO. NO.


Originally Posted By: berninicaco3
It could be fun! I could learn a lot, and get a fine grand for <$1000 after parts.


How much do you think parts cost? Just the parts to do an even remotely acceptable restoration will cost thousands of dollars. The tools you will need will also cost thousands of dollars. And that assumes that you have the skill to order the correct parts, and tools, and somehow manage to put it together correctly. For the amount of money you'd have to spend to pull this off, you could buy a nice grand piano that needs little to no work for the average player to enjoy.


Originally Posted By: berninicaco3
And hey! If I learn to fix this, maybe I can inherit and bring back to life my grandmother's 1920s steinway. Unless that, too, would be an inadvisable basketcase.


Inadvisable, but not because it would be "an inadvisable basketcase". See below.

Originally Posted By: berninicaco3
UNLESS in your professional experience, anything this old, and definitely not regularly tuned, is NEVER salvageable.


Professionals restore 1920s era Steinways every day.

Originally Posted By: berninicaco3
Now, if it could still work, what should I check for before I commit to renting a trailer and breaking my back hauling it home?


Don't do it.

Originally Posted By: berninicaco3
On the fatal end, when I look at it, what is the equivalent of major frame rust on a car? What damns it to firewood?


Major structural damage or trauma. Cost to restore vs. value post restoration.


Originally Posted By: berninicaco3
I'm just speculating, but maybe things like a cracked pinblock, signs of real humidity damage/warping?


Pinblocks need to be replaced during restoration.

Originally Posted By: berninicaco3
Do iron frames EVER crack?

Yes. If poorly designed, or manufactured. Or dropped.
_________________________
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#2102779 - 06/15/13 04:49 AM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
berninicaco3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/14/13
Posts: 103
Loc: iowa city, ia
I've been doing some more reading over the past few hours.

The greatest risk would be a damaged pinblock, wouldn't it?

I can at least start to install strings myself, even if I reach out to a professional for the final tuning --and even a high end tuning kit is still just $200--
and I can surely remove the action, replace hammers and felts.
I'm trying to find some prices. Where do you source your parts? Like, let's say I want to replace all the pins, $100? $150? All the strings, $200-$300 in parts?
A fair refresh, new hammers, new action parts, and new strings; how much might I be looking at in my budget?

I'm going to try to find out tomorrow when I see it, what might (or hopefully isn't!) catastrophically wrong.

And if it does need a pinblock, I'm not going to have/ or be able to budget the equipment to drill a new pinblock. But I don't know, of course.
When I go to see it tomorrow, I won't have a tuning kit, and I don't know enough yet. If I bring calipers, should I check pin diameters and make sure that oversized pins might still be an option?
Now, the main symptom of a worn pinblock would be that it goes flat shortly after tuning, or can't even be brought to pitch. Without a tuning kit or as yet the knowledge to use it, I won't be able to try to tune it (and see if the pins hold in the first place, let alone over the course of a year).
Are there other signs to look for then, as to whether the pin block is good?

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#2102780 - 06/15/13 04:54 AM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
berninicaco3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/14/13
Posts: 103
Loc: iowa city, ia
as an aside, I'm curious--
pinblocks wear out from decades of tension, and pins being turned and returned, and tapped deeper and deeper?
So if you had a good piano in good repair, and KNEW that no one would play it for quite some time indeed, would the best thing for it be to abandon any tuning schedule, relieve all or at least most of the string tension, or even remove the strings, and just let it sit relaxed of 15tons of pressure in a climate-controlled environment for the next 20 years?

E.g., what advice should I give my grandmother? Should she continue tuning it, or not, if no one plays it?
E.g., what advice should I give my dad, if he might go two years at a span without playing his (fairly nice-- want to inherit in 20 yrs) piano?

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#2102807 - 06/15/13 07:47 AM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
RonTuner Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 1652
Loc: Chicagoland
Ah! A committed DIY person...

As an instrument tech, I've had to learn that many, if not all of the suggestions owners make about what the instrument needs aren't really true. So many times, someone will come in and say the saxophone needs and overhaul, or a repad job, either because the band director, or teacher said so, or they just came up with the diagnosis on their own. In reality, a pad or two may be bad, or more likely, some keys are bent or just not linked to close all the pads properly!

So my first question would be "Why does it need to be re-strung?" The answer (tubby bass strings, breaking strings, pins won't hold pitch, splitting bridges, strings rusted) will guide you into determining which direction to take to make the instrument playable.

