Sunday, November 15, 2015

A piano in a piano room in a basement of a dorm at BYU-I containing a vent to heat the basement experienced excessive wear and tear beyond the wear and tear of playing the instrument. The following are some problems that occurred because temperature and relative humidity fluctuate in this piano room. 

The above picture is of a loose flange pin. It was coming out the side and the hammer reacted as if the flange was broken. This resulted from the brass piano hammer butt plate being loose which allowed the flange pin to slide out of position. This brass butt plate came loose from the flange wood swelling and contracting. Eventually, the brass butt plate came loose and the hammer develops enough play to hit the two adjacent hammers. This problem is preventable if the relative humidity remains around 45%.

This is a picture of the hammer butt felt disintegrating and wearing down to the wood. This hammer clicks when the mechanism resets because of the wood on wood contact. Below is what the part looks like when it is brand new. You can see there is a soft felt square that should be there. This felt can be replaced and should be.

Here is another hammer with a loose flange pin. It is able to move enough to rub against both hammers on either side.

Here is another look at this loose flange pin. You can see how much play there is that allows the hammers to move side to side. 

The sustain pedal was not hooked up. It normally has felt and a plastic sleeve between the dowel and trap work (the metal part which is connected from the pedal to the dowel which is connected to the dampers). 

This is an up close picture of how someone tried to fix the sustain pedal. They jammed two (what appears to be circuit leads) in the top of the dowel where a screw or sturdy pin resides. I pulled these wires and replaced them with a screw and two front felt punchings. The piano's sustain pedal now works. However, it has an awful creaking sound when used. The creaking appears to be from the metal trap lever spring that is connected to the cabinet of the piano. It appears the entire cabinet creaks under the stress of this lever spring. Even lifting the piano with my knee causes too much movement in the cabinet. Another issue is the Bb above middle C is the resonant frequency of the cabinet rattling. It was very difficult to tune because of these sympathetic vibrations. This problem is what happens when glue holding the cabinet together begins to fail. Keeping the wood around the cabinet at a relatively constant temperature and 45% humidity will stop this type of failure from occurring.

The above picture shows the piano keys not being straight nor level. Another temperature and humidity problem which is preventable. These keys need to be straightened and leveled but will not keep their original tolerances. The damage is already done. These keys could also use a replacement of the key bushing cloth. 

These are pictures of the damper felt between the damper and wood dowel damper block that has disintegrated and needs to be replaced. I fixed the worst one seen here but there are several more where the felt is ripping in half. This felt is breaking down because relatively constant temperature and humidity are not maintained around this piano. 

I tried to take a picture from an angle that would capture this observation, the lower pins in the bass section are pulling out of the pinblock and need to be reset at their original height.

There are three common ways to prevent these problems from occurring:
  1. Full Building temperature and humidity control. This solution is expensive and not as effective as controlling the relative humidity directly around or in the piano.
  2. Room temperature and humidity control. This solution is less expensive than full building control but is noisy and not as effective as controlling relative humidity around or inside the piano.
  3. Controlling temperature and humidity directly around or inside the piano. This is the easiest, least expensive, and most effective way to control temperature and relative humidity  in or around a piano.
Wood and steel all expand and contract with changes in temperature and relative humidity. The problems outlined above with the cabinet, felt, hammers, key action, key levels and alike is what happens to a piano when temperature and relative humidity are not controlled. The reason I became a certified installer of Dampp-Chaser Piano Life Saver systems is to have a solution to the above problems. 

Keeping the temperature and relative humidity at the soundboard is needed for the life of a piano. Even if a new piano is purchased, the temperature and humidity control of the piano needs to be addressed or a new piano will show this type of stress, wear, and tear.

I have not yet found a piano that couldn't benefit from the installation of a Piano Life Saver system. All the above repairs need to happen, but if the relative humidity is not addressed, the same problems will reoccur in the future and could result in a very expensive piano restoration or replacement. If temperature and relative humidity issues are not addressed...the piano will have the same problems again.

Installation of a Piano Life Saver System moves forward as follows:

1. Payment for the Piano Life Saver and shipping needs to be paid up front. It will take about a week to get the Piano Life Saver.
2. After it arrives, we come and install it into your piano.
3. Then, we need to wait 3 to 4 weeks for the piano to acclimate.
4. Piano repairs are performed.
5. The piano is tuned.

Installing a Piano Life Saver System is less expensive than purchasing a new piano and having the same problems but don't take my word for it...Piano Life Saver is recommended by manufacturers including: Baldwin, Beckstein, Bluthner, Bosendorfer, Fazioli, Hailun, Kawai, Mason & Hamlin, Pearl River Piano, Petrof, Sauter, Schimmel, Seiler, Steingräber, and Yamaha.

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