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Aftermath of water damage

  • 1.  Aftermath of water damage

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 12-31-2020 09:49
    Greetings Lists,

    A burst pipe in the ceiling above a thirty year old Steinway L resulted in water entering the action cavity. An initial survey indicates that the soundboard, strings, bridges, rim, damper system and pedal lyre all appear to have dodged the bullet. However, the action cavity took on water, soaking parts of the keybed, keyframe and some of nearly every kind of main action component. The key slip is now bowed by 5 mm. Some of the string rest felt in the lower capo is wet.

    The first thing I did yesterday was to move the piano out of harm's way and take the action apart so things could be spread out to dry. Planning to return today with fans (to improve air circulation), bakers' cooling racks (to better expose all sides of the keys to air), a heat gun to hasten the drying of the string rest felt, and an array of Dampp-Chaser drying rods to suspend under the piano. Upon the advice of Richard Davenport, RPT, I will put blocks under either end of the key slip and a weight in the center, in an attempt to counter-act the bowing.

    My questions are:

    1) What else should I be doing at this stage to help dry things out?

    2) Is there any hope that the keys, keyframe and key bed can be made functional and reliable once dried out?

    3) Is anything short of complete action replacement going to be reliable?

    Thanks,

    Alan



    ------------------------------
    Alan Eder, RPT
    Herb Alpert School of Music
    California Institute of the Arts
    Valencia, CA
    661.904.6483
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: Aftermath of water damage

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 12-31-2020 12:13
    Hi Alan,
    I had something like this happen to a 5-year old Yamaha C3. Luckily the insurance replaced the whole piano. It was a complete loss....far worse than what you describe. 

    My knowledge of the Steinway process is that each action is custom fit into the cavity and case of each individual piano. So, I don't know if "replacing" the action is possible or any easier than trying to adapt the current action. I believe the biggest problem may be the integrity and accuracy of the keybed since the action registers between that, the plate, and the string locations. 

    I can't imagine reusing the parts that were affected. It's probably more cost effective to replace all the wippens, shanks & flanges, dampers & back action for them to be reliable. Maybe you can also get a new key frame, too. You may be able, eventually to get the keybed planed down to the "right" dimensions again, meaning that everything above it working properly. 

    Good luck. It's hard to see a nice piano ruined. 
    ~ jeannie 

    Jeannie Grassi
    PTG Registered Piano Technician 
    Bainbridge Island, WA
    206-842-3721





  • 3.  RE: Aftermath of water damage

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 01-01-2021 10:01
    Hi Jeannie,

    Your commiseration is much appreciated (of course, following one of Richard Davenport's guiding principles, tattooed across my forehead is the reminder that it is, "Not my piano!").

    It would be easier to outright condemn this instrument if the damage was as extensive as what you describe. Part of the challenge of the present situation is that the compromise APPEARS to be only partial, but who can say for sure? We do not know for how long the affected parts were wet, although it was certainly at least two to three days.

    IF I can get a replacement action from Steinway (and I won't know if that is even a possibility until sometime next week), I would expect to have to do extensive fitting into the action cavity. While I wait for word on that, Kent Webb was good enough to provide fore finishing notes. Some other brands are more consistent from one iteration to another of the same model, requiring less "customization" of a replacement action.

    You are quite on-the-nose about concerns over the keybed. Being an unfinished, horizontal surface, hosting a small pond for days on end surely changed things up quite a bit. We'll see to what extent it "returns" (although, regardless, the question about glue-joint integrity persists).

    Alan

    ------------------------------
    Alan Eder, RPT
    Herb Alpert School of Music
    California Institute of the Arts
    Valencia, CA
    661.904.6483
    ------------------------------



  • 4.  RE: Aftermath of water damage

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 01-01-2021 10:54
    Alan: I have to say that I'm with Wim on this. Water and pianos do not mix. Dealing with the obvious damage is going to be tricky. Dealing with the damage that shows up later is just a headache waiting to happen, and perhaps a headache that won't go away. CAUT techs have enough daily problems. 

    The big question that needs answering is insurance. If the university equipment is insured, then get a replacement piano. If university insurance doesn't cover the piano, the powers that be need to know that hidden damage could compromise the piano now, later, and forever. And that would compromise your work to maintain all of the instruments. The piano should be replaced, especially if it's in a concert venue.

