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#2112933 - 07/04/13 06:00 PM Journal for an Early Conover Upright (~1888)
Tuneless Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 06/17/13
Posts: 170
Loc: AZ, USA
Early Conovers differ from most other pianos in at least a couple of respects. So, by recording these differences and my history of technical work on this piano, it may be of use to other Conover owners, and if I deviate in too serious a way from recommended repair/adjustment practices, please let me know.

Conovers do not have bridle straps. When removing the action from the piano, the wippens/stickers are kept from falling by a hook looking piece of metal protruding out of the top of each of the jacks. The piece of metal looks like a finishing nail bent at 90 degrees and seats into a mortised out section of each hammer butt, thereby holding the parts up when the stickers no longer have support.

In addition, I am still trying to figure out the nature of an additional rail unique to the Conover action. The typical action is shown, in the ubiquitous drawing of the normal upright action, as the catcher having 2 felts. The upper catcher felt mates with the back check felt at hammer rebound, and the lower catcher felt mates with the felt on the upper part of the jack at some point in the jack's motion.. In the Conover, the lower portion of each catcher is missing, and the function, whatever it is (?), is replaced by a rail.

The action, tho unique, was clearly built by WNG, as their name is stamped on the Sticker Rail. http://www.pbase.com/schnitz/image/151142295 . The only annoyance I have is that I don't have names for these parts. Hmm... How about Jack Support Pin and Jack Stop Rail? It someone has better names, let me know. Links to pictures below. Note that wippen assemblies 87 thru 81 are not shown in the pictures because they had been removed from the action when the pictures were taken.
http://www.pbase.com/schnitz/image/151129966/large
http://www.pbase.com/schnitz/image/151129967/large
http://www.pbase.com/schnitz/image/151129968/large

Photos of the piano are here, http://www.pbase.com/schnitz/conover_upright_piano__1888_or_9
_________________________
Cynthia

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

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#2113048 - 07/05/13 12:30 AM Re: Journal for an Early Conover Upright (~1888) [Re: Tuneless]
Tuneless Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 06/17/13
Posts: 170
Loc: AZ, USA
The Conover was purchased late in 1983. It had just been refurbished and the exterior stripped of white paint, but was still missing a wheel and some veneer. The wheel was replaced, but veneer work has yet to be done. It looked like all felts, excluding dampers, were replaced, and a few action parts were replaced. Possibly some hammers were filed at that time, or earlier, but shallow string imprints remained on all hammers. The treble section appeared to have had a number of hammers replaced, with one of the replacement hammers being too short, leaving it 1/8" further away from the strings than the rest, http://www.pbase.com/schnitz/image/151142746/large .

The piano was tuned a couple of times in the next few years, but was mostly unplayed for nearly 30 years, and sitting on dollies for the last decade. At a point in the middle of those 30 years, numerous spoon sized bubbles formed in the veneer on the keyboard cover. By the time the piano was taken off the dollies a month ago, the bubbles were gone, perhaps from moving the piano from a coastal influence, CA, tho modestly dry, to a very dry climate, AZ, where it has been for the last decade. Whatever was used to remove the white paint may have reacted with the humidity and caused the bubbles.

After the piano was taken off the dollies, the action was regulated and a broken brass rail butt plate replaced. When a jack flange fell off a wippen for no apparent reason, it was clear that the entire action needed rework as necessary. This is where things stand now. The action is out of the piano and is being gone thru with a fine tooth comb. All of the brass but plates will be replaced. Using 50/50 alcohol/water to ease bushings worked on all center pin joints so far, but not as well as wanted on the Sticker Flange Pins. So NewOctave Global Piano Action Lubricant for the latter will be ordered.
_________________________
Cynthia

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

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#2114750 - 07/08/13 04:06 PM Re: Journal for an Early Conover Upright (~1888) [Re: Tuneless]
Goof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/05/12
Posts: 357
Loc: UK
It looks as if it is a very tall up right.
What is the measurement from the floor to the top ot the piano?
Have you ever heard it played?

