Another old piano adventure

Posted by: Rickster

Another old piano adventure - 12/14/12 06:20 PM

Hi All,

Not that I needed it, but I bought another old piano today. I saw it advertized on Craigslist and it was only a few miles from my home. The family who owned it is moving out of state and they didn't want to take it with them. I paid $50 for it.

It is an old Conover-Cable with the claw-feet and French legs. It needs some work, but not ready for landfill just yet. I'll tinker with it a little and then sell it or give it way. I'll have some fun playing it first... smile

Here is a YT video of the piano before I unloaded it off my utility trailer.

Another old piano adventure....

I know, I have a sickness... a weakness for old pianos... smile

Rick
Posted by: PaintedPostDave

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/14/12 06:49 PM

Way cool! Thanks for sharing!
Posted by: Supply

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/14/12 08:53 PM

I quite like your rendition of Blueberry Hill Rick, that is the perfect kind of music for that piano. Too bad the bass strings sound really dead - I'll bet with new bass strings that piano would roar.
Posted by: Rich Galassini

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/14/12 09:14 PM

Originally Posted By: Rickster

I know, I have a sickness... a weakness for old pianos... smile

Rick


It is not just a sickness, it is a disease, Rick. I think it has reached epidemic status here on PW. I am definitely infected.
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/14/12 09:26 PM

Is there a twelve step program?

Congratulations Rick on your decidedly not new, new to you, not even newish, member of your piano family.

Are the goats jealous?
Posted by: fcar

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/14/12 09:31 PM

Congratulations on the new acquisition. It was fun to hear you play it.
Posted by: woodog

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/14/12 09:36 PM

Originally Posted By: Minnesota Marty
Is there a twelve step program?



If there is, y'all stay away from it. I like what you do for these instruments. It's a gift for the present in a way.

so keep at it! :-)

Forrest
Posted by: ventil

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/14/12 09:51 PM

Rick,

Is it strictly the physical instrument that interests you?

An older piano tends to become a family member, developing a personality and history in a way that a sofa or refrigerator does not. To me that's part of the fascination of an older piano, especially if it appears well-cared-for.
Posted by: nwpiano

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/15/12 01:31 PM

It's not a sickness, it is intelligence! That could be an amazing piano. I just bought a Weber upright (1895 ish) for my parents and they had it rebuilt. Wow, what an instrument! It will give my grandma's Steinway K52 a run for it's money anyday. If you end up replacing the hammers, I would recommend Abel, that is what we used on the Weber and it gave it that American Piano richness.
Craig
Posted by: Mark R.

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/15/12 04:36 PM

Rick,

Firstly: you know how to make the feet tap!!!

Secondly: on the issue of tubby bass strings. If you do decide to go into this, and have some time (rather than money) on hand for this piano, I can recommend Reblitz's method for revitalizing old bass strings. I spent about 15 hours on my project piano doing this, and not only do the bass strings look better, but more importantly, their sound has improved remarkably. And I didn't find that the procedure caused undue wear on the pinblock either.

Granted, there have been two or three strings on which the new-found sound didn't last very long, but most of them are still fine, and it's been about a year now.

Good luck! (Looking for any pointers, just drop me a line.)
Posted by: Kurtmen

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/15/12 06:51 PM

AWESOME! Blueberry Hill.

Very cool. smokin
Posted by: rocket88

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/15/12 10:54 PM

Originally Posted By: Minnesota Marty
Is there a twelve step program?



Yes...it starts with C, C#, and chromatically up to B...12 steps!
Posted by: jmcintyre

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/15/12 11:10 PM

Originally Posted By: rocket88
Originally Posted By: Minnesota Marty
Is there a twelve step program?

Yes...it starts with C, C#, and chromatically up to B...12 steps!


It's best to ease yourself into the program - make it twelve half-steps.
Posted by: Roy Rodgers

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/15/12 11:16 PM

If there is a cure, I don't want one. Love to hear these old beast even if slightly out of tune.

Keep the videos coming.

And keep having fun.
Posted by: wouter79

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/17/12 08:46 AM

I'm not so convinced about the piano, how's the action?

