Piano, Organ, and Keyboard/Dirty 60 yr old sohmer baby grand

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Question
I've got a nice little baby grand that's fallen into my lap. I am a licensed music teacher with a heavy background in mechanics ( I build motorcycles for fun). Attention to detail is my thing. I've got quite a few questions below. Most aggrivating is the gunk on the sound board, and the dirty plate.

That said, I need to clean this thing. The case is perfect, but the top was left open for years I believe. The bass strings are still full of life and are surprisingly still have a bright copper hue after brushing the crud off with a soft paint brush.

I have pulled the action and brushed it off as well. No issues. Planning on hitting it with low pressure compressed air. Anything wrong with that?

Steel wooled the steel strings, looks great. Any way I can finish the strings that run under the wound strings?

Dust clothed the sound board. Has a few small gunk marks that looks like it would come off with some kind of cleaner. What are my options?

The plate is grimy even after brushing with the paint brush. What can I use to get the grime off the paint?

Answer
Hello James!  The problem with painted surfaces over time is that the chemical makeup of the finish changes and does not retain the original desired attributes as when it was new.  The various "renewers" one can purchase may or may not achieve the desired effect of enhancing the appearance and whether the appearance will last for years or only a few days. It all depends upon the chemical interaction between the two products.  If you have an aging coating such as the gold finish on the plate steel, the best solution would be to pull the plate, have it sand blasted and recoat it...just as you would when restoring a motorcycle.  Obviously, this is not practical, so you will need to try various test spots using products that claim to deliver the desired results...along with a lot of advice from the product advisors.    

The issue is partly the definition of your "gunk" or "grime".  What actually is it?  It could be tar, cooking grease, pitch, tobacco smoke, pollutants laid down from near by industries or airports, latex overspray, wax, layers of citrus oil polish...all of which needs to be taken into consideration.  Therefore, recommending a product without knowing more about what the grime actually consists of is difficult.

Using compressed air is OK as long as you use a vapor trap to prevent water from escaping the nozzle.  In other words, clean, dry air.  

It's not a great idea to use steel wool on the strings because it tends to flatten the strings on one side.  It makes the strings look better but hampers their ability to sound.

Bottom line, you are trying to make a half century old piano look like new.  The best way to do this is to bite the bullet and properly regild the plate, strip and refinish the wood as needed and restring the piano.  However, before doing this, I suggest having the piano professionally appraised for what its value would be after a full or partial restoration.      

Bottom line, there are few if any shortcuts to achieve that new piano look and performance.  A lot of people try it but few are really successful.  

Piano, Organ, and Keyboard

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Thomas Britanyak

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I am a full time organ/piano technician who has been actively involved with the design, building, repair, maintenance and installation of organs and pianos for 35 years. I began as a keyboard instrument apprentice and hold degrees in music and electronics. If you need a piano's date of manufacture, please go to http://www.pianoexchange.com/howold.htm or http://www.bluebookofpianos.com/pianoage.html I am happy to answer musical or technical questions, however, I CANNOT offer appraisals on pianos or organs. Please do not ask what an instrument is worth. For this service please contact an experienced local appraiser or try the following links: https://mmm1100.verio-web.com/blueb1/appraisal.html or http://www.57piano.com/questions.htm

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I am a full time organ/piano technician who has been actively involved with the design, building, repair, maintenance and installation of organs and pianos for 35 years. I began as a keyboard instrument apprentice and hold degrees in music and electronics.

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I am a full time organ/piano technician who has been actively involved with the design, building, repair, maintenance and installation of organs and pianos for 35 years. I began as a keyboard instrument apprentice and hold degrees in music and electronics.

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