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#2114801 - 07/08/13 05:31 PM Re: Journal for an Early Conover Upright (~1888) [Re: Tuneless]
Tuneless Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 06/17/13
Posts: 170
Loc: AZ, USA
It is just shy of 57.5 inches from floor to top lid sitting on its iron casters.

Dan the Piano Man in Azusa, CA, who sold us the piano, played for us 30 years ago. It sounded pretty good at the tome, but we were not the most educated of listeners. I have done a lot of plunking on it, but there is no way to call that playing.

I am currently going thru the action, assembly by assembly, and replacing cracked flanges and re-gluing bad glue joints. I think I'll do a little filing on the hammers to, and I need to post a thread to ask about needling the groves out of the hammers. Damper felts are on order. I am beginning to think that the hammers are original, and as you can see, not that badly worn for 125 years old. The action wood is in excellent condition (I test every part larger than a flange) and the stickers are still flexible. Maybe it was in the dry climate of the southwestern US all of its life.

This piano has probably spent a lot of time as a piece of furniture.
_________________________
Cynthia

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

Top
#2114817 - 07/08/13 05:57 PM Re: Journal for an Early Conover Upright (~1888) [Re: Tuneless]
Phil D Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/10
Posts: 551
Loc: London, England
The jack stop rail doesn't look unusual to me, can you link to the standard action you are referring to?
_________________________
Phil Dickson
The Cycling Piano Tuner

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#2114848 - 07/08/13 07:04 PM Re: Journal for an Early Conover Upright (~1888) [Re: Tuneless]
Tuneless Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 06/17/13
Posts: 170
Loc: AZ, USA
Well this is the drawing I have in Reblitz's book, 'Piano Servicing Tuning & Rebuilding', which I have found in a number of places on the web, https://www.pianoparts.com/upright/ . Note part number 20. If the arrangement in the drawing is not typical, then I stand corrected. Any idea how typical the Jack Stop Rail(my name for it, and maybe I guessed right) is?

However the other Conover difference is, I am pretty sure, fairly unique, as
I mentioned that my piano did not have Bridal Ribbons or Bridal Wires to the person who will probably tune my piano when I am finished with the refurbishing, and he was quite surprised and looked like he did not believe me and figured I just did not know what I was talking about.
_________________________
Cynthia

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

Top
#2114854 - 07/08/13 07:24 PM Re: Journal for an Early Conover Upright (~1888) [Re: Tuneless]
Phil D Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/10
Posts: 551
Loc: London, England
It seems the jack stop rail is far less common in the US than Europe. It is a common feature of Renner actions in most larger uprights. In the smaller models it is usually combined with the letoff rail and hence less adjustable.

There was a discussion a while back about upright regulation in which Johnkie described the process of regulating the jack stop rail for fast repetition. It can enable the jack to slip under the hammer butt when the key is only depressed part way. Many US technicians seemed to be unfamiliar with it.

As for the wire whippen suspenders on the jack, I've never seen those before!
_________________________
Phil Dickson
The Cycling Piano Tuner

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#2124726 - 07/29/13 10:38 AM Re: Journal for an Early Conover Upright (~1888) [Re: Phil D]
Tuneless Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 06/17/13
Posts: 170
Loc: AZ, USA
Inventory of parts replaced pre 1984:

Hammer felts are quite a bit cleaner than the damper felts, probably because the hammers have been filed, as the sides of the hammers are a lot dirtier than the tops. I suspect most of these are original hammers because the wood discoloration on the hammers matches the other wood parts in the piano, but the amount of felt left suggests the piano has not been used hard. smile
http://www.pbase.com/schnitz/image/151142292/large
http://www.pbase.com/schnitz/image/151142294/large
http://www.pbase.com/schnitz/image/151142291/large
http://www.pbase.com/schnitz/image/151142293/large
Hammers replaced during refurbishing (probably, or earlier) are all in the treble section, #73, 76, 77, 79, 86, 87, 88.
http://www.pbase.com/schnitz/image/151142746/large

Hammer Shafts replaced, #73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 79, 81, 86, 87, 88, with #84 having been broken and repaired using some kind of wrap.