Yes, plates do break...

The thing to remember (at least around here) is that there are used pianos constantly showing up on Craigslist at the lower price range - there isn't any reason to get a total mess if you aren't in a rush and wait until something better shows up.
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#2102820 - 06/15/13 08:39 AM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: RonTuner]
Eric Gloo Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 1238
Loc: Richfield Springs, New York
Repeating...Yes, plates DO break. In fact, the last piano I had to condemn was a 1930s-ish Kimball grand...with a broken plate.
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Piano Technician
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#2102857 - 06/15/13 11:00 AM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
BenP Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/16/12
Posts: 166
Loc: South Jersey
berninicaco3,

I admire your enthusiasm, and with the amount of determination and effort you have put into this thread alone, and looking up all of the information that you have, I would be inclined to say that you could pull off some of these repairs on your own With a LOT of research and being very careful. In the same sense that I could PROBABLY rebuild the engine on my car, with an immense amount of time, research, and outside advice.

The biggest problem is going to come down to cost. As beethoven already pointed out, the cost for parts and tools are going to be prohibitively high for this to be practical for you. Just restringing alone, if you get the absolute cheapest parts for everything, would be close to $1k. You have to realize restringing is not just getting a big coil of wire - most pianos use 10-15 different wire sizes in the plain wire section, plus nearly every copper-wound bass string is a slightly different size (custom order). Plus you would have to get new pins, bushings, and a host of tools to help you do the job. And this is all with the big assumption that the pinblock, soundboard, and plate are ok.

I can say all of this because I recently restrung a baby grand piano at the school where I teach. It was the first complete restringing job I had done, and I learned a lot. I already had most of the tools and head knowledge, I work on pianos for a regular basis, I did this during school hours, and I would STILL say it was barely worth it cost-wise. And that for a piano that didn't have too much else wrong with it.

Hope this gives you some background and framework for all of the discouragement you're getting here. It's not that we all hate DIYers (some do), but it really is not even going to be cost-effective for you.


Edited by BenP (06/15/13 11:02 AM)
_________________________
Ben Patterson
Part-time Piano Tech
Rural South Jersey

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#2102918 - 06/15/13 02:02 PM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
berninicaco3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/14/13
Posts: 103
Loc: iowa city, ia
Alrighty, thanks for the honest advice.

I'm still determined to do this SOME DAY-- but on a day when, I can afford to eat some losses and chalk them up to paying for classes/ the learning. At the moment, if I run out of budget, I'm finished.

I'd read somewhere that piano strings were "$200" but... it was hard to find any figures, that wasn't for a grand, and that might assume that you service 100s of pianos and already have all the wire on hand, while like you say, I'll be buying whole rolls but maybe only using half.

"So my first question would be "Why does it need to be re-strung?" The answer (tubby bass strings, breaking strings, pins won't hold pitch, splitting bridges, strings rusted) will guide you into determining which direction to take to make the instrument playable."
I was wondering the exact same thing. As I was asking, would 'pins won't hold' be the scariest answer?
Got a volvo into the shop when I was a mechanic that just ran a little rough. "spark plugs" would have been a very reasonable guess. When they didn't fix it... we got to the bottom of it, and it was a bent exhaust valve and major head work. At least $1500 if not more, and not $150.

And actually, to admit to a parallel: my sister last summer bought a 1989 mercury tracer (mazda 323) for $600. I only got to look at it after she bought it, but superficially, it looked great!
No major rust. Not even moderate rust.
Good paint
Good engine
66,000 miles!
Ran smoothly, shifted smoothly, suspension initially seemed solid, with only some play in the wheel bearings.

But it started adding up...
The big thing was that we found a fuel line leak, so we looked closer, and the brake lines were scary rusty too...
So we started taking things apart.
After some driving, found the master cylinder was leaking (only when it's colder out), found the right rear wheel cylinder was leaking, found the fuel tank had 4 holes in it! (we had to drop it, to get to some brake lines), found the rear springs were both broken.
Did shocks as a matter of course, spark plugs, all fluid exchanges, etc. Some minor exhaust work was still $200 for the parts (catalytic converter flange had rusted, and the pipe in front of it).
It adds up!

