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#2196186 - 12/11/13 04:54 PM DIY upright bridge repair + restring
Joeywhat Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/11/13
Posts: 18
My Grandmother has a Starck upright with a cracked bass bridge. Also, it's about 50 cents flat all around. A local tech thinks (based on pictures) that it likely won't hold a tune, and that the currently minor cracks on the bridge will significantly worsen once properly tuned.

Anyways, it'll cost a lot to have someone fix it. I'm looking into doing the work myself, and wanted to get an idea of the labor involved, and the cost for any special tools, plus new bass strings. I don't have any experience building or repairing pianos, but I am alright with some woodworking skills, and I have a decent ability to not just tear into things blindly (I've built some cars/engines in the past without formal training).

So what I'm looking for is how easily one can replace a bass bridge. I have no problems reading into getting it all done, I'm not expecting to just go and do it with no research. If it's something that requires a skilled technician in order to actually work, I'll just find something else to do...if a layman can do a sufficient job with a little practice and lots of reading, I'd like to at least try.

Also on that note, I'm curious to know the costs of the associated tools and parts. How much for a new bridge? How much for strings? What is an ideal, but not excessive tool kit for this? If I'm going this far, should I also tune the piano myself? I'm wondering if I can maybe save some coin by replacing the bridge and stringing the strings, then having the tuner take it from there (he does tech work as well).

Does any of this sound feasible, or am I out of my lane?

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#2196314 - 12/11/13 09:58 PM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Joeywhat]
Mark Cerisano, RPT Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/24/10
Posts: 1494
Loc: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Ya, that's a pretty technical job. The downbearing has be right and the bridge notching has to be perfect, or the bass notes will sound like, you know what.

The good news is, maybe you don't need a new bass bridge. When you play the notes loudly in the bass, do you hear an annoying woody metallic buzzing? If so, the bridge would need work.

One repair is to remove all the bass strings. Do not loosen all the tension at once. The rising soundboard could break the strings. Happened to me once.

Remove the bridge pins. Measure first. (If pieces of the bridge cap fall off, this repair will not work; the cap needs to be replaced.) Smooth in some epoxy, right to the bottom and in the cracks. Make sure none is left on the top of the bridge and on the notches.

Drill out the holes after the epoxy dries.

Hammer the pins back in. I suppose you could use the same ones if they were not ground down. Or use new ones of the same size of the ones removed.
_________________________
Mark Cerisano, RPT
www.howtotunepianos.com

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#2196352 - 12/11/13 11:17 PM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Joeywhat]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21918
Loc: Oakland
I would be interested in seeing the pictures of the bridge. The tuning is not affected by tiny hairline cracks which many pianos have. The cracks need to be so wide that the pins actually move before it will cause problems with tuning. Even then, some of them stabilize. You need to get another opinion.

There may be other problems which cannot be diagnosed, even incorrectly, with just photographs. The problems with assessing a piano by appearance is that you can miss serious problems that are not visual, and that things that look bad often make little or no difference in how the piano sounds or performs.

If you do something that does not need to be done, it is even worse than doing nothing.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2196586 - 12/12/13 03:00 PM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Joeywhat]
Goof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/05/12
Posts: 359
Loc: UK
I have a Yamaha chromatic tuner YT-250 - buy one of these and a tuning hammer, make certain you get the screw on tip which will fit tight on the pins, and you'
re in for "starters". That is you will be able to tell if the pins are holding in the pinblock.
If the piano is flat through out the YT-250 will allow you to tune flat through out and so keep tension down.
Then come back and ask more quetions - I did!

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#2196593 - 12/12/13 03:31 PM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Joeywhat]
Joeywhat Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/11/13
Posts: 18
This is the bridge, and the piece of wood it seems to mount to (not the soundboard) that is also cracked considerable.

It buzzes a LOT.




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#2196596 - 12/12/13 03:36 PM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Joeywhat]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21918
Loc: Oakland
Yes, that is bad. I would just replace the entire assembly, since it is not very complicated. But I have had experience.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2196610 - 12/12/13 04:09 PM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Joeywhat]
Joeywhat Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/11/13
Posts: 18
Yes, the tech said that a new bridge, pins and strings might as well be done.

How easy would it be to get a new bridge and strings, and at least get myself right up to tightening the strings?

