Pianos: A curly conundrum

Putting the 'un' in Ravel, but only if one were to play Ravel. It seems that 'unravel' and 'ravel' are synonymous.  "Inflammable means flammable? What a country!" exclaims Dr Nick Riviera, resident dodgy doctor, in my first Simpsons reference of the day. The copper windings on piano bass strings can loosen. The sound will become unfocused, often with a percussive rattle.

The sound of loosening windings (to a piano technician) is obvious, but it is not normally so visible.

In most pianos the very lowest bass notes have two layers of copper wound onto the steel core wire. On a couple of strings we see the outer winding separating, revealing the inner copper winding.

I'm sure you can now spot these curious problems in this wider view. When bass strings are installed they are twisted in the direction that tightens the winding. Half a turn, one turn, one-and-a-half, it depends on the length and gauge of the string and the thickness of the winding.

As I tune I notice more. It's a dog's brunch of messy and overlapping string coils. Perhaps someone has tried freshening up the sound of tired old strings. A legitimate 'treatment' involves de-tensioning such strings, unhooking them and adding a twist in the direction of the winding. Perhaps an attempt at this idea went pear-shaped. Perhaps the strings were actually twisted in the wrong direction, hence the visible loosening of the copper. It's a mess, that's for sure.

A coil overlapping onto itself is an enormous no-no. The coils either side are also troubled. Not my work, nor the factory's. I generally don't recommend the add-an-extra-twist 'treatment' for lacklustre bass strings. It is legitimate, but not for the faint-hearted. There are many pitfalls for a technician. Elderly strings will likely not survive the rigors. They will break. Music wire is fiendish and can misbehave even in the most skilled hands. When successfully executed, the results are still often disappointing. If the piano is worth it and the sound is a bother, new strings are your answer.

This is a troubled little piano. Inexplicably odd rough-hewn bevelling is evident at the ends of each section of key levers. So much wood has been removed. Why? By whom?

Key levers deviate to clear structural elements in the piano action. There will usually be three or four sections of keys. All the ends of sections are severely splintered with much wood gone. Note the handwritten keystick numbers.* The key number to the left of the action bracket is a casualty of the odd bevelling.

It's hard to demonstrate how chamfered these keys are. Why? By whom? So weird. This piano, immaculately sparkling of cabinet, hides a series of dirty secrets. I told the client that it was as though this fine lady had a history as a sex worker. Intriguing. The piano is being prepared for sale and it was unfortunate not to be able to praise the innards.

It's hard to document just how much wood is missing. The balance rail cloth bushing (red bits) is exposed at the top like a brickie's arsecrack.

I share my photos after the job. My partner in piano pampering was quick to offer the insight that had eluded me in my overwhelm at the coal face. With chin-rubbing wisdom he offered two words: vermin gnawing.

Of course. The finest of the German piano makers, Wermein Knörringe.

Vermin gnawing. This makes sense. It's alarming nonetheless. Amid a sea of dodgy service work, with grubbiness befitting an abused school piano, I had still been wondering who (not what) did this damage. Now we have it: gerbil gobbling. Notice smaller dental scuff-marks on the wippens (blue arrows).

More mousey munching.

Who could forget dear Rat Boy? I suggested that the client not emphasise the piano's sordid past to potential purchasers. An appropriate price-range, and managed expectations (of both seller and buyer) are key.

This library room is a delight. So many spines to read as I tune. The extra insulation seems to provide a stable and comfortable location for the piano.

Such an eclectic collection.

Ooh, an apposite epistle.

Quarantine. With COVID-19 restrictions being eased we must remain vigilant. With creeping complacency, Australia is a poofteenth away from a second wave of infection.

Tiring of the novelty of long (for me) hair, I finally self-administered a COVID cut and colour. I foolishly attacked my fringe before I'd warmed up and got into the groove. Oops, too much. So, a pixie cut it became. No pixies were harmed... yada, yada. Good thing hair grows. Meanwhile off-the-shelf colour products are not a patch on the hard hair-drugs salons can obtain. More research is required if I'm to pursue this.

I hadn't cut my own hair on this occasion. When much younger I neatened my little sister's hair by trimming off the bits (centre rear) that had fallen out of her ponytails. Then I revised my own fringe, and Mum had to revise those revisions. Good thing hair grows.

A valued mate and I return to our local, lunching at an outside table, with caution and COVID-compliance. I liked this 1.5-metre ruler at the counter. It's a greater length than most seem to think it is, and I'm not just talking about the dickheads up my arse in any supermarket queue. Hey, mind your language, Cazzbo.

Sponsored by a realty joint and made of corflute...

....but I like it.

1.5 metres, or 10 of the giant stick insects that I find in my yard. Given my tendency to topiarise, things could get dangerous for such a critter. You can see that the stick insect looks way too similar to the exposed branch (to the right) on this Murraya bush. Eek!

Sticky situation.

Early morning bike wrangling. The stick insect has moved house.

I'm too timid to get an exact measurement...

...but manage a better snap.

A prized find while walking with a prized mate (she might request royalties after this many blog appearances). We're mirthful at this random И. Putting the Cyril in Cyrillic, eh?

The next day I spy the same during a glorious unboxing session. It's a bit hard to see 'пианино' on that nearby box. I took a close-up, but the dog ate my phonework.

I'll just have to pretend that this Simpsons mention of an upright piano happened. It didn't. Here's what actually happened.

* In this case, the piano's key bushings (cloth linings) had been partially replaced. A chequered mix of too-worn originals and too-tight replacements.

Peruse some bloggy peccadilloes, if you will...

Pianos: Punchings, scratchings, rodents and rust.

Pianos: The garland is always greener

Pianos: Dogs, doors and dioramas.

Pianos: Knockers and 'nicht werfen!'

Pianistic peregrinations...

Pianos: Blooming marvellous

Pianos: Cold comfort

Pianos: Shadowy figures

Stage Time