It runs great now, and I feel it's a very safe old car for my sister. It also gets 35+mpg in summer, and 30+ in winter, consistently. But at the end of the day, it ended up costing $3000 for a 1989 econobox. Thank god nothing major (engine, trans) was wrong! Then it would have been more, still.

$3000 could get a 2001 camry with airbags.



Edited by berninicaco3 (06/15/13 02:04 PM)

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#2102985 - 06/15/13 04:51 PM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
tdv Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/29/13
Posts: 69
Loc: MI
I am also a newbie to piano tech stuff and I also like to tinker on / learn about pianos. I also am very fortunate to have a tech friend with 40 years experience. I have tinkered on my piano almost since I got it. I have removed my action and replaced the hammer butt springs as the old ones kept breaking. My friend put on new hammers for me. Before putting on new hammers, I tried to rework the old ones, but they will not in good enough condition. I am also learning to tune pianos. Recently my friend brought to my hobby barn an old grand for me to put in new pins and strings - under his supervision. He is reworking the action. Let me just say this - it is tough enough to do it right with his supervision; I would hate to do it without his supervision, no matter how good the description in a repair manual.

My suggestion is to get an upright in good playable condition. You can get one around where I live for well under $1000 by looking at Craigslist. (I missed a steal this past week.) Then if you want to learn about repairing pianos, find one that someone will give you free because they want it out of their house and start tearing it apart and learning about it. Or start tinkering with your already playable piano and improve it. But to start with the rebuild project you are thinking about is almost certainly going to put you in over your head very quickly.

By the way, FWIW I have a background in auto mechanics and have quite a bit of experience in woodworking so I am not a newbie when it comes to using tools or fixing things.


Edited by tdv (06/15/13 04:53 PM)
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#2103615 - 06/17/13 12:36 AM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: tdv]
berninicaco3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/14/13
Posts: 103
Loc: iowa city, ia
Aww man... think I'm going to try it.
Got some (admittedly very bad) photos from him. Haven't inspected it yet-- I realize this only tells you that the case and keys are present and in OK shape-- not the guts that matter the most.

But he's desperate to get rid of it while still saving it (sentimental: does not want to junk it), and will even help me with the moving costs.
There's almost nothing to lose (up until the point that I start sinking money into parts).
I'll get it into my home next saturday, do some reading over this week, and expect more posts and I start to take it apart and see what's needed!
At worst, I pay about $100 of my own money towards moving costs and write it off and re-donate on craigslist to the next fellow to give it a shot, if it is too much for me.

This should be fun.






Edited by berninicaco3 (06/17/13 12:38 AM)

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#2103617 - 06/17/13 12:44 AM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
kpembrook Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/10
Posts: 1308
Loc: Michigan
We support DIY piano repair. Send a PM if you are interested in successful completion of DIIY piano repair projects.

--Keith
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#2103629 - 06/17/13 01:06 AM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
Samthetech Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/11/13
Posts: 78
Its hard to tell from photos, but it may have already been rebuilt at some point. Its most certainly extra-clean for a piano that old. If that's true, you may get away without the most expensive parts of a rebuild.
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#2103657 - 06/17/13 03:07 AM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
berninicaco3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/14/13
Posts: 103
Loc: iowa city, ia
The owner didn't rebuild it in the last 50-60 years that he has owned it for, at any rate-- but maybe he kept it clean. He'd remember that kind of money spent on it. But I was thinking the same thing (that it didn't look like 50 yrs of dust).
And again, if it hasn't been played for 40-50 years, maybe, it's not completely worn out.

My first question of course, was, "should I even bother..."
It sounds like there's a chance this could be a workable grand piano for sub-$1000 and a real education. I do approach my projects with some determination and organization, and won't just start tearing off strings with wire cutters tomorrow!
If it's not workable, I'll cut my losses immediately-- which will be next to nothing.

Now that I've decided to at least begin, the next step is to educate myself, and of course, once I move this piano into my own home next Saturday, to actually 'dig in' and make a determination of what it needs, above and beyond a few broken strings.

I'll read to avoid the dumb questions, but may be posting a lot w/ photos for specific guidance: like, here are the felts, should they be replaced, that kind of thing.


The library has Reblitz' book in stock.
After that, what else should I start reading? Including online guides, or youtube channels.


Edited by berninicaco3 (06/17/13 03:07 AM)

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#2103659 - 06/17/13 03:18 AM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
BDB Offline
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Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21431
Loc: Oakland
Does it have bracing for the rim under the soundboard? Some Kimballs did not, and they are not good candidates for restringing.