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#2196612 - 12/12/13 04:14 PM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Joeywhat]
Goof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/05/12
Posts: 359
Loc: UK
Just an add-on: I've never heard of a Starck, it's not a Steck is it? They were associated with Aeolian - both good piano makers as far as I have read.

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#2196613 - 12/12/13 04:14 PM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Joeywhat]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21918
Loc: Oakland
$3000-4000 of my labor and parts, roughly. Other work would be extra.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2196635 - 12/12/13 04:56 PM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Joeywhat]
Joeywhat Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/11/13
Posts: 18
Yes, hence my desire to fix it myself. It's just not worth that sort of money.

And yes it's a Starck. I believe they closed shop in the 60's sometime.

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#2196987 - 12/13/13 11:15 AM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Joeywhat]
Goof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/05/12
Posts: 359
Loc: UK
smile I have seen MUCH worse which could still make a decent sound!
Recon what you should do is vacuum out all the gunge, better still blow it out. I made my "tub-type" vacuum's discharge flow out though a tube!
Be sure to remove the action and the keys as there will be plenty to clean there.
The fact that it has bronze bridge pins instead of the common bits of steel rod suggest, to me, that it may have a quality build.
Buzzes can usually be traced by carefull listening, perhaps the most difficult are those at the back of the soundboard, you need a helper on the offending key! A slither of wood and some glue usually do the trick.
Bass strings do not look bad in the photograhs: bad sound there is often due to a hammer not striking both strings at precisely the same instant.
Having started like you with an interest in engines I'd be interested in reading how you get on.
Finally buy the book on Pianos by Reblitz.

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#2197035 - 12/13/13 01:01 PM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Joeywhat]
fjb-tink Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/07/12
Posts: 6
Loc: central texas
Doesn't seem to be a piano to spend much money on. So, go ahead and try to fix it as you have little to lose but your time. Maybe you can find the Reblitz book at the library. It would be a good start as a place to get general piano info. Could be done as follows:

It looks like a small piano with laminate soundboard, perhaps, better to glue repair than try to remove the bridge -- or it might just fall off when you remove screws. But, plan to try glue repair first. The pins are not badly out of position.

1. remove case parts and action (see Reblitz). If you can work in the garage, it would be best. be safe, be neat, think thru the steps before you begin.

2. get help to put piano on its back on two sawhorses - one at each side so you can access top and bottom of piano. this is the be safe part.

3. take off the bottom board. check to see if the bottom frame of the piano is structurally sound. If not, clamp together and remove screw in plate, drill through and bolt from the back with carriage bolts.

4. use tuning hammer to let off tension on bass strings just enough to pull off the hitches and string on a wire so you can hold them out of the way. Using flashlight and mirror check all glue joints at the bass bridge and underneath on soundboard ribs. use a feeler gauge to clean dirt from loose joints. sheetmetal screws make good temporary clamps. predrill for all screws and wax the screws so they will come back out. use pva glue where you can work it in with the feeler gauge, thin ca glue where joints are just slightly loose. After glue dries, remove screws and redrill and glue in hardwood dowells. clean up with chisel.

5. lightly tap all lbridge pins over and down into bridge. very carefully drip in thin ca glue along the crack in bridge, follow with a thicker ca glue if cracks are open much. let dry using kicker sparingly. when dry lube top of bridge then replace bass strings with one counterclockwise twist in the hitch.

6. carefully pull the strings back up near to pitch. Seat hitches on plate and tighten and seat coils on pins as you apply tension. (go ahead and put a few drops of thin ca glue on each tuning pin while the piano is on its back, at least in the bass. I would just do the whole thing while it is on its back, if the bass pulls to pitch without wires breaking.)

7. put the bottom board back on (with new felt for pedals, all tightened and lubed) and get your help back to set up the piano -- very carefully.

note: if you first check ribs and frame of piano and all seems well glued and tight if is much safer just to tip the piano onto its back on blocks on the floor to work on the bridge even if you set it up and down a time or two to do the work. shops use tilters or hoists or very strong young men. your piano might weigh about 450 lbs.
_________________________
Frank J. Baxter
Frank's Refinishing & Sales
piano repair, refinishing, restoration, bone keytops

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#2197042 - 12/13/13 01:13 PM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Joeywhat]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21918
Loc: Oakland
Actually, it is a big old upright, not a small piano with laminate soundboard.