    The only caveat is whether this piano becomes a "research" piano that you want to follow because you're interested to see what develops. That's fine to have an extra experimental instrument, if you have the time to conduct experiments, document them, and the university ponies up to fix problems along the way.

    The fact that this happened in the year 2020 may be telling you something.

    Richard West









  • 5.  RE: Aftermath of water damage

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 01-01-2021 12:38
    Hi Richard,

    As per previous posts, the piano is a Steinway model L, and not in.a performance venue nor school property but a client's home.

    There is insurance, and I am advocating piano replacement as the only sure remedy, free of a future full of question marks (for both the piano and for my reputation). The opinion of this one guy with a tuning lever (me) will be buttressed by the comments of those on these lists and beyond.

    If my client does score replacement-with-new, and the damaged piano in question is offered to CalArts, I would accept it, make minimal repairs, put it in a practice room, and simply see what happens. That would be the experimentation I referred to. (We were on the verge of a major fundraising effort for piano replacement when the pandemic hit, ravaging the economy. While that project is delayed into the foreseeable future, the importance of donated pianos with decent potential have spiked.)

    As far as the New Year is concerned, 2020 can go f itself. Comedians have an easy time making the most of what was bad about last year. As counterpoint, I would like to add my personal gratitude for the community of piano technicians, which has long been a positive force in my life, but never so much as in this past year.

    Peace,

    Alan

    ------------------------------
    Alan Eder, RPT
    Herb Alpert School of Music
    California Institute of the Arts
    Valencia, CA
    661.904.6483
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: Aftermath of water damage

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 01-02-2021 18:50
    In addition to the other good comments already mentioned, the reality is that you won't know the true extent of the damage for at least 6 months. The parts have to thoroughly dry out and then rel-stabilize. Glue joints can spontaneously fail later on when things had earlier appeared to be relatively unscathed. 

    This applies particularly to action re-installation and particularly with S&S. You don't want to plane a keybed -- if it appears that is necessary -- or re-bed the keyframe until you know the wood has stopped moving. 

    If it were me, I'd probably either hobble along with whatever temporary band-aids seemed to make sense -- including renting a substitute -- or just declare it off limits until it can be properly restored. 
    Sadly, the wood just doesn't share the same sense of urgency as we technicians or the end-users might feel.  

    It's certainly maddening for all concerned.  I recall a couple of decades ago that roof repair was being done to the stage of a school performing hall.  The smaller S&S stage piano was strategically located under the only open segment of roof when the workers quit for the day and then it rained over the weekend. 

    --Keith

    Keith Akins, RPT
    Piano Technologist
    715/775-0022 Mon-Sat 9a-9p
    Find me on LinkedIn





  • 7.  RE: Aftermath of water damage

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 12-31-2020 18:44
    Hi Alan. I have put wax paper between the keys grouped in small clusters to try to keep their shape properly oriented. Yours may be too saturated but it's worth a try. This way they can slowly dry with a fan blowing on them or by using DC rods. I like your idea of the bakers cooling racks. You can reposition the keys occasionally to help with uniform drying. Just a suggestion. I enjoy your posts!  Good luck!  

    Sent from my iPhone





  • 8.  RE: Aftermath of water damage

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 01-01-2021 10:12
    Hi Michael,

    I will ask you what I asked Jon Page, concerning the purpose of having material between the keys, clamped together in sections: Is that just to keep them from sticking to each other? I was thinking that wax paper, as per your recommendation, would be well-suited to that goal.

    And thanks also for your kind words about enjoying my posts. I do what I can to contribute to informative and civil discourse.

    Alan

    ------------------------------
    Alan Eder, RPT
    Herb Alpert School of Music
    California Institute of the Arts
    Valencia, CA
    661.904.6483
    ------------------------------



  • 9.  RE: Aftermath of water damage

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 01-01-2021 12:11
    Hi Alan,
    We build and replace everything inside the action compartment for Steinways and most other pianos (including keyframe, keys and stacks). But I don't see this situation very often though, it's usually age, wear and poor repairs that are the culprit.

    My worry is the key bed. Even if you replace everything in the action compartment, will the key bed be stable? I would give the keyed a month or two to dry, then test it with a moisture content meter. The only meter I use and trust is made by Lignomat. It uses radar to gauge the density, you have to tell it what kind of wood. It's really accurate but cost is about $200.  I have an extra unit which I could send as a loaner after the key bed dries, after say a month or two.