If there are broken strings, I would start with just replacing those. You can do more work later, but you should start by making the piano work. If you cannot make it work without a lot of parts replacement, you do not know what you are getting into.
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#2103741 - 06/17/13 09:09 AM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
RonTuner Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 1652
Loc: Chicagoland
Go slowly... Determine a symptom that you would like to improve and post back here. It may turn out that you can do work in smaller steps... Better than getting the instrument and cutting and tossing all the string on the first weekend - I heard about a DIY person doing that - no measurements, just figured he could call someone and order a new set! (not that you would do that ;-), I know! )
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#2103774 - 06/17/13 10:39 AM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
Samthetech Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/11/13
Posts: 78
If you do decide to rebuild the piano "symptom by symptom" make sure you don't replace something that will need taken back off if you decide to replace something else. For example, don't replace all the strings if you plan on replacing the pinblock or using oversized pins.
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#2103838 - 06/17/13 01:00 PM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
berninicaco3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/14/13
Posts: 103
Loc: iowa city, ia
Agreed on the last point. I'll try to identify everything that I can, before I begin tearing it down, because it makes sense if sympathetic concerns can be addressed at the same time.

Hah! I think I ran into that thread-- from like 2007 or something. Funny how must of my piano questions on google have taken me right back to pianoworld's forums and old posts.

Actually, from someone who as of yet knows next to nothing, it didn't seem crazy when I read that. You can just buy violin string sets-- you mean you don't just buy a 'set' of strings for a piano? wink But it didn't take a lot of digging to find out otherwise. Guess it makes sense. Violins come in 4 sizes: 1/4, 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4. Strings are pretty standard and there are just 4 of them. Now that I think about it, guess every piano is going to use slightly individualized gauges across all 200+/- strings. I can easily see someone just removing them all though-- the only difference I like to think between me and that fellow, is that over this next week I'm going to read reblitz' book cover to cover before I touch anything more than the lid to get a look.

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#2103854 - 06/17/13 01:34 PM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
Silverwood Pianos Offline
4000 Post Club Member

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

Reblitz is a good place to begin. There is another book just out by Mario Ingrec, called Pianos Inside out or something like that.

Did you get a hold of Chuck B?
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#2104047 - 06/17/13 09:01 PM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
Nash. Piano Rescue Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 384
Loc: East Nashville,TN Scottsville...
If you are moving it yourself you may want to get some type of insurance. We were invited to a home here in Nashville where someone and some " buddies" went to move a grand piano for the 1st time. The result was 14 grand worth of floor damage, piano still at residence wedged in hallway sheetrock and the homeowners have to walk around the house to get to the bedrooms via a patio entrance... Priceless !

It was really almost as good as the Estonia concert grand we saw last year on the interstate tied into the trailer with kite string.. well before it exited through the nose of the trailer
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#2104130 - 06/17/13 11:41 PM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
berninicaco3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/14/13
Posts: 103
Loc: iowa city, ia
Mmm. Where would I go for insurance? It would be a shame if I ruined it in transit, but my piano has no value. That's one aspect that makes it a good project piano; grandma's steinway can be done later.
Their floor, on the other hand, is not without value.

I was about to ask how they caused 14k in damage, but if it was a nice wood or marble floor, + the wall... yeah I can see it. wow.

That's a real shame about a (presumably of some real value) concert grand... kite string? You kid me not
?
We'll be using ratcheting tie downs, I assure you. I moved 2 ton blocks of marble, and they STILL slid, just a little, on a trailer bed with chain tie downs! Unfortunately, moving marble does not prepare me for moving a piano. I had access to a crane, and we could abuse a boulder all we wanted with prybars to get it into position. 4000# of marble and a crane does the lifting. 600# of marble is a little block at your feet that you can tumble around. 600# of piano can't just be rolled end over end!

I put an ad on craigslist.
Found someone who worked for a moving company for several years and is freelancing (so no insurance... but at least some experience, a truck, ramps, tie downs).
He relayed a story about working with a novice mover who dropped an upright on him while on some stairs (novice at top, he was holding the bottom), and he and the upright went through the door at the bottom... There's a reason insurance exists.
He was pleased to hear that there will be no stairs involved.
He asked about the case material, and was glad that it wasn't heavy and weak pressboard. I'm glad he's asking some of the right questions (I think)
He was a little surprised when I told him a grand piano would likely be 600#-- guess he only moved uprights.

