1912 Kurtzmann upright with steel wound bass strings

Posted by: Rob_EE

1912 Kurtzmann upright with steel wound bass strings - 09/09/06 10:45 AM

Hi folks! I've been lurking around for weeks and finally decided to register and post. Great forum!

About 15 years ago, I had the strong urge to put a piano in my house for my own enjoyment and bought the Kurtzmann from the shop because it has the warmest and most inviting tone of the lot, although this piano is VERY worn out -- the grooves in the hammers are insanely deep, and the action takes some getting used to because each key varies slightly in its feel. I stopped playing it after a couple years and have only recently ressurected it from the dead again, and it now playes better than it did when I bought it.
The bass strings are steel wound, which gives it an interesting but kind of dull tone, that happens to somewhat match the mellow tone of the rest of the piano. Think they may be original strings? I have a feeling that everything in the piano is original.
When did piano manufacturers use steel wound strings and why? My piano is from 1912. The bass strings are also a bit rusty and I wonder if I should clean them up a bit if that's is possible. Bass guitar players can make their string sound new and bright by putting them in boiling water for a few minutes.
I should preface the question by stating that I do not have enough money to pay anyone to work on this piano (its not worth the investment anyway). I enjoy working on it myself. I am very afraid of changing the strings (if it aint broke, don't fix it). If I tried removing the strings, I'm afraid I will never get them back up to tension. It is difficult enough right now as it is keeping it in tune because I think the pins move a bit. So I find myself tuning it quite often.... which is ok for now because I'm getting quite good at tuning. I feel like I have hit the limit of tuning because the piano will not allow a finer tuning to keep for more than a couple days.
Anyhow, now I'm babbling. How about those steel wound bass strings? Tell me what you know about them, Kurtzmann, and string care. Thanks all!
Posted by: Brick

Re: 1912 Kurtzmann upright with steel wound bass strings - 09/09/06 03:35 PM

The standard explanation is steel wound pegs it as World War I because the copper was needed for the war effort.
Posted by: Rob_EE

Re: 1912 Kurtzmann upright with steel wound bass strings - 09/09/06 05:25 PM

yes that's interesting! I hadn't thought of that. So it's possible that while my serial # dates it back to ca. 1912 as a manufacturers date, it may not have been strung until 1914 -1918... probably closer to 1918 since the US didnt enter the war until later.
does this sound like a reasonable assumption?
What are the chances that these strings are original?
If this piano is all original including strings, I would have to conclude that it has aged very well. All I have done to it is replace the bridal straps, re-glue a few jacks, and silicone spray
Posted by: BDB

Re: 1912 Kurtzmann upright with steel wound bass strings - 09/09/06 05:29 PM

The strings are probably original. Steel-wound strings have been available for a long time, certainly well before 1900. They are cheaper than copper. They do not last as long, tonally. Some people felt that they sounded better for the lowest strings, and you can see some pianos, including Steinways and Baldwins, that have both steel-wound and copper-wound strings.
Posted by: bellspiano

Re: 1912 Kurtzmann upright with steel wound bass strings - 09/09/06 05:55 PM

Please don't put any liquid on the strings. It will kill the resonance. If you have to look at them and the rust bothers you, Schaff sells a little polishing bar under the name of "Polita Steel Polish." Probably other dealers have it as well. Myself, I would just use it on the wire strings, not the wound, but others may know more.
Posted by: Rob_EE

Re: 1912 Kurtzmann upright with steel wound bass strings - 09/09/06 06:26 PM

nahhh, it doesnt bother me. I'm just lookin for what to do next to the piano. its been fun fixing it. the more work i put into it, the better it plays.
I suppose i now need to figure out how to make it better hold a tune.
Posted by: Cy Shuster, RPT

Re: 1912 Kurtzmann upright with steel wound bass strings - 09/09/06 06:26 PM

Lubricants shouldn't be sprayed in a piano anywhere. Where did you spray silicone, and why?

--Cy--
Posted by: Rob_EE

Re: 1912 Kurtzmann upright with steel wound bass strings - 09/09/06 06:45 PM

I know what ya mean about lubricants, but silicone spray is quite different from most lubricants. It's almost like using graphite.
I took the action out and sprayed down all the parts that rub against each other, being careful to avoid overspray on the hammers. Got the suggestion here:
www.stevespianoservice.com
this is where I started in my quest to learn the tech side of the piano.
it really helped to loosen it up, and now after a year i see no adverse effects. nice thing about silicone is that it dries and doesnt gum up.
Do ya think I did a very bad thing?
Posted by: Cy Shuster, RPT

Re: 1912 Kurtzmann upright with steel wound bass strings - 09/09/06 08:08 PM

Graphite is worse than silicon, in my view, because it usually contains grease, which attracts dust and eventually winds up reducing friction.

I'm familiar with Steve's site, and I agree with some of it, but not all.

