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#2228177 - 02/08/14 11:04 PM Damper head cleaning/refinishing
James Scott Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/22/09
Posts: 158
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
In this stage of my rebuilding of my 1928 Cable grand I'm working on the dampers. Only the damper heads and rods, the felt will be dealt with later (although it's in the planning stage). I'd tried cleaning the damper heads years ago with a damp cloth, tooth brush, etc., and nothing worked. The grime is older than all of us so it was stubborn. This time I'm giving it a brush all over with a toothbrush to remove loose dust (especially on the sides), then using some 0000 steel wool and following up with a brisk polish with a bit of felt. It's working pretty good, mostly.

I thought before that the heads were finished in black whatever that has faded, but now I think that it's just the old varnish that has darkened and gotten dulled with age and caked with grim. So my steel wool/felt buffing I think is getting through that dull grime layer letting me see what it may have looked like when it was new. However, there are deeper scratches and gouges across the heads that I'm not getting out. And there are some spots where it's coming off altogether.

My question for you guys is how do you clean the heads? And if that doesn't work, do you refinish them? If so, then how?

My thought was that I'd basically remove the varnish then stain them and coat with clear gloss lacquer. That would make them look more like a Mason & Hamlin. But I could also refinish with black lacquer instead, the same as the rest of it, although they'd be polished instead of satin, but I'm kind of leaning toward the stained wood look. What do you think?

For the damper rods I'm doing the same thing with the steel wool and felt. Works pretty good. I'll probably finish them up with a metal polish, especially in the section that slides through the rail. but I don't know if that's necessary. Is it?

While I'm at it, another quick question. Damper felt: with the red backing or without?

Thanks for your help.

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#2228216 - 02/09/14 01:10 AM Re: Damper head cleaning/refinishing [Re: James Scott]
Monaco Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/28/11
Posts: 387
Loc: GA
The easy way is flat black spray paint. Best use of time, good results.

A polished finish can also be dulled with steel wool.

Stained wood sounds nice, if you've got the time and love or are being paid well enough for it. Only you can make that call.

I don't think polishing damper rods is really necessary.

I'm partial to the red.


Edited by Monaco (02/09/14 01:14 AM)
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Ben Ereddia
Piano Teacher
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#2228223 - 02/09/14 02:08 AM Re: Damper head cleaning/refinishing [Re: James Scott]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21818
Loc: Oakland
Cleaning damper heads is time-consuming. Refinishing them neatly is difficult. I have several sets of new damper heads I bought inexpensively which I could use if I feel the piano is not worth the effort.

I use wax on pieces of Scotchbrite pads to clean and polish the damper wires.
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Semipro Tech

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#2228257 - 02/09/14 06:07 AM Re: Damper head cleaning/refinishing [Re: James Scott]
Jon Page Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/13/09
Posts: 331
Loc: Harwich Port, Cape Cod, Massac...
I haven't seen a set of refinished damper heads that looked any good. The maniscus at he edges causes a roundish appearance, not a flat clean look; they would be impossible to rub out. If you can't clean the surfaces sufficiently with a rubbing compound and wax, opt for a new set. It takes less effort to bend the wires than it does to 'refinish' them (overspray on the sides is very time consuming to remove).

Cleaning and polishing the wires is a good thing but it only needs to be done at the area of the guide rail bushing to reduce friction. Steel wool is too abrasive, use white ScotchBrite (non-abrasive scrubbing pad) with polish or wax.
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Jon Page
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Harwich Port, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA
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#2228336 - 02/09/14 10:18 AM Re: Damper head cleaning/refinishing [Re: James Scott]
Monaco Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/28/11
Posts: 387
Loc: GA
What kind of wax?
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Ben Ereddia
Piano Teacher
Beginning Tech

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#2228361 - 02/09/14 11:13 AM Re: Damper head cleaning/refinishing [Re: James Scott]
pianolive Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/09/11
Posts: 327
Loc: Europe
This is the best you can get. Does not work on polyester http://www.jettadam.dk/brokemi_uk.htm

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#2228484 - 02/09/14 02:29 PM Re: Damper head cleaning/refinishing [Re: James Scott]
Jon Page Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/13/09
Posts: 331
Loc: Harwich Port, Cape Cod, Massac...
Believe it or not, Rain Dance Paste Wax. Not the liquid version.
_________________________
Regards,

Jon Page
Piano technician/tuner
Harwich Port, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA
http://www.pianocapecod.com

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#2228491 - 02/09/14 02:42 PM Re: Damper head cleaning/refinishing [Re: James Scott]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21818
Loc: Oakland
Paste wax is easiest to use. It should only leave a molecular film on wire. The differences between brands are pretty much the volatiles, so the brand name does not matter.
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Semipro Tech

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#2228881 - 02/10/14 08:40 AM Re: Damper head cleaning/refinishing [Re: James Scott]
Monaco Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/28/11
Posts: 387
Loc: GA
Could you just spray it with some McLube and be done in 20 seconds?
_________________________
Ben Ereddia
Piano Teacher
Beginning Tech

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#2230736 - 02/13/14 12:17 AM Re: Damper head cleaning/refinishing [Re: James Scott]
James Scott Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/22/09
Posts: 158
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Thank you all for the great suggestions. I wanted to reply earlier but I had a computer crash and am just now getting back to this.

So you've pretty much convinced me that I probably should leave the heads well enough alone, they're good enough at this point. But I'll finish polishing up the wires, concentrating on the bushing areas.

I'll work on the felt later.

Thanks for your help.
James

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#2230838 - 02/13/14 06:34 AM Re: Damper head cleaning/refinishing [Re: James Scott]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
Spraying black matte paint can do it. The surface have to be nice to begin with. Holding all heads together with a sheet between them make the Spraying cleaner. Wax is also OK.
New wire make a difference when possible. Or new heads and felts of course. Not so expensive..
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