Without becoming a curmudgeon, I like to be constantly in doubt (definition of a cynic...?), so yes, I'll be watching some youtube videos, probably make that flat board that I see them using, stock up on some blankets, etc. Maybe ask a question or two here if any occur to me, but I'm thinking youtube will cover the bases.


Edited by berninicaco3 (06/17/13 11:50 PM)

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#2104157 - 06/18/13 01:02 AM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
beethoven986 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3321
Originally Posted By: berninicaco3
Mmm. Where would I go for insurance?


I doubt that any sensible insurance company would insure you for this, as you are not a professional and even if you were, I am not aware of "one time" insurance.
_________________________
B.Mus. Piano Performance 2009
M.Mus. Piano Performance & Literature 2011
PTG Associate Member
Certified Dampp-Chaser installer

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#2104164 - 06/18/13 01:20 AM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
berninicaco3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/14/13
Posts: 103
Loc: iowa city, ia
I know. It was an unrealistic suggestion, and I wasn't planning to contact an insurance company to arrange something between now and friday (as you say)-- the best I can do, is think out the move and be careful so that no such mess arises. Sounded like Nash Piano was privy to a very serious disaster on the part of another novice mover and I appreciate the warning not to be cavalier about it! I was being polite in considering insurance component.

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#2104166 - 06/18/13 01:21 AM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
berninicaco3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/14/13
Posts: 103
Loc: iowa city, ia
or hire a pro for the insurance they carry.

The piano is going 100 miles though-- and I'm afraid of what it might cost. Probably too much. It will eat right into my budget for new strings.
Right now, I'm right at $200-$250 all expenses for the move (gas, uhaul trailer, building a moving board etc., plus hiring a pair of ex-pro movers and their pickup and ramps) I don't think I'll do better, unless, pro piano movers aren't quite as expensive as I'm imagining?
I googled "move piano" and saw that people spent $200 to move their piano down the street, $500 for longer distances.


But the same might be said of anything... I could take a taxi to school every day to save the risk that I cause an accident. When I was into marble carving, maybe I could have hired professional riggers. But, I don't crash driving to school each day, and even my marble-moving escapades went off without a hitch.

Paying for someone else to take every risk for me is expensive, too-- and as a life philosophy would leave one frozen in fear not doing anything the least bit adventurous.
I'll just be safe and sensible about it.


Edited by berninicaco3 (06/18/13 01:29 AM)

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#2104173 - 06/18/13 01:29 AM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21431
Loc: Oakland
You should call a mover and get a quote. If you pay $250 for the move, and $50,000 in damages if you screw up, will you have saved any money?
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2104292 - 06/18/13 10:02 AM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
bellspiano Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/04
Posts: 500
Loc: Boston, MA
Not a good sign that the guy was startled by the weight of a grand piano. If he has never moved a grand before, the legs might confuse him: they are detached from the piano and are installed again at the new site. As a tech or an amateur, I would not want to get underneath a grand moved by someone unfamiliar with the mechanics of the move. Really, consider looking for someone with experience, for your own safety.
_________________________
Dorrie Bell
retired piano technician
Boston, MA

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#2104695 - 06/19/13 01:00 AM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
berninicaco3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/14/13
Posts: 103
Loc: iowa city, ia
Alright, it cost a little more (or a little less, from perspective), but I've got a scheme that works.

The reason he's giving it away is that his daughter is moving back in with him, and has a lower-quality but higher-functioning grand in tote.
There's not room in one living room for two grands, so he's getting rid of it on very short notice.

Turns out the movers will be bringing her piano into the house tomorrow morning at 9:30am.

So I just paid $250 to have a proper trailer hitch installed and wired onto my vehicle at uhaul today, and tomorrow will be renting a $25 trailer and driving it up to waterloo iowa, where I'll pay them, the professional movers who will already be at the house, $100 to carry his piano out of the house and onto my rented trailer.

I found a very helpful older piano tuner in iowa city who has lent me the use of his skid board and ratchet straps and dolly, so the piano can simply stay on that.
I'll have to buy a sheet of plywood at lowes to use as a ramp/ base to get across the short lawn in iowa city ($30),

And then the same very helpful man will graciously supervise myself and my friends in iowa city, as we wrestle it into the home, to move it properly.
I'll also be paying attention to the pro movers in the morning and how they do it, too, to learn in preparation for unloading tomorrow afternoon

Gas will be $40.