You probably didn't harm your piano, but there are different friction specifications for all the various action centers: jack, wippen, hammer, etc. Too little friction can be bad. Propellants in the spray can contaminate felt and punchings.

If silicone gets on the finish, it can cause problems if you ever refinish it, because it absorbs deeply and prevents the new stain from sticking.

Piano work calls for much more finesse than just spraying down the action (did you protect the backchecks and catchers, for example?).

--Cy--
Posted by: mrloaf77

Re: 1912 Kurtzmann upright with steel wound bass strings - 09/09/06 09:11 PM

Ditto to what Cy said, I've known of people who used spray lubricants, the first impression can often be that it worked but in a month or so you will be back to were you started or worse. If some center pins are to tight use a hypo oiler and some protek, or repin. As a tech(or doing the fix yourself) your not looking for a easy quick fix, but a long term solution to the problem. If in doubt about a solution to a problem ask us here on the forum we will be glad to help. It's good to hear that you enjoy working on your piano.
Posted by: Brick

Re: 1912 Kurtzmann upright with steel wound bass strings - 09/10/06 12:32 AM

It's good to hear BDBs explanation, because I wasn't too sure about "the standard explanation" re WWI myself.
Posted by: Rob_EE

Re: 1912 Kurtzmann upright with steel wound bass strings - 09/10/06 10:48 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by mrloaf77:
As a tech(or doing the fix yourself) your not looking for a easy quick fix, but a long term solution to the problem. If in doubt about a solution to a problem ask us here on the forum we will be glad to help. [/b]
Heh heh... well I will admit, I was looking for a quick fix! I needed a fix bad, man!

Ya know that "piano guy" they play on PBS? My piano had sat for 10 years unplayed, all out of tune with sticky action. When I watched that guy on tv, I remembered how much I used to love to play at home. Most people would consider my piano worthless... I wanted to buy a newer piano but I didn't have the funds to do that; if I wanted to pay to have mine fixed by a professional, I woulda been laughed out of the shop. Steve's site was all the info I could find at the time, so I immediately went for the quick fix and was playing in no time.

There is only so much I can do to this piano before shelling out big bucks to have the hammers and pins replaced and the action totally rebuilt. The finish would need restoring as well. I dunno. I think when I can afford it, I will look for a nicer piano... and if I ever want to work on it, I will definately ask around first. I think it is a shame that this old beast can never be appreciated and resold -- dunno what I'll do with it when I upgrade.
Thanks for all your comments fellas!
Posted by: Michael Payne

Re: 1912 Kurtzmann upright with steel wound bass strings - 06/13/07 12:33 AM

I have a 1906 Crown 4-pedal "Orchestral" upright piano that I am restoring. It has the original steel-wound strings, except for the 10 lowest bass strings which are copper-wound. All of the bichord, and two trichord keys are steel wound sets. I think one of the reasons that it is steel is because it also has a bar that drops down with tabs with small rivets that make it sound like a harpsichord. Copper strings will not make the same sound. I am having the hardest time finding someone to make the strings. If anyone knows someone, I would like to know. If all else fails, I am going to attempt to make the strings myself. Any positive advice on how to do it will be appreciated.
Posted by: BDB

Re: 1912 Kurtzmann upright with steel wound bass strings - 06/13/07 01:19 AM

The "rinky-tink" rail has been used successfully with copper wound bass strings. Modern copper strings are better than old iron strings. There were strings made with copper-plated iron wire several years ago, combining the worst properties of both types. I do not know if anyone makes them any more.

Restoring an old Crown piano is financially dubious as it stands. Spending a lot of time and effort for unknown results does not make much sense. If you get copper wound strings, you have a good chance of liking the result, and if you do not, it will at least give you a standard, and the cost will be small compared to the cost of experimenting .
Posted by: Supply

Re: 1912 Kurtzmann upright with steel wound bass strings - 06/13/07 09:00 PM

Please post photos of the bass strings you plan to make as well as the apparatus you use to make them! Sounds like a very interesting venture...
Posted by: Tom Tuner

Re: 1912 Kurtzmann upright with steel wound bass strings - 06/21/07 02:34 PM

Years ago (like about 25-30 or so) Renner sold bass string winding machines, at least one of which was hand-cranked. The soft iron (not steel) wire used for bass string winding ca.1900 was usually tin-plated to resist rust. The difference in density between iron and copper ought to require some adjustments when replacing iron wound with copper wound, but in practice I've not found a significant difference.
You ought to be able to find a custom string maker to produce replacements to your specs.

Tom Tuner
Posted by: RH

Re: 1912 Kurtzmann upright with steel wound bass strings - 11/12/07 01:01 PM

I have Kurtzmann Upright that was built in 1920, do you what one of these weighs, I am selling mine and will be shipping it out to the buyer. Any shipping tips?

RH