Damper felts are so dirty, with the exception of the treble section, they probably have never been replaced. New damper felts are on order. The treble felts were replaced sometime in the pianos history with shorter than normal felts. The wood exposed with these shorter felts is only marginally darken with age patina. I will be replacing with full length felts.
http://www.pbase.com/schnitz/image/151142299/large
http://www.pbase.com/schnitz/image/151142298/large
http://www.pbase.com/schnitz/image/151142297/latge
http://www.pbase.com/schnitz/image/151142296/large
http://www.pbase.com/schnitz/image/151224334/large
http://www.pbase.com/schnitz/image/151224335/large
Many other felts replaced during refurbishing.

One Wippen/Sticker assembly (#79) was replaced with bridle wire and damper spoon cut off, and with old jack reused.
Wippen Flanges replaced, #32, 55, 56, 74.

Sticker Flange (#88) is cracked at the pin, and a metal bracket was used to hold the flange together. The flange will be replaced.
http://www.pbase.com/schnitz/image/151129965/large
http://www.pbase.com/schnitz/image/151129963/large
http://www.pbase.com/schnitz/image/151129964/large
_________________________
Cynthia

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

Top
#2124757 - 07/29/13 11:36 AM Re: Journal for an Early Conover Upright (~1888) [Re: Tuneless]
Tuneless Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 06/17/13
Posts: 170
Loc: AZ, USA
Repairs started June 2013:

Brass Flange Butt Plate replaced, #8. Full set on order.


Repair to wippen assemblies complete:

Jack Flanges re-glued to wippen with hot hide glue, #s 2, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 26, 65, 72. All other such joints have been tested for sufficient strength.

Sticker Flange #10 and Wippen Flange #62 were broken clean, but away from the bushing, and glued back together with Titebond II.

Sticker flanges replaced, #s 8, 12, 14, 49, 60,

Wippen flanges replaced #s 28, 51, 54, 58, 67,

Sticker flange pins replaced due to recalcitrant friction #s 23, 77, 80 (#80 replaced twice with reaming bushing second time)

Crack at top of jack flange glued with acetone thinned epoxy and left to see how this works.


All Brass Flange Butt Plates replaced. About 8 more butt plates found to be in one stage or another of failure.

Hammer assemblies now being gone over.
_________________________
Cynthia

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

Top
#2124780 - 07/29/13 12:02 PM Re: Journal for an Early Conover Upright (~1888) [Re: Tuneless]
Eric Gloo Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 1246
Loc: Richfield Springs, New York
How did the brass flange butt plate replacement go? I find the new replacements to be very inconsistent from one to the next, although in some pianos they install OK.
_________________________
Eric Gloo
Piano Technician
Certified Dampp-Chaser Installer
Richfield Springs, New York

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#2124837 - 07/29/13 01:36 PM Re: Journal for an Early Conover Upright (~1888) [Re: Eric Gloo]
Tuneless Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 06/17/13
Posts: 170
Loc: AZ, USA
Well enough. These were from International Piano Supply, and the only problem I had was that one screw head was malformed. They really didn't need to have the screws run so far into the plate when delivered, leaving me with a lot of labor unscrewing all of those.

But I see that rebuilding pianos is a lot of labor in general, and a lot of it grunt work, not worth paying someone $20 per hour to do. But I am not paying myself, and every minute spent on this work is quite enjoyable. But I can see why so many pianos aren't worth rebuilding at current labor rates. It is a pity to see these antiques discarded because of cost.
_________________________
Cynthia

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

Top
#2124840 - 07/29/13 01:44 PM Re: Journal for an Early Conover Upright (~1888) [Re: Tuneless]
Tuneless Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 06/17/13
Posts: 170
Loc: AZ, USA
My husband reminds me that all of this junking of antique pianos will just eventually make mine worth more. smile
_________________________
Cynthia

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

Top
#2124846 - 07/29/13 02:01 PM Re: Journal for an Early Conover Upright (~1888) [Re: Tuneless]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21537
Loc: Oakland
Originally Posted By: Tuneless
My husband reminds me that all of this junking of antique pianos will just eventually make mine worth more. smile