I would not put the piano on its back for this, unless I was okay with lying under it to unscrew bridge screws. I might experiment with eliminating the cantilever, and just making a straight bridge where the current cantilever screws to the soundboard. That would require new bass strings, but I would rescale and restring the piano anyway.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2197056 - 12/13/13 01:33 PM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Joeywhat]
Joeywhat Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/11/13
Posts: 18
What is a rough cost for new springs, say just the bass and all of them? I can't find too much info on pricing, all the suppliers want detailed string info first. Don't need a quote....just a ballpark price so I know what I'm getting into.

Honestly, removing the old bridge and replacing it doesn't sound that hard. Is it easier/better to just make my own bridge, especially since it doesn't appear to be oddly shaped or anything? Can I just copy pin locations from the current bridge?

Also, is the cantilever the piece of wood the bridge is currently mounted to? You're saying that doesn't really do anything? I haven't had time to really look into where specifically the vibrations were coming from, I figured it was that piece since it's cracked right through. Most of the bass notes cause vibration, and you can sometimes hear it higher up as well.

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#2197084 - 12/13/13 02:23 PM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Joeywhat]
Joeywhat Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/11/13
Posts: 18
Also, regarding the book by Reblitz, I have found an older (looks like original) edition at the local library. Will that suffice or is the newer 2nd edition preferable?

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#2197189 - 12/13/13 06:17 PM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Joeywhat]
Goof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/05/12
Posts: 359
Loc: UK
I had six pairs of bass strings (12), made by Ari Izaacs about a year back. You can find him on the web and he will quote when you have supplied required dimensions.
Actually I could have saved the cash if I'd just shaped the hammers to strike correctly. Do post some pics of the hammers - up and down from middle C. If they are really shot you'd do better repacing these rather than strings.
Regarding the cantilever bridge one would think that the manufacturers had good reason to choose this design. It is fairly common knowledge that to get the "smoothest" transition in sound from the end long treble tennor brige on to the bass is not easy.

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#2197231 - 12/13/13 08:22 PM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Joeywhat]
Joeywhat Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/11/13
Posts: 18
I'll get some pictures of the hammers in a day or two. I'm no 100% sure how they are supposed to look, but they do have considerable grooves in them from the strings. My mom's piano (which hasn't been played as much) looks similar but not as worse, so that's all I have to go buy. It's still all felt, hasn't worn down to the interior metal.

Also, when ordering strings, is it necessary to measure the current string gauge/thickness if I'm restringing the whole thing? Can I just go by length and pick whatever thickness I want, or does the string gauge matter for each piano? Seems like it would be easier that way, instead of measuring every freakin' string.

I did just pick up Reblitz's book, so I'll give that a read over the next couple of days. Perhaps that will answer many of my questions.

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#2197235 - 12/13/13 08:34 PM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Joeywhat]
Eric Gloo Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 1266
Loc: Richfield Springs, New York
What size is this piano? How old is it?
_________________________
Eric Gloo
Piano Technician
Certified Dampp-Chaser Installer
Richfield Springs, New York

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#2197243 - 12/13/13 09:03 PM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Joeywhat]
Joeywhat Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/11/13
Posts: 18
Built in the 60's, I'll measure it tomorrow.

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#2197313 - 12/14/13 01:07 AM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Joeywhat]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21918
Loc: Oakland
If you want to do this, make a new bridge and mount it to the cantilever, and see if that gets the piano working. You can go back and change the scale again afterwards, if you have the energy to do it.

It is best to learn this trade a little at a time. I would not recommend learning to string a piano on a piano that needs a new bridge first. Similarly, I do not recommend learning replace a bridge at the time you are learning to string a piano. Since you have a piano, with some sentimental value, fix the bridge, and then worry about the strings.

And I apologize. Looking at the picture more carefully, it does have a laminate soundboard, so it is not worth putting a lot of effort into it.

