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#47394 - 02/15/07 01:49 AM choosing a used piano: rust on strings and tuning pins / ivory keys
Xinito Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/01/07
Posts: 12
I am considering buying a used Kawai 600. When my technician looked at it yesterday, he mentioned that there is substantial rust on the strings and the tuning pins. (He did say that the pins are not loose.) However, the technician and the seller disagree as to its implications. The seller thinks that rust can all be cleaned and then it'll won't affect its performance any more. The technician thinks that although it can be cleaned, it is hard to clean them all (especially the pins). Leaving rust on them will SERIOUSLY affect future tunings and the performance of the piano. I can't take what both of them have said at face value. So I hope some independent sources can answer the following questions:

1. Whether and to what extent can rust on the strings and the tuning pins be cleaned?

2. After having cleaned them with best effort, is it still going to affect the quality of tuning and the performance of the piano in a negative way?

My next question is on the identification of ivory keys. The Kawai 600 should have ivory keys. But my technician said those keys don't look like real ivory. But he may be wrong. So my question is: how do you identify whether the keys are made of ivory?

Thanks in advance.

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#47395 - 02/15/07 08:39 AM Re: choosing a used piano: rust on strings and tuning pins / ivory keys
Sir Lurksalot Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/19/04
Posts: 1241
I'm sure a more qualified person will jump-in after me, but "substantial" rust would raise serious concerns in my mind that the piano has been subjected to humidity levels that are too high for the long-term health of the instrument.

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#47396 - 02/15/07 09:09 AM Re: choosing a used piano: rust on strings and tuning pins / ivory keys
Monica K. Online   blank

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17748
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Hi Xinito, if I were you, I'd heed the warnings of your tech and pass on this piano. Alternatively, seeing as the seller doesn't think cleaning the rust off will be such a problem, tell him that you can't purchase a piano with rusty strings, but if he wants to hire a tech to perform the maintenance you'll be happy to consider the piano after the rust is gone. I suspect the seller will quickly change his tune about how "easy" a job it is.

There are lots of used pianos out there. Be patient, keep watching the ads and internet sites, and something better will come along.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#47397 - 02/15/07 09:18 AM Re: choosing a used piano: rust on strings and tuning pins / ivory keys
Cy Shuster, RPT Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/18/05
Posts: 3448
Loc: Albuquerque, NM
I agree with Sir L: rusty strings and pins means high humidity, and that the piano wasn't cared for. Cleaning isn't the issue; it's irrelevant to the sound. More important is that strings are likely to break, during playing or tuning. The small wooden action parts are more likely to have been damaged by the humidity than any metal part.

The way to judge ivory keys is to trust your technician. A visible, irregular grain pattern is visible in the surface, and they are usually in two separate pieces, with a small line visible between the squarish head and the narrow tail. The vertical fronts are usually plastic.

For more info:
http://www.pianoandorgankeys.com/sspadmin/slideshow.html

--Cy--
_________________________
Cy Shuster, RPT
505-265-4234
www.shusterpiano.com
www.facebook.com/shusterpiano
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Registered Piano Technician
Dampp-Chaser Certified Installer
PianoDisc Certified Service Technician

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#47398 - 02/15/07 10:27 AM Re: choosing a used piano: rust on strings and tuning pins / ivory keys
Brick Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/31/06
Posts: 373
The rust has some effect on the sound. You can't clean it all off but you can clean a lot of it off (a lot of skilled labor to pay for that job). It will help the sound to a certain degree but certainly does not make them like strings that were entirely rust-free to begin with. The metal is pitted and compromised- that doesn't change. And you can only clean the part of the string facing upward, not the downward facing side.

How much work to clean strings? Some rust is harder to get off than others. You also have to take off the bass strings to access the low tenor strings to clean them. Having done that, you have destablized the tuning such that it will need a few tunings to get stable again. So if it's 'tough' rust, the whole job including follow up tunings can run over $1,000.

Rust does make it so the tuner has to 'fight' the piano more to get a good tuning on it, but it doesn't prevent a good tuning. At least not if you have a good tuner.

Humidity of course is a factor in rust formation, but I find cleanliness is a factor, too. There seems to be a relationship between dust (and other stuff that settles out of the air) and moisture involved. If one is fastidious about keeping the piano clean and dust free at the strings (and by that I mean weekly cleanings and blowing out dust), the formation of rust is slowed significantly or prevented altogether in some situations. (Better to use a string cover IMO.) However in other situations such as salt air or extremely high humidity, rust will occur in relatively short order no matter how clean it is kept.

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#47399 - 02/15/07 11:26 AM Re: choosing a used piano: rust on strings and tuning pins / ivory keys
Xinito Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/01/07
Posts: 12
Thanks for all the advice. Is rust a problem that is likely to occur on all the used (especially older) pianos? Or are there old used pianos that may have no or little rust on the strings/pins at all?