So it will still cost $195 + the hitch install! I'm a bit disappointed. Piano moving is expensive, even after I try and cut corners to save some money! smile Guess that's just life smile Shoulda gone electronic (only partially kidding)

I can't count the hitch install: I'll be getting additional value out of that.
Hiring the freelance mover was basically the same price, and didn't involve buying a hitch.

But on the other hand,
I've got pros moving it out of the house, not me and some dude. Although, I do still have me and some dudes, with pro supervision now, moving back into my own house back in iowa city.
I do get a hitch install out of this.
And it gets done tomorrow morning. When the weather is supposed to be beautiful. The freelance mover was only available friday night after his work; which won't be as fun, walking across the lawn in the dark.


Edited by berninicaco3 (06/19/13 01:49 AM)

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#2104816 - 06/19/13 10:27 AM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
BenP Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/16/12
Posts: 166
Loc: South Jersey
Sounds like you are doing things very conscientiously, which will absolutely pay off in the end. Take your time, and do things carefully. It's always better to spend an hour planning and two minutes working, then to go straight to work and have five hours (or $5,000) of cleanup and repair.

Yes, I've learned that the hard way.
_________________________
Ben Patterson
Part-time Piano Tech
Rural South Jersey

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#2104991 - 06/19/13 06:20 PM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: BenP]
tdv Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/29/13
Posts: 69
Loc: MI
< It's always better to spend an hour planning and two minutes working, then to go straight to work and have five hours (or $5,000) of cleanup and repair.>

Very true! I almost crashed a recent piano I moved. It was heavier than expected and the ramp we built from the raised porch to the pickup truck was marginal. We almost lost the piano off the side of the ramp between the raised porch and the truck. The piano would have been destroyed and someone could have been seriously injured. Never again will I do such a marginal move.


Edited by tdv (06/19/13 06:22 PM)
_________________________
1978 Charles Walter piano
1915 5"1' Weber
Seeking truth in all areas of life

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#2105038 - 06/19/13 08:09 PM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
berninicaco3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/14/13
Posts: 103
Loc: iowa city, ia
Moved it in successfully!
Everything was a little more than expected. Gas was a little more (towing a trailers), had to buy an additional $25 ratchet strap, $8 for trailer insurance, and $50 was the (very reasonable) fee on the iowa city end-- and bought supper for my friends who helped move it in.
Not complaining, just, it added up so fast. Even towing it myself, but with professional help on one end and semiprofessional help on the other, the move cost $300 to go 100miles. $150 hired labor, $50 gas, $85 trailer/strap/plywood, $15 food to bribe friends' help. Next time I'll feel much more comfortable doing it myself (with just friends) and save the marginal $150, but it was very good for this first time. This was also not the heaviest piano possible, either; which might be part of it. A 9' grand, would be another story...

It also took most of the day-- I drove back much more slowly, just to be on the safe side. Definitely took more than 1/2hr, all told, to load the piano. Etc.
But all that is OK. It's done, and it worked. The only slight insecurities, were when it wobbled coming down the trailer ramp, and when my makeshift ramp going up the porch steps sagged more than I was fully comfortable with. 2 layers of 3/4" ply next time, or 1x1" ribbing underneath to reinforce

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#2105058 - 06/19/13 08:42 PM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
berninicaco3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/14/13
Posts: 103
Loc: iowa city, ia
Now about the piano!

I found one John Bixler through PTG, and he was the one who lent me the moving board to take with me, and very kindly helped direct me and my friends in our assembly back home.
He also helped look over it to give an initial prognosis.

No way was the piano in tune, but he said that, remarkably, the piano was in pitch, using an A 440 tuning fork he brought with him. The gist of it was that it wasn't actually at all flat. For something that hadn't been tuned in actual decades, that is a very good start. I'm not sure how it could be not flat, but at once also not in tune either...I'll want to learn more music theory and maybe then I'll understand what that means precisely.

It had maintained pitch, and looking underneath with a flashlight, no checks or splits in the pinblock. I realize that doesn't cover cross section, but that's still a good mark in its favor.

No check marks on any of the bridges.

No splits in soundboard (not that would have been the worst problem-- pinboard or bridges would have been worse).