But you're really good at blueberry hill. Solid playing, nice tempo, even the singing, great!
Posted by: Rickster

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/17/12 12:31 PM

Thanks for the comments, All!

Yes, I know the old Conover has a lot of wear, and age has certainly taken a toll on it. The action is not too bad… it has the old Billings brass flanges (?). One of the brass flange plates broke while I was tightening the flange screws. I fabricated another one with a piece of flat brass I had laying around my shop. You can still buy the flange plates and I may need more yet, but I’ve got the action working pretty smoothly for now (thanks to Proteck CLP and powdered Teflon smile ).

It is amazing how long these old action parts can last.

Though there was lots of dust everywhere on the inside, there is surprisingly very little rust on the strings and other metal parts. I figure the piano was at least housed in a relatively environmentally controlled space during most of its life. Oh yea, it also has a heater bar professionally installed behind the foot board.

I’ve got it all taken apart and in the process of replacing some of the chipped and missing ivory pieces on the keys. I had another old upright piano that was given to me that had some decent old ivory key top fronts I was able to salvage.

It may not turn out to be a top-notch instrument, but it will be another project to help me hone my meager piano tech skills and be a lot of fun along the way.

All in all, I think I’ve already had $50 worth of fun and stress relief tinkering with it. smile

One thing is for sure, I have a renewed respect for real piano rebuilders, restorers and techs.

Rick
Posted by: TigerRad

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/17/12 12:36 PM

That performance alone is worth the 50 bucks! Not so sure about the effort of getting that beast on and off the truck though.
Posted by: wouter79

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/17/12 03:12 PM

Yes it looks great for a fun project. If you can get the action all right and you get that twoink sound out of the bass strings, it might be fine!
Posted by: Roger Ransom

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/17/12 05:00 PM

And you didn't even hire the pros to move it. Proves it can be done.
Posted by: Nash. Piano Rescue

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/24/12 02:03 AM

Did you get the " It took 7 guys to get that thing in here" line from the previous owner? I think that is a standard line. If picking up antique pianos is an illness I need help badly. I think we have about 400 of them in the warehouse by now lol. We are just suckers for those old pianos here in Nashville.
Posted by: Rickster

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/24/12 08:56 AM

Originally Posted By: Nash Piano Rescue
Did you get the " It took 7 guys to get that thing in here" line from the previous owner? I think that is a standard line. If picking up antique pianos is an illness I need help badly. I think we have about 400 of them in the warehouse by now lol. We are just suckers for those old pianos here in Nashville.

Actually, the previous owners (husband & wife & 4 kids) helped me load it on my utility trailer. They did most of the work. I figure that was part of the bargain. smile

I've taken the gem apart and cleaned out a 100 years worth of dust... I ordered new polymer key top fronts that look like real ivory and glued them on the white keys... that turned out well. I put the keys and action back in yesterday to see how the new key top fronts look and spent about 4 hours playing the heck out of it... smile

Of course, I needed the practice and the action needs loosening up. Most of the notes repeat pretty fast... some are still sluggish, even after treatment with Protech CLP. I'm hoping the stubborn sluggish notes will smooth out without too much prompting.

I like the tone of the old gal... smile

The exterior finish has been refinished in the past and it looks like they did a good job... it won't need much; maybe a good cleaning and going over with 0000 steel wool and soapy water.

My sister has alrady expressed interest in the piano; so, when I'm done with it I may give it to her (unless I fall in love with it even more smile ).

Thanks for all the comments, and Happy Holidays!

Rick
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/24/12 09:12 AM

Hi Rick,

Will the crowning glory be a new fallboard decal?

Happy Holidays to All!
Posted by: Sam Rose

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/24/12 06:48 PM

Rickster, what's "Protech CLP" if I may ask?
Posted by: Rickster

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/24/12 10:45 PM

Originally Posted By: Sam Rose
Rickster, what's "Protech CLP" if I may ask?