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#47400 - 02/15/07 11:52 AM Re: choosing a used piano: rust on strings and tuning pins / ivory keys
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21302
Loc: Oakland
The ivories used on 600s was one piece, which looks like plastic. However, if you cannot tell the difference, why worry about it? (Except that ivory does not wear or resist abuse as well as plastic.)
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#47401 - 02/15/07 12:12 PM Re: choosing a used piano: rust on strings and tuning pins / ivory keys
Zormpas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/06/05
Posts: 616
Loc: Monterey, Ca
Here's a data point for you:

My 89 year old 1918 Hobart M. Cable upright spent many years in coastal California (and still lives there). That means lots of fog, and about 50% relative humidity inside on average. It has a "moderate" amount of rust. Enough to see on the pins, and a very small amount on the strings. It is far older than your Kawai, and has far less than the "substantial" rust the Kawai apparently has.

For whatever this is worth...
_________________________
-Zorba
"The Veiled Male"
http://www.doubleveil.net
1918 Hobart M. Cable "H"
"No-one would knowingly provide Franz Liszt with a mediocre piano." -E. M. Good

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#47402 - 02/15/07 12:26 PM Re: choosing a used piano: rust on strings and tuning pins / ivory keys
Rickster Online   content


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8422
Loc: Georgia, USA
Hi Xinito,

Apparently, you like this particular piano but you want to be cautions and make a good decision. This is a good place to seek good advice regarding pianos (and you have gotten some good advice so far).

There is nothing wrong with buying used if you are careful; although, there are more risks (as a general rule) involved when buying used (but keep in mind that buying new is not risk free). As to your last question, chances are that there will be some rust on all 30+ year old pianos (some more than others). As stated by others, some (perhaps a lot) of the rust can be cleaned off with 0000 steel wool or other methods but only to a certain extent.

Here is what I would do in your situation (and this advice is worth what it cost \:D ); based on some of the other estimates you have gotten regarding having a technician clean off the rust (possibly up to a $1000). Why don’t you make the seller an offer of $1000 less than he is asking and be willing to pass on the piano if he doesn’t accept your offer or, tell him, as Monica stated, to have the rust removed by a professional (to your satisfaction) and you will consider paying his asking price.

I wish for you the best of outcomes in this matter.

Rickster
_________________________
Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel

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#47403 - 02/15/07 12:27 PM Re: choosing a used piano: rust on strings and tuning pins / ivory keys
pianosrule Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/05/07
Posts: 18
Loc: Canada
1. If my piano technician noticed some "corrosion" on the strings near the middle keys of the piano - does "corrosion" mean exactly the same thing as "rust"? Or is "corrosion" a more advanced case of "rust" or vice-versa?

2. Also, why would there be corrosion only noticeable on the strings around the middle keys of the piano and no where else (yet)? (Could this imply that perhaps something was spilled in this area of the piano?) Does rust or corrosion usually happen uniformly on all piano strings or does it usually start in a specific area and then keep spreading?

3. Can anything be done to stop or remove the corrosion?

4. Does corrosion mean that the strings have been compromised greatly and that the strings are pitted with rust?

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#47404 - 02/15/07 01:10 PM Re: choosing a used piano: rust on strings and tuning pins / ivory keys
pianosrule Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/05/07
Posts: 18
Loc: Canada
1. If my piano technician noticed some "corrosion" on the strings near the middle keys of the piano - does "corrosion" mean exactly the same thing as "rust"? Or is "corrosion" a more advanced case of "rust" or vice-versa?

2. Also, why would there be corrosion only noticeable on the strings around the middle keys of the piano and no where else (yet)? (Could this imply that perhaps something was spilled in this area of the piano?) Does rust or corrosion usually happen uniformly on all piano strings or does it usually start in a specific area and then keep spreading?

3. Can anything be done to stop or remove the corrosion?

4. Does corrosion mean that the strings have been compromised greatly and that the strings are pitted with rust?

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#47405 - 02/15/07 02:21 PM Re: choosing a used piano: rust on strings and tuning pins / ivory keys
CozyWriter Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/08/07
Posts: 789
Loc: Chapel Hill, NC
How close does $1000 get you to re-stringing the piano? That sounds easier/faster than trying to clean the strings.

Especially if the cleaning isn't going to be 100%
_________________________
Inspiration is the act of pulling a chair up to the writing desk.
Pramberger JP-185 (a 6'1" mahogany-red Grand)+ Glenn Gould-ish piano chair (no cushion)

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#47406 - 02/15/07 09:22 PM Re: choosing a used piano: rust on strings and tuning pins / ivory keys
Brick Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/31/06
Posts: 373
A top quality restringing job with the best quality strings and pins, and all the subsequent tunings it will need before the tuning becomes reasonably stable would probably run about $3000-$4000 these days in my part of the country. This would be the quality of work that an educated tech would not be able to tell the difference between the restringing, and work coming out of the best piano factories.

It sure as heck would not be faster than cleaning rust. It would take a LOT longer.

However there are always people willing to do it cheaper, and the cheapness shows in the workmanship. Some people are only capable of doing mediocre work. They couldn't get everything right even if they wanted to. But they do tend to offer lower prices. I know people doing it at 1/2 the price quoted above. Unfortunately the work looks like carp and is nowhere near 'original factory quality'.

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