Hammers look OK, still serviceable. None broken or misaligned laterally. Some hammers rest at different heights, one fails to come down.

Action is sticky (see above). Some adjustments will have to be made.

Keys look great, and are real ivory. Case is mahogany, not walnut.
Serial number is 417355. I found that 416xxx is 1936 and 420xxx is 1937, so 417 is 1936.5 ...? Would be interested in confirming the manufacture date. It is Kimball Chicago if that means anything (nothing I'm sure).

Case is in good shape-- two spots need refinishing. Someone was clearly using part of the piano as a coaster for their drinks. Almost certainly is french polish?


Only a handful of treble strings broke, mostly all the way at the top. Mostly, they look OK.

The entire bass section needs to be restrung, however. 1/3 are snapped (clipped by someone?), the other 2/3 are rusty enough for concern. For whatever reason, while every pin has surface rust, and where the plate's paint peeled there are rust spots, it's really just the bass section that is very rusty. Maybe the bass section was near a drafty window. Iowa humidity got to it-- and no, it was definitely not a flood piano. Just the steel pins and strings show rust, no wood shows warping, discoloring, or loss of finish (beyond the section to the right of the music stand that was used as a coaster).



Really, I'm very pleased. I can't find the video... but there was a youtube review of the free craigslist pianos NOT to accept. And as I found out, free is still $300 to move into your home. But anyway, he had a 191x upright that had everything wrong with it. Bridges had fissures everywhere, soundboard split, pins not holding tension, 2 keys were broken off, and all the hammers needed replacing-- they were so worn, and so unevenly worn, that they would only hit 1 out of 3 strings (not level).

So that was what I was imagining and preparing for.
Some adjustments to the action, and, *only* a new set of bass strings, exceeds my expectations for what it might have required.
Oh! and it has a true sostenuto pedal.

Now, the tone is, tinny...? What you might expect being played in the background of a midwestern parlor, maybe with the static-y effect of an old film. 'bright,' 'brilliant,' 'powerful,' don't apply. Something better suited to the can-can than rachmaninoff.
Now, it is a free piano off craigslist! I'm not talking about what I expected. I expected very little-- but just because I expected little doesn't mean, if possible, that I shouldn't strive for more.
New strings where needed, a good cleaning, and a couple tunings would be a good first start of course. But is this just a kimball sounding like a kimball, or are there things I can do, maybe in the action or hammer treatment, to improve tone, to get more of a classical sound?

-Bernard


Edited by berninicaco3 (06/19/13 08:45 PM)

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#2105174 - 06/20/13 02:02 AM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
Gary Fowler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/27/13
Posts: 375
I wouldn't touch a Kimball rebuild with a ten foot pole. But if this is perhaps the paino of your dreams, than go for it!. You are underestimating the costs though. The bass strings alone are $400. the pinblock is another $400. You really only want to rebuild a QUALITY piano. But I have to say, if you are going to rebuild a Kimball, a 6'6" is a decent size. I just hope you bother taking downbearing measurements, and also make sure the soundbaord has good crown. You don't want to waste time and money on a piano with limited potential
_________________________
Making the world a better sounding place, one piano at a time...

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#2105201 - 06/20/13 04:03 AM Re: utter newbie contemplating 1930s kimball 'mechanics special' [Re: berninicaco3]
berninicaco3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/14/13
Posts: 103
Loc: iowa city, ia
No, I don't imagine it would be worth a professional rebuilder's time.
But the other face of it is, I am not a professional rebuilder-- should I be touching any piano that would be worthy of a professional rebuild?
No more than Celia Gimenez should have started her icon restoration career by touching up (botching up) a fine and respected fresco.

This is the right piano for me to begin on.
It can be playable if I succeed,
and it can be written off if I don't.

I wouldn't say it's the piano of my dreams.
But for the pittance of $1000, could you find anything better for me? Likely not; I've been looking for a while actually. If not this, I'd spend $1000 on an electronic keyboard.


Actually, it does not need a pin block! Which was very happy news.
I've been advised --and it make so much sense-- not to go a full rebuild route on this one. Especially, as there's no real reason to justify a rebuild. The pinblock, bridges, and soundboard are in great shape.
Restring the bass, set the action, tune it a couple times until it's stable, and enjoy.
The NEXT project can be one more step involved
and the next one after that could be a total overhaul.
Bite off what I can chew.

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