    My guess is that once the key bed moisture content drops below 10% it very well may approach a stable state.  At that point check how flat the key bed is with a straight edge, both front to back and bass to treble. Then check it again in a few weeks and if it has not changed, a new action may be worth pursuing. If there is a very slight stable curve in the key bed that was induced by the water, a good rebuilder should be able to sand and plane to match a new keyframe.

    Hope that helps,

    Best regards,

    -Dean Reyburn, RPT




    ------------------------------
    Dean Reyburn, RPT
    Reyburn Pianoworks
    Reyburn CyberTuner
    1-616-498-9854
    dean@reyburn.com
    www.reyburnpianoworks.com
    www.cybertuner.com
    www.martysmasks.com
    Facebook: www.facebook.com/dean.reyburn
    ------------------------------



  • 10.  RE: Aftermath of water damage

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 01-01-2021 12:55
    Hi Dean,

    Thanks so much for the benefit of your expertise in general, but especially where keys, keyframes and keybeds are concerned. The keybed is quickly becoming the pivotal issue for this piano.

    Everyone else should know that yesterday, a day when many others I called were not answering their phones, Dean spoke with me at length about this situation, asking questions that had not occurred to me. At my request, by day's end he had sent me three estimates for complete action manufacture (keyframe and keys by Reyburn Pianoworks, and action parts by Steinway, Renner, and WNG). What a guy!

    Alan

    ------------------------------
    Alan Eder, RPT
    Herb Alpert School of Music
    California Institute of the Arts
    Valencia, CA
    661.904.6483
    ------------------------------



  • 11.  RE: Aftermath of water damage

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 01-01-2021 14:04
    Just a further comment. If I had the piano (or keybed) here in Michigan, I would place the keybed in my wood drying kiln for long enough to get it down to below 8%. 

    Then acclimate it to my shop for two to four weeks or so. Normally kiln dried wood comes back up to about 9 to 10% MC with that procedure. I believe it would be stable after that.  Assuming the rest of the piano just got high humidity for a short while, then it seems a crying shame to total the piano for a keybed.

    This is the same treatment we give already "kiln dried" sugar maple, white oak, ash, spruce etc... for building key frames. We have no issue at all with stability, our keyframes stay perfectly flat.

    All the best,

    -Dean Reyburn, RPT

    --
    1-888-SOFT-440  or 1-888-763-8440
    Reyburn Piano Service, Inc.
    http://www.cybertuner.com

    Musical masks for piano tuners:

    Reyburn Pianoworks
    Precision retrofit piano keyboards
    http://www.reyburnpianoworks.com






  • 12.  RE: Aftermath of water damage

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 01-01-2021 14:17
    Dean wrote,
    "Assuming the rest of the piano just got high humidity for a short while, then it seems a crying shame to total the piano for a keybed."

    Right?!

    I want the resolution of this matter to be something my (rather fastidious) client is comfortable with. Plus, we only get one shot at the insurance company, further inclination to "go for the gold."

    If the client does get a new piano, I would try my utmost to make sure that his current piano is put out to pasture somewhere with beautiful sunsets, mild winters and someone to keep it company.

    Alan


    ------------------------------
    Alan Eder, RPT
    Herb Alpert School of Music
    California Institute of the Arts
    Valencia, CA
    661.904.6483
    ------------------------------



  • 13.  RE: Aftermath of water damage

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 01-01-2021 17:56
    In many car insurance policies, if the car is totaled and replaced the old car is then owned by the insurance company - worth checking out.
    Nancy Salmon, RPT
    LaVale, MD 21502






  • 14.  RE: Aftermath of water damage

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 01-01-2021 18:53
    The insurance company does own the piano, but they don't know what to do with it, much less keep it. Alan, you might be able to make a very nice offer to the insurance company to take it off their hands, for a couple of hundred dollars. You can then experiment with it for a  year or two to see what happens over a long time. You can then either sell, or at most give all of us the result of the experiment.

    ------------------------------
    Willem "Wim" Blees, RPT
    Mililani, HI 96789
    ------------------------------



  • 15.  RE: Aftermath of water damage

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 01-02-2021 06:54
    Nancy & Wim,

    Good points concerning the future of this piano, should it be declared "totaled." Can't say that the thought of obtaining it for my school hasn't crossed my mind.