Just keep in mind that it very well could cost more to fix it than to replace it with a similar piano without the problem.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2197389 - 12/14/13 08:57 AM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Joeywhat]
Eric Gloo Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 1266
Loc: Richfield Springs, New York
Keep in mind, it is not always necessary to replace the bass strings when doing this type of repair.
_________________________
Eric Gloo
Piano Technician
Certified Dampp-Chaser Installer
Richfield Springs, New York

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#2197599 - 12/14/13 03:43 PM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Joeywhat]
Joeywhat Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/11/13
Posts: 18
After further deliberation, I don't think I'm going to repair this piano. My primary issue is that I'm not 100% sure all the problems stem from the broken bridge. I don't want to open it up and find a plethora of other issues that were not easily noticeable. There is a significant amount of buzzing throughout most of the range, so I'm thinking there might be a crack somewhere else I can't easily see.

I do appreciate the help you folks gave, and hopefully in the future I can try my hand at piano repair with something a bit easier to tackle, that is also of better quality in the first place.

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#2197722 - 12/14/13 09:35 PM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Joeywhat]
Gary Fowler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/27/13
Posts: 375
Joey,
Good plan NOT to pursue this. It's fairly common knwoledge that UNLESS it's a Steinway(or similar quality piano), it makes no sense to throw money into an old upright.
_________________________
Making the world a better sounding place, one piano at a time...

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#2197899 - 12/15/13 10:10 AM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Joeywhat]
Joeywhat Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/11/13
Posts: 18
Don't get me wrong, if it was in better condition I wouldn't mind doing the work. It does have sentimental value, but it just seemed that there was a lot wrong with this one, and potentially even more...and the fact that it's not a great piano kind of put the last nail in the coffin.

Hopefully I can find another decent piano for super cheap later on, I actually wouldn't mind tearing into a piano and fixing it up. Sounds like a good project.

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#2197902 - 12/15/13 10:17 AM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Gary Fowler]
Goof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/05/12
Posts: 359
Loc: UK
cryAh! Too bad! if as you claim you have repaired engines you would have found a piano a walk-over.
Also better to start on some thing that is not worth much because it would not matter if you made a few mistakes along the way.

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#2197918 - 12/15/13 11:36 AM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Joeywhat]
Joeywhat Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/11/13
Posts: 18
Yeah, but when I built the engines I had a killer powerplant for a '68 Camaro. With this...I'm just not convinced that I'll end up with a "good" piano. I don't want to drop a ton of money and end up with a "alright" piano. I already have a decent upright.

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#2198161 - 12/15/13 06:48 PM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Joeywhat]
Goof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/05/12
Posts: 359
Loc: UK
cool Point taken, if you you already have a piano then fixing another will waste time you should using to practice - don't I know!

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#2198396 - 12/16/13 08:43 AM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Mark Cerisano, RPT]
Chuck Behm Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/10
Posts: 737
Loc: Boone, Iowa, USA


Joey - I just read through this thread, and I'm curious. Does your Starck upright look anything like this model?:

[img:center]http://[/img]

I've had two identical Starck uprights in my shop. Both had this detail on the front corner of the case:

[img:center]http://[/img]

These pianos were both beauties - great to play. Obviously, yours has issues, but if it's this particular piano, I can tell you that it would be worth it to at least give it a go. I would recommend the method that Mark Cerisano described near the beginning of the thread, with one modification. There's no reason (as far as the bridge repair is concerned) to completely remove the bass strings as Mark describes. Loosen them starting with the upper string to the point where they can be taken off the hitch pins at the bottom of the strings, and thread the loops (in order again) through a 18" or so long copper wire. Bind them up once they're all removed, and pull them out of the way, using the excess copper wire to attach them to a strut.

Here's a look at the method I use with epoxy in repairing bridges. Frank Baxter's detailed description looks to be very doable as well, although I myself have never tried CA glue for this type of repair.

Good luck, whatever you decide. Don't be discouraged when folks tell you that old uprights aren't worth the time or effort to bring them back to life. Many of these instruments are very much worth saving. Chuck Behm
_________________________
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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#2198425 - 12/16/13 10:08 AM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Chuck Behm]
Paul678 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/13
Posts: 875
Chuck, what kind of epoxy do you use in this type
of repair? Any kind of two part epoxy you can
get at Home Depot? JB Weld? Or some other
specific brand?

Thanks.

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#2198446 - 12/16/13 10:59 AM Re: DIY upright bridge repair + restring [Re: Joeywhat]
Joeywhat Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/11/13
Posts: 18
I believe it is console size. Definitely not like that.

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