Hi Sam,

I may have mispelled it... it is Protek CLP. It is a special product made especially for acoustic piano action parts. It cleans and lubricates. They sell it here at Piano World at the Piano Supply page. Protek CLP

Rick
Posted by: j&j

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/28/12 07:46 PM

Rickster,

Very cool. Thank you. If it is a disease, maybe A&E could do a series "Piano Hoarders NYC", "Piano Hoarders Orange County"!

BTW, where do you find room to keep these old gals as you're rebuilding them?

It really brightened my day.
Posted by: Rickster

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/30/12 12:43 PM

I thought you all might get a good laugh, or at least a smile, ( smile ) out of my field engineering set up to treat the tuning pin block on my old Conover upright. Thing is, it worked... well. smile

When you don’t have the right tools or equipment (or human assistance) you use what you got…

The old gal is responding to my TLC just fine... I can't get over how well I like the tone, in spite of the dead bass strings and warn hammers.

And, J&J, I almost have a piano in every room of my house... I may have build on another room. grin

Happy New Year!

Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/30/12 12:57 PM

Yeah Rick!

Simple piano tools are one thing, but most of us don't have a Ford Tractor with a rear boom!!!!!!

Good Job!
Posted by: Eric Gloo

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/30/12 03:16 PM

Great photo! While the piano was tipped, did you take a minute to tighten up the bottom board screws and the caster screws? smile
Posted by: Rickster

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/31/12 09:20 AM

Originally Posted By: Eric Gloo
Great photo! While the piano was tipped, did you take a minute to tighten up the bottom board screws and the caster screws? smile

Thanks, Eric.

Actually, yes, I did tighten the caster screws... but not the bottom board screws; I didn't think about those.

And, Marty, I have 3 Ford tractors... Guess I'm a fanatic there too. grin

By-the-way, I treated the tuning pin block with CA glue. Some of them (tuning pins) felt a little loose (but still holding); but I went ahead and treated all the pins slots.

I'll see how the treatment worked when I give the old gal a full tuning, but for now I'm still enjoying the saloon sound. smile

Rick
Posted by: Roy Rodgers

Re: Another old piano adventure - 12/31/12 09:31 AM

Nothing wrong with improvising. A lot better to use the tractor for tipping than trying to do it without enough help or the right tipper.

my wife is a good piano tipper. She's much stouter than I am. LOL
Posted by: Rickster

Re: Another old piano adventure - 01/03/13 08:20 AM

Another update...

I've made pretty good progress on my old Conover upright piano project. At this point, I'm not sure how much more to do to it. It's still an old piano but it has a charming tone, though the hammers are rather hard. I cleaned up the action and replaced a few of the old brass flange plates. I also removed the hammer butt flange pins and cleaned the bushings and pins of some sluggish notes. Most of the notes repeat pretty fast now and it seems to get better with more playing.

The new, plastic ivory simulation key top fronts were a nice improvement; and, the CA glue treatment of the pin block tightened up the tuning pins a good bit.

Old pianos can be a lot of fun, but I still think newer is better. smile

Rick
Posted by: flipwils11

Re: Another old piano adventure - 01/16/13 06:01 PM


Just joined, trying to learn more about piano advice to purchase one for my son who is 7 years old.

This was a great thread and I really am enjoying your playing on your youtube videos! I plan to show them to my son tonight to inspire him a bit on his practicing, hah!
Posted by: Rickster

Re: Another old piano adventure - 01/16/13 08:26 PM

Originally Posted By: flipwils11
Just joined, trying to learn more about piano advice to purchase one for my son who is 7 years old.

This was a great thread and I really am enjoying your playing on your youtube videos! I plan to show them to my son tonight to inspire him a bit on his practicing, hah!

Gee, thanks a lot for the complement!

And, it made my day to think I might have inspired someone else to want to learn to play the piano; especially a 7 year old! smile

As I say in some of my music videos, pianos are a lot of fun, even if you can’t play all that well! (like me smile )

Rick
Posted by: flipwils11

Re: Another old piano adventure - 01/16/13 09:12 PM

Oh yeah we watched the saloon sounding piano vid and then later he pulled out his Coming Around the Mountain music from last year and was inspired to play it a few times.