    Alan

    ------------------------------
    Alan Eder, RPT
    Herb Alpert School of Music
    California Institute of the Arts
    Valencia, CA
    661.904.6483
    ------------------------------



  • 16.  RE: Aftermath of water damage

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 01-01-2021 13:27
    Concerning Steinway keypads, in recent years the ones I have looked at have not been flat, but rather concave, allowing the glides to protrude below the plane of the key frame. That was not true in older ones I have put a straightedge on. Something to consider when evaluating it: if it is concave, that might not be due to warpage.
    Regards,
    Fred Sturm
    "Since everything is in our heads, we had better not lose them." Coco Chanel






  • 17.  RE: Aftermath of water damage

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 01-01-2021 13:30
    Obviously spell check changed the keybeds I typed to keypads (and I didn't notice until the post came to me).
    Regards,
    Fred Sturm
    "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." Twain






  • 18.  RE: Aftermath of water damage

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 01-01-2021 14:06
    Good point about what to look for in a Steinway keybed, Fred. (And darn that spellcheck... same thing happens to me all the time!)

    On keybeds that are NOT concave, are the bottoms of their keyframes concave (balance rail higher than front and back rails)? Otherwise, it seems that they would need to be flexible enough, front to back, for the glide bolts to raise the balance rail, however slightly (or else, how could the glides do their jobs?).

    We've got some 50 year old Bosendorfers that are of the pre-glide bolt design. I'm guessing that the keyframe rails and the keybed are each planar, but I'll have to check that out.

    Alan

    ------------------------------
    Alan Eder, RPT
    Herb Alpert School of Music
    California Institute of the Arts
    Valencia, CA
    661.904.6483
    ------------------------------



  • 19.  RE: Aftermath of water damage

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 01-02-2021 09:23
    Alan

    No one has mentioned making a new Keybed.  I haven't made one from scratch but I have removed a couple of them on very old pianos and reglued all the joints to restore the structural integrity.  My guess is that Dean has the capability for such an endeavor in his shop but everyone is focused on retaining the current one.   Getting key beds off the rim varies from mfg to mfg but it is doable even though it is not something we do every day in our technical lives.

    Norman Cantrell





  • 20.  RE: Aftermath of water damage

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 01-02-2021 12:27
    Hi Alan,
    We build and replace everything inside the action compartment for Steinways and most other pianos (including keyframe, keys and stacks). But I don't see water damage situations very often though, it's usually age, wear or poor repairs that are the culprit.

    My only really concern is the key bed. Even if you replace everything in the action compartment, will the key bed be stable? I would give the key bed a month or two to dry with DC heater rods, then test it with a moisture content meter. The meter we use and trust is made by Lignomat. It uses radar to gauge the density, you have to tell it what kind of wood. It's really accurate but cost is about $200. I have an extra unit which I could send as a loaner after the key bed dries, after say a month or two.

    Once the key bed moisture content drops below 9 or 10% it will probably approach a stable state. At that point check how flat the key bed is with a straight edge, both front to back and bass to treble (and for cracks). Then check it again in a few weeks and if it has not changed, a new action may be worth pursuing. If there is a very slight stable curve in the key bed that was induced by the water, a good rebuilder should be able to sand and plane to match a new keyframe.

    If I had the piano (or keybed) here in Michigan, I would place the keybed in my wood drying kiln for long enough to get it down to below 8%. Then acclimate it to my shop for two to four weeks or so. Normally kiln dried wood that measures 7.5% to 8% comes back up to about 9 to 10% MC with that procedure. I believe it would be stable after that. Assuming the rest of the piano just got high humidity for a short while, then it seems a crying shame to total the piano for a keybed.

    This is the same treatment we give already commercially "kiln dried" sugar maple, white oak, ash, spruce etc... for building key frames. We have no issue at all with stability, our keyframes stay perfectly flat.

    (this was posted in CAUT also, sorry for the repeat).

    Hope that helps,

    Best regards,

    ------------------------------
    Dean Reyburn, RPT
    Reyburn Pianoworks
    Reyburn CyberTuner
    1-616-498-9854
    dean@reyburn.com
    www.reyburnpianoworks.com
    www.cybertuner.com
    www.martysmasks.com
    Facebook: www.facebook.com/dean.reyburn
    ------------------------------