Not necessarily, and if it does happen, it probably will not be in your lifetime.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2141397 - 08/30/13 01:46 PM Re: Journal for an Early Conover Upright (~1888) [Re: Tuneless]
Tuneless Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 06/17/13
Posts: 170
Loc: AZ, USA
Repairs to hammer/butt assemblies complete:

Hammer shanks replaced, #'s 78,80,83,84

Catcher shanks replaced, #'s 1,3,7,16,18,20,31,33,39,43,48,55,57,63,71,88

Original shanks were made of a pale maroon wood. Those that broke during stress testing (the above) were of particularly soft wood. Mahogany? Looks like the worst shanks were used on the catchers to save money by not throwing them out.

Replaced hammer butt leather (those hard as a rock), #'s 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 87, 88

Replaced all catcher buckskins

Replaced all felts inside the butt cavities that the jack pins drop into upon release of the key. All were producing a clicking sound upon return to the resting position. Not sure if the new felt is too thick or positioned correctly. This change may interfere with the normal action. Time will tell.

Re-glued Hammer felts where a section of hammers appeared to be less than properly glued by the factory, #'s 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26
http://www.pbase.com/schnitz/image/151614138/large
http://www.pbase.com/schnitz/image/151614139/large
http://www.pbase.com/schnitz/image/151614140/large
_________________________
Cynthia

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

Top
#2141402 - 08/30/13 01:52 PM Re: Journal for an Early Conover Upright (~1888) [Re: Tuneless]
Tuneless Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 06/17/13
Posts: 170
Loc: AZ, USA
Additional work completed on wippen assemblies:

Replaced wippen flanges where bushings were loose, 19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 26, 27, 30, 34, 35, 38, 41, 42, 46, 49, 53, 57, 61, 62, 64, 69, 72

Flanges removed will be re-bushed as time and growing expertise allows.
_________________________
Cynthia

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

Top
#2141411 - 08/30/13 02:04 PM Re: Journal for an Early Conover Upright (~1888) [Re: Tuneless]
Tuneless Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 06/17/13
Posts: 170
Loc: AZ, USA
Cleaning of major metal pieces in the action completed. I used Nevr-Dull on the metal parts, and expected to see some rust come off, but all it did was make the parts a bit shinier. Then I used the appropriate coarseness of steel wool, and was amazed at how much of what looked like serious corrosion on the action brackets was only on the surface, and cleaned up pretty nicely. Don't know if the Nevr-Dull helped in this clean up or not. But is does seem to make things look pretty nice.
_________________________
Cynthia

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

Top
#2141432 - 08/30/13 03:03 PM Re: Journal for an Early Conover Upright (~1888) [Re: Tuneless]
Chuck Behm Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/10
Posts: 671
Loc: Boone, Iowa, USA
Quote:
"But I see that rebuilding pianos is a lot of labor in general, and a lot of it grunt work, not worth paying someone $20 per hour to do. But I am not paying myself, and every minute spent on this work is quite enjoyable. But I can see why so many pianos aren't worth rebuilding at current labor rates. It is a pity to see these antiques discarded because of cost." - Cynthia

Hi Cynthia - It sounds as if you're having a great time with your upright overhaul project. You're right in that it is a lot of work. We typically spend between 150 and 300 hours (or more) on the upright restoration projects that come to our shop. What is encouraging to me is that more and more owners of vintage uprights (especially the ones that were well built to begin with) are willing to make a substantial investment in their instrument to bring them back to life.

This type of work is great fun, indeed. Be careful, Cynthia, or you'll get the bug, and you'll be dreaming about a fully equipped shop, and pianos of all sorts coming and going. (I know, because I've been hooked for a long time!)

Best wishes,and keep posting the reports on your progress. Chuck Behm


Edited by Chuck Behm (08/30/13 03:03 PM)
_________________________
Tuner/Technician/Rebuilder/Technical Writer
www.pianopromoproductions.com
515-212-9220

"The act of destruction is infinitely easier than the act of creation" - Arthur C. Clarke

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